Thursday, April 24, 2008

Taming the Trumpet Vine

It’s that time of year again; time to clean up garden beds and start new gardens. For years I’ve been struggling with what to do about the garden that runs across the front of our home. When we moved in almost 15 years ago, there were four yew shrubs growing across the front, and we allowed them to grow for several years.

At first, we kept the shrubs trimmed back every year to help maintain growth and outline a definite footprint around the garden. After five years of trimming and pruning, we got lazy and decided to allow the shrubs to grow unchecked. Within five more years, we had four unruly monsters fighting for the front of our house. I hated these shrubs! The only thing I liked about the disorderly tangle of branches was the trumpet vine that began to grow up through the middle of one of the shrubs. I enjoyed the orange blooms and the fragrant smell, so I began to allow the trumpet vine to expand. Wrong choice!

After living in our home for about ten years, we decided to totally remove the yews from the front of the house. This was a tedious job that took us several weeks. We started out severely pruning the shrubs back, and then we took the chainsaw to the thick trunks and continued to hack away until the majority of the yew was gone. Digging out the roots proved to be another hard job, so much so, that we left the root on the yew that was on the north end of the house. I’ve spent the past five years covering this stump with shredded leaves, grass clippings and bark mulch. This area will eventually make a wonderful planting hole for a new tree or shrub.

After clearing the front of the house, the garden was bare, except for a few remaining trumpet vines. Because I want to use as many native plants in my gardens as possible, I decided to try and train the trumpet vine to grow where I wanted it to. I envisioned vines covering the front of the house and boasting orange flowers all summer. Well, the vines did grow up the house, but strong winds would pull them loose until the entire area looked like a tangle mess instead of the clinging vines I wanted. Even when I managed to grow the vines up to the roof line, the number of flowers was disappointing; instead of a mass of blooms, I only got a handful of flowers. In the mean time, trumpet vines began to creep all along the ground until they completely engulfed the entire garden.

This year, I have decided to tame the trumpet vine and take back the front of my house. I have started by laying thick pads of newspaper all through the front garden. After covering the area with newspaper, I then covered the paper with a thick layer of shredded bard. When Kentucky Utilities started trimming trees in the fall, we had several truck loads of shredded bark dumped in our yard to use as mulch. I am hoping that the newspaper and a six inch layer of bark will be enough to suffocate the trumpet vine and keep it from re-sprouting.

One thing for sure, my gardens will never be the same because they are always evolving. My goal is for a natural garden, one where wildlife is not afraid and plants are allowed to show their natural forms. A garden that doesn’t show the gardener’s hand is the most precious garden of all. Basically, I'm a lazy gardener; I want a garden that does all the work so I won’t have to!

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