Sunday, July 11, 2010

Those Ever-Lovin' Vines!

Pop used to call them “Those ever-lovin’ vines!” and it was clear he was not in love with them. I don’t know any gardeners that are. I’m talking about those vines that spring from nowhere just to deface your Japanese maple. Edgar Denison calls it Angle-Pod, others use the common names Climbing Milkweed, Bluevine, Honeyvine, or Sandvine. Or Everlovinvine.
This plant is a stalker—literally. The stem twines slyly around the stalk of your treasured perennial. You won’t even notice it till it starts to bloom. By then it’s tied a dozen plants into an impenetrable tangle, snapping stems under the weight of the hitchhiker and the next rain. Its blooms are insignificant and white, but put out strong perfume, calling bees and flies to pollinator duty. The fragrance is sweet to humans too, but for my money, it’s too sweet.
Removing Cynanchum laeve requires delicacy and restraint. The vine twines with a counter-clockwise motion, so to remove, you must carefully twist it in a clockwise direction. The temptation to pull is usually too much for me, and that yanks off the flowers I’m trying to save. A better strategy is to use scissors to clip the vine every few inches, then pick off each piece. The root is deep. It looks like long, thin, white carrot. If you choose to leave the root, the vine will sprout right back. You understand, of course, that removing the root will pretty much destroy that section of your garden. The best plan is to let the vine grow long enough so that you can safely hit it with herbicide, leaving the rest of the garden untouched. Good luck with that.
When all else fails, comfort yourself with the knowledge that Monarch butterflies and their caterpillars love this plant. I’ve seen caterpillars on it a number of times. Sometimes I just hook it with the side-view mirror as I back out of my driveway and drive around town with a vine and black-eyed Susan dangling from my passenger side. Works for me!

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