Expert Opinions

I’m not here to share my expert opinion, because I don’t see myself as an expert in anything! I’m just a fellow traveler of this thing called life, with a few thoughts to share.

We have this beautiful clematis growing up and over two archways into our back yard. We haven’t had blooms on them for the past two years, and the leaves near the bottom would yellow and rot early in the season.

I had to know why, so last year I searched out a few expert opinions. I knew I had no clue what was going on, so I needed help! Those experts agreed on the name and the cause of the problem, but differed in a few details about where it comes from and how to treat it.

Here’s where they agreed:

  • The Name: Clematis Wilt (shocking, right?)
  • The Cause: A fungus (Ascochyta clematidina)
  • The fungus is most actively spread during hot, humid weather
  • Often the plant shrivels and dies just as it’s about to flower

And their differences:

Where the fungus comes from, and how it gets on the plant:

  • The fungus is airborne, or left over on debris from the previous year’s vines OR
  • Spores are spread by splashing water OR
  • The fungus comes from the soil at the base of the plant (attacking the stem at ground level)

How the fungus attacks:

  • “Clematis wilt occurs when a fungus infects a clematis stem near the soil line. The fungus causes lesions, which cut off the vine’s flow of water through the stems, and all parts of the plant above the injury wilt and die.” (Gardeningknowhow.com) OR
  • “It produces slimy spores which are spread by splashing water, careless handling, and unsanitary pruning. They can attack any part of a susceptible clematis plant which bears some sort of wound. This fungus, however, does not move systemically through the host; thus, it causes only localized infections.” (missouribotanicalgarden.org).

Recommended Treatments:

  • “To give your clematis the best chance of surviving clematis wilt, cut the affected stems back to ground level at the first sign of withering or drying.” (Thespruce.com) OR
  • “Prune out damaged parts of the vine to help prevent the spread of the fungus.” (GardeningKnowHow.com)

Oh, dear, what to do??

I decided to act on the assumption that the fungus was getting splashed up on the vines from the soil below when it rained. Here was my temporary fix for that:

This spring we tore apart our kitchen, taking up slate floor tiles we really didn’t like.

I recycled them to test my hypothesis, and created a sort of stone pavement under the trellis and around the base of the clematis vines.

It’s really not the prettiest but it turned out to be functional, and we made it to flowering season!!

But alas, signs are beginning to show:

These last two pictures were taken this morning, after a rainshower. You can see that wilt had already set in before the rain came!

Now what?? Feel free to give me some feedback!

  • Do I cut the dying stems back to ground level, bruising neighboring stems in the process so they get infected by airborne spores, too?
  • Do I wait until flowering is finished, then give it a good pruning for better air circulation?
  • Do I just wait for the fall and cut it all back to ground level, knowing that the roots are still healthy and will send out shoots again in the spring?

Back to expert opinions . . .

As you can see, I am no expert on flowering vines or the fungi that affect them. When I look to the experts they don’t all say the same thing, and I’m not sure whose advice to follow. I can say the same about innumerable issues swirling around our world these days!

Five experts on the same subject may have five different opinions on the whats, whys and hows of it all. And then add in their five different opinions on dealing with said subject, and your mind can get in quite a tizzy!

Who am I to argue with any of them?? I haven’t spent my days deeply studying these things. I don’t have a degree in horticulture or botany, or sociology or political science or economics or international studies or . . .

What I am an expert in is my own life experiences. I know what I’ve been through, and understand a bit about how it has affected me.

I have spent years learning to live for and trust God, and have watched his faithfulness shine through time and time again.

I have read God’s Word, acted on it, and seen its truths hold firm and keep me steady despite the storms swirling about me.

I am old enough to have seen societal trends come and go, and all the while God remains unchanging and steadfast.

What to do when expert opinions on world (or even local) issues differ, and you don’t know who to believe? Take it to God and his Word.

The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the LORD. And so it is with people. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.

Isaiah 40:7-8 NLT

Those experts who know so much? They won’t be here forever. Their ideas will one day be outdated and obsolete. But that’s not true of God’s Word. Nations rise and fall, leaders come and go, ideologies wax and wane, yet still God’s Word endures.

There’s a bit of work required of you here. How can you hold expert opinions up against the Word of God if you don’t know what it says? At times folks may even use Scripture to support their argument by taking a verse out of context, and if you’re not familiar with the underlying themes woven through Scripture from beginning to end, you just may get bamboozled.

It seems that I often return to these themes:

  1. Read your Bible!
  2. Pray, asking God for wisdom and understanding as you read
  3. Ask God how to put his Word into practice
  4. Take time to listen, and then obey his leading

“Changing times” seems to be a recurring phrase nowadays, doesn’t it? But changing times have no effect on the unchanging, eternal Word of God. Read it. Learn it. Do it.

Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

Mark 12:29-31

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