Sunday, July 8, 2007

Plant's charm turns to smothering


(First appeared in Orlando Sentinel July 8, 2007)

Aren't they pretty? Such a beautiful blue color.

I couldn't help myself. As soon as I spotted the striking wild morning glory blooms enveloping the trunk of an ancient oak, I veered the car off the road and took out my clippers. It was such an incredible color. Blue like the sky. So cheery and innocent.

All I wanted was a little snippet. What could be the harm?

Oh, my gosh! That was 15 years ago, and I can't get rid of the stuff.

Yes, the color is pretty. Yes, the leaves are bright green and a charming heart shape. And, yes, the darn thing certainly has the climbing bit down. I should have been clued in by the way the original vine "enveloped" the oak trunk. Morning glories have "enveloping" down pat.

At the moment, these beastly beauties have completely overtaken most of our banana grove plus the ground all around it. Like a suffocating hug that never ends, these insidious flowers just keep on giving until all other life is slowly snuffed out.

Originally, I placed these daylight bloomers against a raw clay wall. One growing season later, they were advancing across the entire yard, smothering all other plants in their path. With great effort and lots of brute strength, my eldest son and I managed to uproot the clay wall contingency. Unfortunately, a broken-off piece or two must have landed on the ground by the banana plants and the rest, as they say, is history.

And to think it all began with just one tiny cutting. I guess that's why they call it an invasive plant.

I've made the mistake of encouraging invasiveness time and time again. There's an old Peter Cook-Dudley Moore routine that has become a part of our family's collective lexicon: "I have learned from my mistakes and I can repeat them exactly." In this case, that's all too true.

I did it with the morning glories and before that with purple passion vine. I've added wedelia to the landscape and red passion vine.

You might think I'd have learned from the purple passion vine fiasco not to introduce the red variety to the landscape. You would be wrong.

What is it that makes some people (me) so incredibly susceptible to foolhardy landscape decisions? Is it the lure of free flowers? The enticement of beauty by the roadside, ripe for the taking? Is it the rush that happens when you score a snatch of something potentially wonderful? Is it Hope dazzlingly draped in an emerald leaf with an azure flower? Whatever it is, I'm guilty as charged with reckless plant propagation.

I've seen the blight. Hallelujah!

So, what am I going to do about the lovely morning glories that are so undauntedly engulfing all other plants in sight?

Nothing right now.

The lawn around the banana grove gets mowed regularly, and that keeps the creeping vines somewhat subdued. But the trees themselves are so hidden beneath a cloak of blue-flowering blooms that you can barely recognize their usually distinctive shape.

At some point, I'd like to slash back the flowers and give the bananas a chance to do their thing -- provide tasty fruit for us to eat. But that chore is way down near the bottom of the priority list. It may take a while to get to.

Meanwhile, I still catch myself periodically admiring the brilliant blue blooms and wishing morning glories weren't so gosh-darn difficult to control. Bit by bit, I'm finally learning to stifle the urge whenever it surfaces to transplant "just a snippet" to another spot. No matter how heartily I promise myself that this time will be different -- I'll keep the vines contained -- I'm learning to turn a deaf ear to my own empty vows.

Contain a wild morning glory vine? Ha! That'll be the day!

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