The battle is in full swing, and it is a rather glorious one indeed. What battle? Well, I deployed some ground troops of legendary tenacity to do battle with some ground cover of relentless ivy. I don’t like the ivy much. Since it keeps coming back, and since there is no end to its inventiveness at returning and spreading, I decided to try a different tactic that I knew would have certain other benefits. Deploy the Morning Glory.
I remember my first true appreciation of the powers of morning glories. I was an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky living in a nice cabin with a nice bit of back garden, not far from campus, in Lexington. I’d spend my Summers in New York back in those days. One late spring I planted some morning glory seeds, and watched the little plants that resulted struggle through the dirt and face the sky. Then I was away for the Summer, on my usual (for the time) retreat to the excellent Morningside Heights neighbourhood, the whole of Manhattan my office.
Upon returning to Lexington, finding everything still in the clutches of the humidity that reigns supreme at that time of year, ready to begin teaching in the new semester, I went to the back garden to find that the morning glories had essentially taken control of a huge amount of a part of it, twisting and tangling and grasping ferociously – but so elegantly! – onto everything.
It is an all-pervading grasp, but such a lovely one. The flowers are simply splendid. The blues and purples are almost unreal at times, so vivid. Their simple, stark funnel shape has a pleasing geometry, and are one of Nature’s versions of the familiar embedding spacetime diagrams that you see used to depict black holes. I like that contrast. Falling into a black hole being akin to being lost in the heart of a captivating flower.
It has been a long time since I’ve grown them, since I’ve unleashed this willing, ever-spreading overpowering embodiment of simple, raw lust for life. This is a resource to be used carefully. A weapon to be used sparingly. One to be respected, lest it turn on you, entwining everything in the garden – perhaps even the gardener – in it is swift tendrils, turning everything into a scaffold upon which to reach ever higher in a bid to stare down the sun, as those flowers sometimes seem intent on doing at first, before folding away. But as I’m afflicted by two patches of an unlovely adversary, two types of ivy that I find particularly offensive, largely because of their ability to form housing and hiding places for rats, and also because I simply am not fond of their overall look, patches that are particularly hard to combat with uprooting, I decided that extraordinary measures were called for.
This is a battlefield deployment, not an indiscriminate strike. I confined the seeds to large pots, so as to contain the roots somewhat, and to allow me to deliver a little water in a directed (and therefore sparing) manner via the drip system, erected a lattice of wood for them to begin their march, and left them for a while. A short month or two later, and they have begun to achieve my objectives. A lovely cover of spreading vines, less dense than the ivy, and with a generous display of large flowers for me to admire. The ivy will never be defeated, but it is nicely tempered by this competition. It has been made to learn that it has to share the space with a worthy adversary, divide the sun, yield some ground. That’s really all I ask.