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Sanctuary a safe place from which to surmise

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We are all better off if we have a sanctuary, a safe place to rest and recharge, reflect and ruminate. If we can’t go there at the moment, it can even be a favorite photo on the computer desktop to remind us of our favorite beach scene or waterfall. Going to the beach can be a state of mind.

Even sanctuaries can bring pitfalls, as Eve discovered in a close encounter with a serpent in the Garden of Eden. Persuaded to taste of the forbidden fruit, she and Adam were banished from the garden. Odd that this was later construed to have been an apple, since there are some 7,500 varieties to choose from, with nearly countless benefits, but that’s for others to ponder.

Our mission at Ozarks Living  has been to celebrate a more sustainable gardening lifestyle. No matter what your resources and circumstances, the garden is a good place for a sanctuary, made even more beautiful by birds, butterflies, the scent of thyme, lavender and spearmint.

Here at  Ozarks Living , we are fortunate to have an “outer office” right smack in the middle of our garden sanctuary as we ponder the difference a mere distraction and an unexpected opportunity to learn, if then only to write this nonsense as a result.

From this vantage, it is possible to observe that there is a lot more going on in the garden than many realize. We have spotted tree frogs, tiny bats in the late evening, rabbits, ‘possum, raccoons and just once, 17 squirrels enjoy an acorn festival in early fall. At least 25 varieties of birds (see photos on next pages) have come calling depending on the season. Just once, we were visited by a bald eagle soaring on wings so long and wide they left ground shadows. Another time, a tiny four-legged critter looked like it might have been a down-sized alien from Men in Black (I, II or III; it’s all the same to me). It had what seemed to be wide-eyed peepers at the end of two antennae, each one flopping in different directions. Eventually it hopped away to explore its vast arachnid world a leap at a time. One caterpillars was so small (and biting) that we began to wonder just how small a bug can be and not yet be a germ. Or at least a micro-organism.

Which brings us to announce the results of all this observation. Until now, only a close circle of friends has even known about “the doughnut theory,” a bit of insight that only seems to come up for discussion after an extended Happy Hour. It fact, it might even be referred to as the Doughnut Theory of the Universe. I trust that you won’t tell anyone what I am about to share. Certainly not the National Security Agency or Department of Homeland Security. Not everyone understands, or wants to. Stuff like this can be, shall we say, off-putting to those who missed the wave. One dares only contemplate doughnut hole theories among friends in a sanctuary safe from shallow minds. But they scoffed at the guy who discovered the Pet Rock in his time. And Billy Bob teeth were invented by two Missouri State students.

I can only tell you that Sheldon Cooper is a Johnny Come Lately to Big Bang Theory cogitation.

If you are wondering what this has to do with gardening and greener living, I will answer with a question: How does a golden honey dew melon turn into sugar the same soil that next door a habanera pepper is converting into 350 Scoville units of perdition? For that matter, how is it that ants never sleep or have a clue about their next move until they find something edible, and then seem to always find another ant with which to get the word back to HQ? And who gives the order to advance? And who gets the blame if it turns out to be a dollop of Borax and grape jelly?

Lately there has been research that plants actually fight back when under attack, releasing this, that or the other, or sending out an organic plea for help in warding off aphids.

My part-time friend and erstwhile veteran garden writer Frank Shipe observes that all this is “poppycock,” which by the way is not a plant, although it may be fertilizer of a kind.

Instead, I refer you to Dr. Turner Collins, professor emeritus at Evangel University who volunteers his talents at the Missouri Botanical Gardens cataloging the plant world.

For 40-plus years, Collins, the now-retired professor of biology at Evangel, has been researching Orobanche riparia (differing from Orobanche ludoviciana). His article, co-authored with Alison E.L. Colwell and George Yatskivych, was published by the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (Vol. 3, No.1.). Pretty tall sagebrush, in other words.

This ole shedCollins’s research proved that both these species are native in Missouri. Orobanchaceae is a parasite (think mistletoe); it cannot reproduce unless its seed comes in contact with the seed of a Giant Ragweed or Cocklebur (both members of the daisy family). Fortunately, each of several pods delivers up to half a million seeds. Germination may take a decade and even then the odds are slim.

Collins discovered differences in these plant “cousins” as far back as 1970, but DNA confirmation came only recently. You may be asking, “So what?”

It is the same question asked all too often about rare species. Already, Chinese scientists have done cancer research on the various seeds of Orobanchaceae.

Some may ask why a modest little garden publication would care. It is much the same as George Mallory responded after failing to reach the top of Mount Everest in 1924.

Why, he said, “because it’s there.” So there.

George Freeman is editor of GREENE Magazine. Reach him at Editor@Ozarks Living.com. He also posts a few words and photos on his own and  Ozarks Living ‘s Facebook pages.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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