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April 21, 2005 “Give Me A Shrub With Character!” Proverbs 12:3 Key verse(s) 3:“A man cannot be established through wickedness, but the righteous cannot be uprooted.”

There are some plants that you can’t kill! I have long been fascinated by the differences exhibited in hardiness among the many plants––vegetables, bushes, weeds, et. al.––that share our little valley. Some are tender and fragile. If you bruise a root during transplanting or cultivating, you could send them into a state of dormant growth; or, worse yet, wilt and death. Last fall I transplanted a shrub that had spent nearly a decade growing next to our well. It had become very large and had begun to crowd out everything around it. So, spade in hand, I carefully dug a wide trench around the root ball and then gently pried the mass loose. The bush came out rather easily and I was pleased with the amount of smaller sucker roots that came out with it. I transported it but a few yards away to a newly dug and enriched flower bed in the middle of the driveway turn-around. The soil had been deeply cultivated and manure and nitrogen thrown into the mix. I was sure the new bed would be far healthier than the old one. The carefully dug hole, filled with water and nutrients waited to receive the root ball. The shrub was gently laid into the hole, root mass covered and watered again in anticipation of spring and new growth.

Yesterday as I bent down to examine what I hoped would be new buds bursting on my transplanted shrub, I plucked a brown bud only to find it dry and lifeless. As I pressed the bud between my fingers the branch it crowned snapped revealing a dry and lifeless core. The bush had died over the winter. Despite the fact that it had been carefully transplanted, fed, and covered for the winter, the shock of transplantation had been too much. The root ball had shut down and the shrub had died. As I pulled the lifeless mass from the ground I chanced to look across the expanse of our front yard at another bush, much larger and just beginning to burst into spring bloom. It had also been transplanted months ago before the winter snows had hit. Since it was already fairly mature and over six feet high, I had been unable to dig around the root ball. And, since I had wished to leave part of the bush where it was, just removing part of the root ball, it was hard separating the bush into two shrubs. So, with chain in hand, I pulled a tow chain around the base of the portion of the bush to be moved, hooked the other end to my John Deere and literally pulled it out of the ground. It came out missing a good portion of its root mass and there was little if any cradling dirt that came with it. As it lay on its side in the yard, a few gangly roots protruding, I dragged it across the yard to its new home atop a nearby mound. I didn’t have a lot of hope for it, but it went into the ground nevertheless.

Now, as stared across the yard at the blooming bush, I just couldn’t believe why that one had survived but the one I had babied, now lay dead in my hand. Had I been too careful? Perhaps that drag across the backyard behind the tractor had somehow invigorated the one? Who knows! It seems that there are just some plants you can’t kill while there are others that are easily damaged or killed. Till up a garden fill of raspberry bushes and no matter how many times you course through the layers of dirt with those tiller tines, the following spring there will be sucker roots reaching out to another part of the garden. Yet, till to closely to the asparagus tubers and you can forget about those luscious spears in early summer. They won’t be there.

Plants that can handle a bruising and come up in spades, those are the kind of plants that I like. You can count on them season in and out. In a drought they shut down and conserve. In a drenching rainstorm they stand firm because they always have root mass to spare. They brace against winter with hidden...

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