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Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.

6421 W. Poinsettia Drive

Glendale, Arizona 85304-2419





Fans of "I Love Latin" are well aware that the term "volunteer" comes from the verb "volo," meaning "I will." The negative term "nolo" means "I will not." (Someone caught in the act may plead "nolo contendere," meaning "I will not dispute the finding" without actually admitting to guilt. Call it a semi-confession. When Senator Ted Kennedy, who was later given a citation from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, killed Mary Jo Kopechne, he pleaded "nolo contendere."


I like plant volunteers. They sprout on their own at exactly the right time, if not the right place. A volunteer has not been planted by man but by the forces of Creation. Tomato seeds will survive most hazards, including digestion, and sprout in the middle of a rose garden, a corn patch, or a drift of tulips.  Asparagus seeds volunteer near fences, thanks to birds perching there.


Cherry tomato seeds are especially good at finding purchase in a convenient place. I caution people to save all their tomato scraps and refuse at our house, so I can fling them into the garden. A rotten tomato makes a satisfying splot against a block wall. The contents ooze down and create a watery mulch for the eager seeds. I have 20 tomato plants installed, so I plan on eating plenty outside and recycling the bad fruit. I know my wife Chris will harvest her share.


Although nightshades (egg plant, tomato, potato, tobacco) do not get along well, they are generally good for other crops. Tomatoes and asparagus are good together. So are carrots and tomatoes. But not carrots and dill. Why? 10 point toss up. If you study the carrot flower and the dill flower, you will see that both are little umbrellas. Since they are in the same family, they do not get along well together. "I won't come to the reunion if your Uncle Dill is there."


One way to teach children about Creation is to show them the similar flowers and fruits of the same family. They should also learn that similar fruit can be poison. For instance, the woody nightshade makes a cute little red berry that looks like a baby tomato. It is not for eating. Deadly nightshade has a somber off-white flower and sinister black berry, even more poison, though good for the medicine bella donna.


We often identify a plant best when it flowers and fruits. I was calling some plants volunteer corn, but members pointed out that it was probably volunteer millet from the birdseed. I am letting some grow up completely. At first glance it looks like corn. I'm sure most of you would say the same thing.


False teachers are often not known until they reach their full production, flowering and fruiting. They cause enormous strife and destruction. They pretend to be one thing while they are getting establishing. They look like sound teachers, as best they can. But their false doctrine must eventually yield destruction. Their weed seeds (see the Parable of the Tares) will grow better and faster than the seeds  of sound doctrine, but the yield from weeds is worthless.


One WELS member phoned me about the destruction caused by false teachers who were actively supported by the previous Michigan District president (Robert Mueller), the vice-president (Paul Kuske), the circuit pastor (Keith Roehl), the conference chairman (Richard Krause), and the current District President (John Seifert). The result is that their most favored congregation, Prince of Peace, has left WELS completely. The mother church of false doctrine in Columbus, St. Paul's, cannot get any pastor to accept a call. Some think St. Paul's, never a member of WELS, will leave in time, perhaps calling Robert Schumann or one of Floyd Stolzenburg's friends. Right now they are talking about assigning a graduate from seminary for St. Paul's, a well established large church with an endowment and a school. Some St. Paul members will recite the words of the Prodigal Son parable, saying, "Behold, here is a kid. Let us make merry with our friends!"


Even when false doctrine is taught with all sincerity and conviction, it yields bitter fruit. Calvinism has always been and continues to be the starting point of Unitarianism. The finest and most pious Calvinistic divines sow the seeds of rationalism, making the Word "reasonable," setting the stage for believing only that which appeals to man's reason. In other words, very little in time. Unitarian Boy Scouts, for instance, are taught the sin of homophobia, since the Unitarians think the Boy Scouts of America are homophobic. "By their fruits ye shall know them."


The larger rose family is enormous. The strawberry, raspberry, and rose have similar flowers and fruits. Grow some rugosa roses and you will see best the fruit of the rose. Children like to learn about roses, so I always make them name the rose they want cut for their mothers.


Those who think I am a rose fanatic were strangely silent on Mothers' Day. Each mother at the church service received a freshly cut rose. One member said, "Were those ALL roses from your garden?" Yes, they were. One member loves white roses, so his wife received Crystalline, a perfect white rose, growing in a spray. Some like to have a perfect hybrid tea on the end of a long stem, but clusters of blooms are fun, too. An expectant mother received a Double Delight, causing one member to observe it was perfect for her. We had a Liverpool Remembers (orange with silver reverse), a Peace, and some Opening Nights (red, derived from Olympiad).


Roses will vary according to sunlight and climate. Colors will wash out more when the sun is especially harsh. That is a problem in a desert valley. Roses also open very fast when the temperatures are elevated. We have already had days pushing 96 degrees.


I finally got the first blooms from Harlequin, supposedly a purple with a white reverse. The strong sunlight where Harlequin is growing renders the flower more of a deep pink with a white reverse. It will probably do better when some other growth creates some cooling and shade.


If possible, plan to grow roses where they enjoy the morning sun and are spared the worst of the western sun. However, when in doubt, plant roses in every corner of the yard.


