Fall is always a bittersweet time of year for me. The crisp mornings, warm afternoons and beautiful foliage are a welcome change from the heat and humidity of summer. Those cooler days come at a price; they signal the end of the gardening season. Thanks to deer fencing, I now have a very large flower garden. So large, in fact, that I have run out of room to grow anymore flowers horizontally. This year, given my lack of horizontal dirt, I decided to garden vertically.
An idea that seems creative in the warmth of the May sun can become a problem on a frosty October morning. One afternoon this past May, I was feeling particularly patriotic in the garden center. I bought 3 varieties of morning glories: red, white and blue and decided to train the vines to grow up a 7 foot stake. I had visions of beautiful red, white and blue flowers bursting open by the Fourth of July. By the end of June, the vines had surpassed the end of the stake, stretched over and began winding themselves around the downspout from the rain gutters. Oregano and I thought this was an intriguing way to disguise the downspout so we left the vines alone and let nature take its course.
By August we had numerous beautiful flowers, though we never seemed to have the red, white and blue flowers at the same time. We also had a vine that had traveled up to the second floor of our house. I began to foresee a growing problem. How would we remove the vines when the time came at the end of the season? I posed this question to Oregano who told me we’d worry about it in the fall.
In September life got busier and I wasn’t able to spend as much time in that section of our garden. The vines grew unchecked. On an October afternoon, I was standing in our side yard having a conversation with my neighbor. Her back was to my house and as I was looking at her while she spoke when I noticed something strange. My eyes widened and my mouth dropped open. The morning glories had wound their way around the downspout all the way to the roof and attached themselves to the nearby oak tree. My neighbor turned around to see what had caused me to have such a reaction. Then her mouth dropped open. “Wow! That looks very pretty, but how are you going to get that down?” she asked.
“Good question. I never thought it would grow that high. It looks amazing, but I don’t know how we’re going to be able to untangle all those vines so high up.”
When Oregano came home from work I took him to the garden to show him the stalk of vines so large it seemed to have sprung from magic beans. I expressed my concern about removing the vines when we don’t have a ladder that reaches that height. We discussed our options. Should we rip the vines down now while they are still blooming and the vines are strong? Do we wait until the first frost and then rip it down hoping the vines are still strong enough to be pulled? Oregano’s theory was to just let it die and eventually fall to the ground.
Mother Nature made the decision for us. That night we had a frost that killed the morning glories. We woke up to find a 30 foot high twisted vine with wilting leaves hanging from it. Oregano saw what had become of our experiment and said, “Well, we can’t leave that there until it dies. It looks terrible.”
We discussed our plan of attack, surveyed the garage for the necessary equipment for the task and hoped for the best. Armed with a 5 foot ladder and a tree branch lopper, the time had come to deal with the results of our experiment.
We started off strong and were able to yank and remove long sections of vine. Oregano stood on the ladder wrapping the lopper around any available vine while I stood back in the grass calling out the correct direction to pull to dislodge it. Everything was going so well until we go to the bracket holding a curved piece of downspout. We had hit a snag. Oregano got off the ladder and we stood in the dewy grass surveying our options.
It seemed our best choice would be to twist the end of the lopper around a section of vine and twirl it like a strand of spaghetti. This was a tedious endeavor, but eventually our efforts were rewarded with a downspout free of vines and two adults with no injuries; more than that we could not have hoped for.
As we were scooping up the long tendrils of vine that were strewn around the yard, I turned to Oregano, “So, now that we’ve perfected the removal technique, should we try that again next year? It did look really amazing.”
“Maybe next year we should just grow it along the top of the fence,” he said untangling a section of vine from around his ankles.