The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Taking Care of the New Crepe Myrtles

Crepe Myrtle - Queen's Lace Picotee


As I wrote before, I haul rainwater like a peasant. The best source is in the backyard, so I haul five-gallon buckets to the front where most of the roses are.

Today I visited the new Crepe Myrtles, pictured above. The first one is thriving. Two of the twigs were hard to spot. The last one was leafy but small. I knew they needed protection from me and others walking into them.

First I set up some cardboard squares around each stem. This blocks weed growth, holds in moisture, and helps mark them as future stars. Their big cousin is so heavily mulched that few weeds come up at all, and I have Lily-of-the-Valley and Calladiums for that area.

By weighing down the cardboard squares with little logs, I created a barrier for clumsy foot traffic - plus long term soil improvement. When I get shredded wood mulch for that last bit of lawn (now covered fitfully with cardboard pieces), I will sprinkle some on the cardboard squares.

Evaporation from the Wind
Using cardboard is an education in the effects of the wind. Naturally, every cardboard installment is followed by winds. But even when rain weighs down the cardboard, as I always hope, the cardboard dries out quickly from the wind and later from the sun. That is reason enough to mulch heavily, to hold in moisture and prevent soil erosion from the wind.


I have big fluffy, brilliantly colored blooms on the big Crepe Myrtle because I do not take its food and water needs for granted. The bush tolerates lack of rain - so does a cactus - but flourishes with extra water and thorough cold showers. A plant that sheds from a gardening hose spray needs the cold shower. No harm done and much appreciated. The same can be said for roses.

This is so common around town.
The Crepe Myrtle tolerates it, but that is no excuse.

The soaring branches and bright blooms tell me the bush needs food in the soil. I learned how much when I began putting extra manure (mushroom compost), grass clippings, and leaves underneath. Truly, the earth seemed to swallow the organic matter. So I feed the plant every winter, with the largest possible pile of wood mulch and autumn leaves on top of that, a pyramid of food for the cold season - snow, sleet, rain, and decomposition.

Since I had red wiggler earthworms at the base, the site attracted a mole last year. The feeding tunnels formed a perfect circle under the plant, the same zone where all the mulch was rotting down into the soil.



Natural Law
I am teaching graduate students in Old Testament about the Exodus this week.

The Ten Commandments are called Natural Law, because God commands what is good for us. These are universal truths found in all societies, all systems of law, based on Creation. In America's past, the law connected God and human behavior, but that has been removed by the activism of a few and the passivity of the majority.

The truly bad ideas about gardening are relatively new, also. I went to a gardening club where the speaker described how he spread pre-emergent toxins around his garden early each spring. He controlled weeds with poison, and the results probably look good to him. I did not want to sample his carrots or corn.

When gardening experts gave up on their modern cures, which always needed more expensive cures, they found that persistent problems simply went away.