(Di)vine Intervention

I first encountered trumpet vine many years ago riding my bike on the Katy Trail in central Missouri. The Katy Trail is a recreational trail that has been established along the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad and goes across the state from Clinton to Machens. In the hot, muggy summer, tendrils of trumpet vine creep onto the trail in several places, and I noticed that summer as I drove my bike over the orangey red flowers, they smelled vaguely of bubblegum. It may have been pleasant if the air weren’t already so heavy and sticky, but it was at least memorable. I didn’t think much more of the vines until we moved to this house a few years ago.

Now there’s trumpet vine growing in my back yard. And around my yard, and all over my yard. Since my days on the Katy Trail, I have developed a fraught relationship with the vine. It’s technically a native plant, a “good guy,” but it grows with the tenacious aggression of an invasive species, rapidly climbing up my fence, and house, and telephone poles, and surely even my legs if I held still long enough. I avoid pesticides on principle, but I will admit to using a little to try and kill the remains of a very thick stalk of it after detaching it from a section of fence that we needed to replace. Pesticide be damned, the trumpet vine came back anyway.

One side of my backyard has a shared fence with our immediate neighbors with a single row of fence posts and pickets on each of our respective sides of the property line. A particularly virulent trumpet vine has been growing between the two side of the fence now for several years despite repeated efforts to hack it to bits, and poison it, and hurl scathing insults about its mother. The fence has undoubtedly provided enough protection from all of these attacks that the vine remains unbothered.

The weather this year has been weird, though, with a very soggy May followed by a scorching June and July, so I haven’t given the yard as much attention as I usually do. The weather combined with the fact that our peach tree, situated along that same fence line, has seemingly given up the ghost, has led me to an uneasy truce with the trumpet vine.

See, I have a few really great neighbors, and I have a few neighbors that really test my patience. I don’t want to say too much, because this is a public blog after all, and I’d be fairly embarrassed if my more difficult neighbors stumbled across this. It is a factual matter, though, that the neighbors with whom we share a fence acquired an old RV two years ago and parked it right next to the fence. It looks like the mobile meth lab from Breaking Bad. I don’t mean that as an insult; I mean it factually: it’s similar size and design, complete with mustard yellow and brown stripes down the side.

For the last two summers, the peach tree has provided a nice little screen from the eyesore that is the RV. But now the peach tree is dead. I’m not sure what killed it, but I’m sure our efforts at killing the trumpet vine didn’t help. So Kalen and I each separately and individually decided, before sharing with one another, that the trumpet vine could stay this summer.

After all, the pollinators like it. I stood outside to take a few pictures of the blooms and saw at least a dozen bees in that ten minutes or so. And the tubular coral flowers are often featured on lists of hummingbird attractants. I even saw a hummingbird stick her whole top half in one of the flowers yesterday, but I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to catch how cute it was. Picture the images of fuzzy little bumblebee butts sticking out of flowers, but even cuter.

So the vine stays. For now. It may get different treatment next spring when the peach tree’s removal opens up valuable sunny real estate in the flower bed. And in the mean time, I’ll use it to hide the neighbors’ mess and weird them out when I stand in the kitchen staring in the direction of their yard, snapping pictures of hummingbirds they can’t see.

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