Brooke here. I just realized I haven’t complained about ivy lately. Let me do that before I go back to the bathroom posts.
It’s that odd temperature that’s too cold to do any serious landscaping but too warm to sit inside all day, so I’ve been yanking ivy. February is ideal for pulling ivy in North Carolina. There’s plenty of rain to keep the ground moist, but the ivy is still dormant from winter. If you get the top layer up at this time of year, there’s a very slim chance the roots will die.
My friends, we shall take that chance.
Every tree on the property is covered in ivy to some extent. This is our third winter in this house, and Brown and I have gradually been reclaiming the trees as we push the ivy back. I wish I could say this is because of our enduring love for trees, but it’s more because if you don’t take the ivy down from the trees at the same time you strip the ground, you’ve created ivy solar panels and the whole mess will slowly collect enough energy to rise up anew, zombie plants shrugging their way out of the soil.
The best way to strip ivy from trees is to cut the vines, wait a week for them to die and dehydrate slightly, then start from the cut and pull upwards to remove the vines from the bark. Some people describe this process as “relaxing,” or “both satisfying and kind of fun”.* No. I’ve done about twenty trees like this and it’s anything but relaxing. It’s hard and dirty and nine times out of ten a centipede will fall out of the vines and land in my hair. But I do occasionally get to use the extra-fun tools:
In my old blog post on Remembering Randall, you might remember how his wife wrote of Randall Jarrell’s love for ivy. Every time I come across an old established vine like this, I wonder if it might be one of those ancient vines planted by Jarrell himself over fifty years ago.
There is no way I can remove a vine like this. It’s entrenched, and ivy does not die. It. Does. Not. Die.
There’s no happy pull-and-yank for a vine like this: I needed a 36″ crowbar to get enough leverage to pop out that center piece between the two cuts. The best-case scenario is to cut this vine so the ivy above it on the tree will die, then pour undiluted stump killer on the lower cut (done). A week from now, I will cut the main trunk vine again about 6″ above ground level, and pour more herbicide on the fresh cut. Then I’ll hammer a bunch of special-order copper nails into it almost at ground level. If I am extra-extra-lucky, it will die. But what’s more likely is that this main trunk root will become weakened and will target a secondary root to take over as a main, and the plant will shift some of its priorities into that vine while the old main recuperates. So basically I’ve just lopped one head off of the hydra and it will take me ten years to figure out where the others grew back.
*This link is a hoot. The author talks about how the whole family, from the kids to the elderly, love pulling ivy. That is some professional-grade Tom Sawyer bullflop right there: we’ve got a barbeque and a pool and we still can’t talk anyone into it.