I’m 99.2% sure that’s not poison ivy

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:

Extra-large English ivy vine, with leaves cleared for the photo.
Extra-large English ivy vine, with leaves cleared for the photo.

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.

And then I take great delight in hacking it to pieces.
And then I take great delight in hacking it to pieces.

There is no way I can remove a vine like this.  It’s entrenched, and ivy does not die.  It. Does. Not. Die. 

In the stop-motion footage, you can watch the two ends grow back together like a liquid metal T-1000.
In the stop-motion footage, you can watch the two ends grow back together like a liquid metal T-1000.

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.

5 thoughts on “I’m 99.2% sure that’s not poison ivy

  1. That’s a lot of work to pull vines. We’ve got a patch of land behind the house that’s been used as drainage for the orange groves for the last 80 years. Now that the groves are out of business, we’re clearing it to build a garden. Imagine the thickest jungle of the Amazon and you won’t be far off. Alot of the woody vines there no one has seen before. Thick as your arm, so instead of using herbicide we pound a tow hook into the base, connect it to a truck hitch, and rip it out of the ground. No nasty chemicals, and the results are immediate.

  2. I hit my ivy with a rattan stick, using the tree for a pell. I keep hoping my seething hatred will kill it, but ivy just doesn’t care. My husband has an axe, and is under orders to use it on our own ivy-crusted trees come his next free weekend.

    Your yard and home reno posts always get me more enthusiastic about our own stupidly extensive list of to-do crap. It includes two bathrooms, fixing the INTERIOR DOOR that serves as an exterior door to the backyard, new floor and cabinets for the kitchen (because the old ones are rotting away), and a complete yard do-over.

  3. At first I thought it was elaborate irony. Now I just think she’s insane. Having a small patch of Ivy growing up a wall, I’m blessed in only having to tear down a little. Now if only the downstairs neighbour would rmeove the dratted thing…

    1. ROLFMAO… though in my case, replace English Ivy with an unholy combo of Virginia Creeper and wild grapevines… horrible stuff. I will eventually rip out several nice, well established, perfectly lovely wiegelia/spirea plantings to find the mother-roots that keeps rising up perniciously in their midst.

  4. My neighbor killed all the English ivy on her trees and then they dead sections fell down over the next several years during wind storms. Kind of stressful to be outside when they came down, like pieces of firewood being lobbed down. Glad she did it but still so much better to kill them when they just ground covers.

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