The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Some Kind Words about the Bushes

Our Crepe Myrtle bush can be seen with the flowers
turning to seed, which the Cardinals love.
No, this is not a political post. If it were, the title would be so different.

The proximity of our Eden to Derrick's Almost Eden means I have a lot of bushes to select at fantastic prices and vitality. A neighboring nursery means much healthier plants than those coming from a hardware, grocery, or Internet store. When Derrick went into business, I purchased such bushes as Beautyberry, Cethra, Gooseberry, Blueberry, Elderberry, Chaste Tree, and Blackberry.

Joel Salatin and Gabe Brown have taught me how valuable deep root systems are. "Leave a living root in the ground, as long as possible." I used to straighten my back and heave big weeds out of the ground - thistle, poke, and ragweed. Now I let the roots remain and prune the weed at the base. That is also a good way to treat other unwanted but difficult to remove plants - except maple. Give a maple seedling a chance and it will be rooted to the center of the earth.

There are two major reasons for treasuring berry and ornamental bushes.

  1. Most of the organic matter in the soil comes from root systems, and bushes grow extensive and deep roots that network with the fungi, soil creatures, and other plants.
  2. Rain infiltration is more important than the amount of rain, because run-off simply erodes the soil and goes down the drains. 
This experiment shows what a grown bush will do for the soil. Fill a five-gallon bucket with water and pour it at the base of that bush. Unlike the newly planted one, the mature bush will direct the water deep into the soil, with no run-off. The roots and root-hairs are channels for the water, and gravity does the rest. 

I used to credit organic matter primarily, because one pound of humus holds four pounds of water. That is great, but plant roots are key in building up the humus. Back to the roots, gardeners.

The promoters of cover crops point out that a thick selection of various plants (not just one type) will hold water in the soil during drought conditions. That seems counter-intuitive to us city-slickers, but the plants are engineered to serve as safety nets snagging the rain and holding the melting snow. Plowing and roto-tilling increase erosion, run-off, and hardening of the soil. Thus it is with all of mankind's follies that run counter to God's Creation.

Man breaks up the soil with expensive equipment, diminishing its value. The Creator breaks up the soil with root systems, increasing the fertility and productivity of the soil.

"The survey also revealed that during 2012-2013’s devastating drought in the Midwest, farmers using cover crops saw an average corn yield increase 9 percent and a soy yield increase 10 percent."

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 1 Corinthians 3:6
According to one experiment on video, the best kind of cover crop includes up to 20 different plants. That also vastly increases the number and variety of beneficial insects.

Roots are always shedding cells, pushing through the soil, and nurturing all the microbes God designed to make soil fertile.

So even the weedy bushes have value, because they pump minerals up to the surface and drill down into the subsoil. A large weed will either have extensive shallow roots, more like corn, or taproots going down 15 to 30 feet.

The carbon cowboys among the farmers aim at putting as much carbon as possible into soil - just as the Jackson Rose Farm does. They plant crops that punch into the depleted soil, feeding microbes and earthworms. Instead of taking nitrogen away, as grain crops do, cover crops leave nitrogen and carbon in the soil to increase its fertility.

I will be multiplying roses soon, via planting stalks in potatoes, but for now, I am multiplying Beautyberries.

So Many Blessings from Bushes
Where do we start? Insects and birds love bushes. Insects seek shelter and reproduce, leaving the young behind. Birds control the number of insects and use the bushes for preening, resting, and spotting food from a safe place.

I have a fence of bushes on the end of two gardens in the back. In the bird area, I dump their dirty birdbath water on the bushes.

Bushes for Beauty and Food


 Clethra is called pepperbush - Ruby Spice in this case.
"This late blooming beauty produces some of the most fragrant flowers in my garden; attracting butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and humans alike. But when most gardeners are out shopping in early spring, Clethra alnifolia is looking a bit scrappy. Lilac, azalea and roses are scooped up at garden centers by the cart-full, while the sweet pepperbush languishes in the corner like a high school wall-flower. It seems like her only fans are horticultural-geeks..."


 Norma Boeckler writes about Gooseberries
in her upcoming book. 
We do not have this many Butterfly Bushes.
Their sweet smell attracts butterflies
and birds love to perch in them.

A row of Blueberries borders the Hosta garden,
which is filling in with Hostas as they get established.

Chaste Tree is known for attracting bees.
CT loves the sun and hates being watered.
I planted two Elderberries.
They are now in full bloom and look like this -
giant plants and flowers with tiny berries.
 Beautyberry makes visitors stop and wonder, "What is that?
The flowers turn to berries that last all summer.