The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Floral Fireworks for the Fourth of July - Crepe Myrtle Loves Attention


We arrived in Springdale with a scraggly bush growing near the mailbox. Crepe Myrtle grows anywhere, but thrives in the sun. The plant is drought tolerant, but like cactus, thrives with more moisture.

 I put prunings on the base to fed the soil, plus wood mulch,
mushroom compost, and clumps of grass. The base is much larger now and packed with companion plants.
I put a pyramid of leaves under
the Crepe Myrtle for the fall and winter.
They are composted into the soil by late spring.


I addressed the top, the middle, and the foundation.

  1. The top needed severe pruning to activate the roots and promote blooming, which arrives a bit late but lasts most of the summer. CM can re-bloom with a second complete pruning. I half-pruned last summer to spare the Cardinals nesting there, and we had a spectacular second bloom on the pruned portion.
  2. The middle needed all branches trimmed back to the stems, so the plant could show off its legs. LI laughed at the first version but said "Wow!" when the bloom arrived in full force. As rosarians know, pruning concentrates energy on the parts we want to flourish.
  3. The foundation is the soil, always the most important. Blessed with red wigglers, the plant received many bags of wood mulch, mushroom compost, and piles of leaves and grass. The base seemed to devour all the organic matter left around the base. This year I have Lily-of-the-Valley, Caladium, and Buckwheat growing around the base. I treat the plant as a rose, not as a cactus, and it already glows and dominates the block and larger neighborhood.
People insist that gardening is a lot of work, especially when growing roses. That may be their reason not to try, but I find it a weak excuse. They have been pummeled by the experts who repeat the advice of other experts, all designed to promote the industry rather than the soil. 

One Forbes article opened my eyes about gurus when they wrote about wine experts who are thralls of their industry. Rave reviews are sales pitches, paid ads with the pay under the table. Our favorite drink is Walmart private label water - 12 cents a bottle.

The Crepe Myrtle is still opening its enormous flowers. Because of pruning, the branches arch upwards, like the best July 4th fireworks, but lasting far longer. Bees are already working to turn the flowers into large seeds enjoyed by Cardinals and other birds. Imagine how they must feel when nesting there - "Are we going out for lunch or staying in and having Crepe Myrtle seeds?"

 Norma Boeckler's Butterflies.


Pruned Roses Are Doubled Roses
My favorite part of each day is pruning roses for someone. We have one neighbor with serious health problems, another neighbor who regularly takes roses to the graves of his mother and step-father. Others go to medical staffs and others we see in the region.

Pruning roses and other flowers is a natural way to get even more flowers. I prune the Spirea, the Shasta Daisies, and a few other flowers. The German saying is literally "a divided joy is a joy doubled," based on the word for cut. So, when I cut roses, I make them healthier and more eager to bloom. I remove deadwood and crossing canes. The end result is a vase of perfect roses, usually long-stemmed. 

Everyone wants to enjoy the fragrance of roses, so I include the best ones in each arrangement, tastefully popped into plastic cups, which are often returned to me. 

One Easy Does It stem, on the altar yesterday, had 10 flowers and buds on it. That is now next door, cheering up Mr. and Mrs. Gardener. 

I pointed out the rare, healthy John Paul II. The white rose is a magnet for aphid attacks early in the season. Those plants are fore-ordained to be the food base for beneficial insects that live from aphids and other pests. To keep the pest-eaters happy and living local, I let the rose pests munch away, which alone is enough to call up the troops. 

The John Paul II are sickly and sapped, literally, at the moment, but they will be great displays the rest of the summer, when the spiders, Ichneumons, Flower Flies, Pirate Bugs, and Tachinids have established their families. Many times I have cut a perfect rose with a solid spider web at the base of the long cane. No insect got past Shelob's lair on the way up, and if pests landed on the bud, beneficial insects took care of the villains.

Because the creatures and plants respond according to the rules established by the Creating Word, John 15:1-10, there is relatively little work involved in a flourishing garden.

Recent study showed me that while organic matter was crucial for good soil, most of the increase came from living roots. I had been emphasizing organic matter added on top of the soil - no mixing is needed. That is still an ongoing effort. 

But now I see how the tremendous energy of the roots is even more important for 
  1. The fungus-root network, 
  2. The softening of the soil,
  3. The infiltration of rain and snow-melt,
  4. The feeding of all the soil microbes and creatures. 
The gloomy browns of early spring - no front-yard grass - have given way to the almost unlimited bloomy colors of roses, companion plants, and cover crops. The roses bloom in red, orange, yellow, and white. Companion plants are the Spirea pink bushes, the purple Cat Mints, the white Mountain Mints, and a few others. Cover crops in the rose garden are Buckwheat with white blooms, Wild Strawberries with tiny white rose blooms (same family), Borage (pink and blue), and a few others. 

Some experimental plants are Hidden Lily and Joe Pye Weed. Hidden Lily (aka Wild Ginger) is neither a lily nor a ginger. The tuber grows like a weed, blooms like Cana, and is winter hardy. Joe Pye is a weed if someone insists, but it is more of a tall herb that butterflies love. 


Clethra are just starting to bloom.