Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Evil Trumpet Vine

by Waverly Fitzgerald

Some of the gardeners in the Thomas Street p-patch have been there since the beginning and some are even gardening in the same plot. I've moved three times within this garden, starting out in the plot in the back corner (it doesn't get a lot of sun), then down a few plots to the middle of the upper bed (under the overhanging lilac shrub) but that plot still didn't get a lot of sun, and finally up to the front, inheriting a plot with lovely raised beds from a gardener who was known for the beauty of her garden display.

She did a lot of work to create rich gorgeous soil in her garden for which I am very grateful but she may also be responsible for planting the plant that is the bane of my existence. It goes by the name of Red Trumpet Vine, a name way too nice for this plant, which is also called Cow-Itch Vine because it sometimes causes an allergic reaction in people, and, apparently, cows. It's often planted to attract hummingbirds with its long red trumpet-like flowers, but I've never seen a humming bird near it. I do see lots of trumpet vine. It's scientific name is Campsis radicans, campsis meaning curved and radicans for the way it spreads through its roots.

And that's the real problem with it. Like mint or crabgrass, it spreads underground and then pops up in a new place. Yank on a new shoot and you'll rip out a root that can go back for several feet, but you can never eradicate the plant at its roots. My predecessor went to great lengths to try to control the plant. I can see the remains of her efforts: a metal barrier hammered into the ground, plastic lining the raised beds. Nothing has been effective.

I went to Dave's Garden website to learn more about it and the general consensus is that the plant is a terribly invasive nuisance. People complain about it choking trees, bringing down roofs, popping up in the most inconvenient places. And no one has found a way to restrain it (except planting it in a container). I may try the advice of one fellow who suggested pouring straight alcohol on the roots, but I'm not sure if he meant rubbing alcohol, grain alcohol or something like vodka (which does seem a waste).

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