The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

They Are Rooting for You.
Propagation Demonstrates God's Creation

These are my own Beautyberries,
starting to bloom and bud now, berries for the birds in the fall.


Their botanical name is Callicarpa, which is easy for the Greek class - beautiful fruit. An early saint was Polycarp - fruitful. These bushes belong to the larger mint family and come in Japanese and American varieties. I got the faulty notion they were toxic berries, but they are known instead for being mosquito and insect repellent. The American variety was used as a natural repellent long ago, and one component is patented for that purpose.

So I had a problem, and they may solve it. The plants along the Wright fence are true deplorables and partly my fault. I planted asparagus, but I have yet to harvest a stalk. Too many weedy bushes want to grow around it and hide it until it leafs out. Besides, I planted an insipid variety of raspberry (ever-bearing) and have it sprouting new canes with glee. Squirrels love to plant their food in good areas, so I have their work germinating along with the deposits of birds sitting on the fence. One day I took the tree loppers and cut a bunch down.

But I mulched and earthwormed the fenceline at the beginning, so that area will grow anything that germinates - with gusto. Even now people are marveling at another spring of multi-inch rains followed by even more of the same.

Before I tried to move an entrenched Beautyberry, I read up on them. They are so vigorous that some decry their crowding of other plants. As the famous homicide detective says - "Now I am interested." And others love their long-lasting color and fall feeding of animals. The berries can last into winter, and they are stunning from the beginning.

Those who never grew berries wonder at this. But berry veterans know this - berry plants flower and fruit fast. They do not last all summer and into the fall, except for Beautyberries.

This is a low-cost, easy plan, unlike digging up a mature plant with its roots enmeshed in tree roots.

  1. Buy some potatoes - done.
  2. Drill holes in them the diameter of the canes.
  3. Poke the canes in the spuds to root them.
  4. Plant the Beauty-spuds along the Wright fence.

The cost and labor are minimal. But how does it work? Two people volunteered the basics to me, because they knew how to propagate marijuana, which should be considered a plague in America. Obviously they knew from the drug trade, and I believe they wanted to see if I was that kind of gardener. Do not be shocked - a considerable number of gardening books at Barnes and Noble are aimed at potheads, and my Moline classmates defend its use.

Most bushes and many plants will start rooting when cuttings are handled correctly. As I wrote before, I had rose cuttings rooting into the soil when I first tried pruning in the 1970s, knowing nothing about it. The spring rains gave them the moisture they needed and the entire length of the canes rooted into the ground.

I visited rose hobbyists who increased their collection by rooting the canes in glasses of water and planting them. However, I did not want canes in glasses of water and I doubted Mrs. Ichabod's fondness for canes resting in murky water, practically begging to be knocked over.

So I was going to fill in a few spots in the main garden with spud-roses, but my first effort will be spud-berries. Here is a guide aimed at propagating Beautyberries, which some people like to grow along a fence.

To distinguish the desired bushes from the weedy bushes, I will create a cardboard square around the spud-berry and hold it down with little logs from my vast collection. I use tree remnants all the time for this, because new plants are so easy to trample or kick over. Or bury under new mulch. Not every plant will elbow mulch aside to rise up, as the Mountain Mint did. Our helper buried it with newspaper and wood mulch, but now it is waist-high and ready to bloom.

The Miracles of Seeds and Rooting
We should never take plant propagation for granted. The cycle of flowering, fruiting, and forming seeds is quite remarkable by itself, so much that the Savior and the Apostles used seed as a metaphor for the Word of God.


  • Seed is sown and multiplies. The Sower and the Seed. Matthew 13. 
  • The living seed of the Word. "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." 1 Peter 1:23
  • Unless the corn dies. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." John 12:24
  • God gives the growth - "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase." 1 Corinthians 3:6

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Rooted and Grounded
Ephesians 3:16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
God propagates the Christian Faith through the Word, which has divine energy for germination in each individual, from the baptism of babies to the conversion of adults. The ancient farmers knew they could multiply many plants by rooting them, taking hundreds of slips (as they are called) and creating a farm for no cost except labor and watchfulness.
So it is no surprise that the Creation has its parallel in our lives - in so many ways. Believers are called new creations, and Paul teaches how we are strengthened by being rooted in the love of Christ.
What tells the cane to put out roots to grow another plant? We see the same energy in newly cut logs. As Almost Eden said to me, "They think they are still living trees, so they growth branches and leaves for a while."
The slips in potatoes organize its cells to grow roots, which are pretty fantastic by themselves, and put out leaves, so a new Beautyberry or rose can grow.

How to grow spud-roses.
I do not think it is this complicated, but I am inclined to
plant it, watch it, and water it. Trench? Ha.




Part II - Actually Planting the Spud-Berries

The description motivated me to gather a few tools and plant some spud-berries. I cut four potatoes in half, and connected a drill outside for the stems.

My workbench was the garbage can, the tall kind picked up by city crew, with a fairly large, flat plastic lid.

I cut a number of Beautyberry lateral shoots off, placing them in rainwater. Some gardeners buy a rooting compound, but I decided not to wait for that. The drill made a place to insert the stem and a quick scoop of the shovel gave me a divot for the planting.

I put the spud-berry in the divot, replaced some of the soil, and added peat humus (manure) to the top. I covered that with cardboard shaped around the stem, weighted the cardboard down with mini-logs, and poured rainwater on top. The cardboard and logs give visitors (and me) a way to identify a new planting, and they create a zone friendly to soil creatures.

Trumpet Vine is designed to look like a Hummingbird feeder,
or is it the other way around?

I may add wood mulch later. I used a pile of it to keep the Trumpet Vine moist and protected when the new plant was first growing. Now the vine is bursting with blooms loved by Hummingbirds. I grow feeders instead of filling them.

Wood mulch added immediately might absorb too much of the water that I want to reach the newly forming roots. I put 1-2 gallons of rainwater on each bush after the cardboard and logs were in place.

New plants and fragile ones get the priority for stored rainwater. We may hit a dry spell where I will only have stored rainwater, which is at least better than chlorinated water right from the tap.