Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Bittersweet

Sometimes I just can't see the forest for the trees. Or the honeysuckle vine for the bittersweet. That's actually what happened on the trellis at the front of the house.

I complained this spring that my 'Kintzley's Ghost' honeysuckle never flowered and seemed to be a mass of plain green leaves. All I had was a lot of foliage growing taller and being cut back and growing tall again. The leaves didn't look round the way they had in previous years and the vine had these stringy, twining ends at the top that looked strange.


But I watered it, and kept cutting the long skinny lengths back, all the while remaining vaguely unsettled that it seemed so unattractive this year. What had happened to it?

             Well, duh.

Chris was here today and he looked at it, then pronounced: lady, you are growing Oriental bittersweet on this trellis.

We both looked at the base and saw there were two vines growing side by side: the original honeysuckle I had planted and the wild bittersweet that had seeded itself next to the honeysuckle.

The ends of bittersweet -- Celastrus orbiculatus -- have a characteristic twisted, skinny look as they search for ever higher structures to strangle, as seen clearly in this shot near water (and in the photo of my vine above!) That should have been a tip-off right there.


Chris pulled it out by the roots (another characteristic is their orange roots). Then I laboriously cut the woody vines off the trellis rungs they had tightly wrapped around.

Once the bittersweet was removed, I could see the rounded, slightly glaucous leaves of the 'Kintzley's Ghost' honeysuckle underneath. It's a pretty vine, although I may not get the silvery bracts this year that give it its name. Freed from strangulation by its aggressive companion, it's lovely.


Like all gardeners around here I pull bittersweet seedlings every single day of the year from my gardens, and I chop the growing vines down in the woods, and I battle to keep the rampant vine at bay. And here a seedling had escaped my notice, saw a nice trellis to climb, and promptly took over the space, right under my nose.

How could I have missed it?  Not only missed the seedling, but allowed it to grow and smother my pretty honeysuckle and keep going?  I fancy myself an informed, observant gardener, and yet.

By the way, this is what the honeysuckle looked like last year, blooming, and untroubled by an unchecked invasive and a neglectful gardener.


Chris was nice about it. They look alike, he offered consolingly.

No they don't.

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