I keep adjusting for the desert. This is more of a discovery year. I have to translate the wording of the catalogue. If it says "tolerates shade," it means "Plant in full shade in Phoenix."


When I recover financially from this year's gardening, I will rework the front of the house, the shadiest part of the yard. One success was moving the pigmy palm, which had overgrown its place, and filling its spot with Crystalline and Opening Night roses. The self-appointed Save the Rubber Tree Committee was able to keep me from removing the rubber tree.


But I have designs against all other bushes in the front yard. I have promised the purple sage to one member. The bush was quite beautiful for two days when it was filled with purple blooms. If I had a ranch, I would plant 50 of them. However, two purple sages blooming for two days do not thrill me. In addition, we have oleander, a poisonous bush known for filling in spots all over Phoenix. The merits of oleander escape me.


The alleged shade of the front yard, by the house, allows me to pretend that some of the property can be treated as upper midwestern land. I was explaining today to an Ohio resident that weather normally means a cloudless sky by day and by night. Therefore, the front of the house is ideal for those flowers that would croak in full Phoenix sunlight. I can also use roses, such as Gruss im Aachen, known for tolerating shade.


Right now I am trying to establish periwinkle (vinca minor, myrtle) in the shady area. It is the best possible groundcover for shady areas. Once I created a periwinkle bed, solid with deep green leaves and delicate periwinkle blue flowers, glimmering like stars on a cloudless night. Out of the vinca bed bloomed brilliant yellow daffodils. Vinca minor is also good underneath trees, where shade prevents most plants from growing.


Various Tips

Several members succeeded in keeping birds away from their newly seeded beds by leaving leather belts and men's ties on the ground. No bird will land when a snake seems to be waiting. So great is the dread of snakes in Creation.


I dug a pond/birdbath last week. I connected a deeper hole to a shallow one. The shallow part, only a few inches deep, is intended for bird bathing and drinking. The deeper part may support some plants, perhaps a few fish. The easiest pond is created by digging a hole and lining it with roofing vinyl or flexible pond liner. Be sure to use soil from the hole to create a lip around the entire pond. This will keep rain water from carrying debris into the pond. Cover the edge of the liner with rocks and firewood, to hide the plastic and provide landing areas for birds. They will not accept the new pond for several weeks.


I added a solar powered fountain to the deep part, to create moving water noise, which attracts birds. It also makes a cooling tower than keeps the water from getting too hot in the afternoon. Solar cells power a tiny pump that draws water from the pond and sprays it in the air. The pump floats and moves along with the breeze.


A fence was built around the perimeter to keep curious toddlers out. One cannot do too much in terms of water safety, so more protection will be added. The pond was an instant kid magnet. The adults liked it too.


Every body of water is a biological center of influence. (See the Wormhaven Gardening Book.) Birds, bats, insects, cats, dogs, and toads will use it. The composition of life in the garden will change the moment a pond is installed. In New Ulm, I saw dragon and damsel flies the next day, a welcome sight, since they prey upon insect pests. Their babies are the attack submarines of pond life. As adults, they catch houseflies in midair.


Bats skim ponds for water. I miss the evening bat ballet we used to witness in our backyard. The sun would set and we would start hearing the beating of leathery wings. Pursuing insects, bats would swoop and dive in every direction while we kept the hungry mosquitoes from drilling our veins.


I have seen hummingbirds dipping near our swimming pool. I expect they will also use the new pond. I suspect they are also using the mister system in our patio. Water is forced out of tiny spraying units. The droplets cool the air while drifting downward from the nozzles. On a hot day, a faceful of droplets must be as enjoyable for the hummer as it is for us.


Our hummer garden now includes two feeders, bee balm, impatiens, scarlet runner beans, cape honeysuckle, and two trumpet vines.


I decided to follow Jerry Baker (Plants Are Like People) and soap the front lawn. I think he has a personal relationship with his lawn. He has 90 pages on lawn care. But I decided it would be good to soap the lawn and front bushes. Using a Miracle Gro hose feeder, I put a little bit of Dawn dish detergent in the spray bottle and filled it with water. This put a very dilute solution on the grass and bushes. The concept is simple: a) insects hate the taste of soap; b) soap will break down the resistance of the soil to water penetration; c) plants like a good soapy bath, too. I added Scott's lawn food (with weed killer) afterwards, as he suggested. I think Scotts is the only lawn food to use. The nitrogen releases slowly and the weed killer works very well, if it drops on soaked plants. An alternative to wetting the lawn is applying the granules early in the morning, after a heavy dew, if you live in an area with humidity.


A husband and wife agreed that I had the most interesting backyard they had seen. I said, "Is that good?" They thought it was. Kids were playing in the sunflower fort, chasing the puppy around, watering plants, digging sand, looking at the pond. Scarlet runner beans were twining up the iron fence. Tomato plants flowered. Sunflowers were beginning to bloom. We laughed about the sunflower patch turning into the sunflower jungle overnight. I hauled kids in the garden cart to the chapel, where they wanted their parents to see them. Sunflower leaves batted their faces during the trip, which was announced as, "The first white person to penetrate the dangerous sunflower jungle!"


Children make a garden interesting.