Gardener battles duplicitous trumpet vine

Staff writer

Years ago, Marion gardener Margaret Wilson planted a modest trumpet vine and trained it up over an archway, accenting a flowered path beside her house with a pastoral portal into her backyard.

As with many plants Wilson favors, the vine was intended to attract hummingbirds and especially bees.

“We like seeing birds in our yard,” she said, “and I love looking up in our trees and hearing the bees buzzing on a quiet day when there are no other sounds around.”

Wilson’s resilient trumpet vine flourished without any special attention.

“It just took off,” she said. “We never watered it.”

The trumpet vine trunk at the base of Wilson’s arch hardened at a girth as thick as a man’s arm

The arch is a rigid, thick wire she calls “cattle panel.”

“Cattle panel is sturdy stuff,” she said, “but our trumpet vine gets so heavy that the arch about can’t hold it.”

When the vine is in bloom, scores of delicate orange trumpet-shaped flowers dangle from a dense miasma of deep-green foliage suspended at the top of the arch.

However, the seemingly miraculous plant had a duplicitous nature, and one day, Wilson realized her verdant threshold cast more than a wild shadow and threatened the luxury of modern conveniences.

She recollects a time when her neighbor, Kevin Burkholder, approached her rather sheepishly about a predicament her trumpet vine had caused his daughters.

“He said, ‘Now Margaret, I don’t want to hurt your feelings but I think your trumpet vine is covering up the signal for our satellite dish,’” Wilson recalled. “Of course they were much younger than they are now, but Kevin’s girls couldn’t watch their Saturday morning cartoons. We were so embarrassed. So, we got up there and whacked the top of it off.”

Wielding her trusty butcher knife and a hefty pair of loppers, Wilson has battled the virtually indestructible vine, ever since.

“They really are the most egregious things,” Wilson said. “They grow everywhere and seem to pop up in the most inappropriate places.”

Trumpet vines have the potential to be highly invasive if not kept in check. In warm weather, the plant emanates huge numbers of creeping tendrils that latch onto any surface like sticky fingers and eventually develop into heavy, woody stems several centimeters in diameter.

She has enlisted her family’s help. Her grandson visits once a year with the express purpose of preventing the spread of the persistent vine.

Her son recently visited to help her curb the plant’s proliferation, too. He used a spade to sever a multiple roots that had spider-webbed underground and found their way under a retaining wall into the Burkholders’ yard again.

“It’s an old-fashioned plant that is impossible to get rid of,” Wilson said. “You can discourage them but you just can’t stop them.”

Last modified Aug. 4, 2016