Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Creepy Vines

Vines are wild. I mean really...we have some on the fence at our garden and their determination amazes me. One of our Meyer lemon tree pots is near the fence and the wild vines reach out for it...straining and stretching until they latch on and then inch their way around every branch. I was pulling off a vine from the tree last week and it hit me...there must be some method to a vine's mad twirl maneuvers. I mean they definitely climb with a certain panache.

I recently learned some strange info about that makes me even more aware that plant life does have a mind of its own, and a definite sense of purpose. Vines are die hard plants that search and destroy with their leafy versatile stalks, and even welcomed vines that produce veggies are hardy plants that can survive under rough conditions. They are like the body contortionists of the plant world...a vine can wiggle its way up down and around almost anything.

Twining...the twisting around a support is the one technique used to strangle anything in their path. This is the means in which our particular wild vines have wrapped themselves around our lemon trees. Depending on the species, some vines wrap clockwise...while others twist counterclockwise. It is in their genetic code to one or the other. For example, if I were to plant a Japanese wisteria vine, which only twirls clockwise, and wrap it counterclockwise around a trellis...the plant would unravel itself and then twist itself clockwise up the support. This is a plant with definite intent...a mind of its own.

At 29 South in the winter we grew snow peas and snap peas in the garden. They had little tendrils that would grip the fence that they were trained up. Once a vine's tendril makes contact with a support it can wrap itself around it in less than an hour. It is hard to imagine a plant moving on its own accord with that type of speed, but there it is. Vines are creepy. Some have a sticky cement that oozes out of little roots, while others have mini suction cups, like tentacles. They strangle and crush whole trees...even wooden buildings can perish under their weight. They are a force to be reckoned with.

There are good vines, and there are bad vines. Now at the garden we have six Scuppernong vines tended by Chef and Pete, one of our cooks. The Scuppernong, along with its sister plant the Muscadine, is the Southern vintner's grape of choice. It is about half the size of a golf ball and is absolutely delicious.

We also have three beds of tomato vines...just starting to fruit. A bed of heirlooms, one of an organic hardy variety, and then of course the most incredible tomato ever...the Sungold. This little orange orb seems to glow with the sweet warm juice that fills it. It is one of the best tomatoes you will ever put in your mouth.

Last year, pre-garden, we had some cherry tomato plants pop up out of nowhere near the kitchen. We realized that when the crew hosed down the kitchen mats at night tomato seeds were washed into the grass. Beautiful ruby red cherry tomatoes sprung up, and I think I was the only person to try one do the fact that they were watered with commercial kitchen floor grime combined with a healthy dose of nicotine from our server's smoke breaks. The little toxic tomater tasted fabulous, but I decided that it probably wasn't in my best interest to eat any more.

Have you ever been in a jungle, swamp, or wooded setting that is smothered with vines? It is such an eerie feeling. There is so much life, the big beautiful heart shaped leaves dripping off of all you see, but at the same time under the lush carpet of vine is so much death. Kudzu for example is an alien species that has taken over the South. Originally from Japan, the invasive exotic now covers over 7 million acres of land in the southern USA. Once heralded as a miracle plant for its ability to prevent erosion, it was declared a weed by the USDA in 1972. I didn't realize that plants were actually declared weeds...I guess I just thought they were born that way. Kinda like redheaded step children.

There are even vines that grow away from light, in order to reach the trunk of a tree. That seems to defy the very foundation of what we know about plants. Vines are sneaky snakey little creatures...but they are beautiful. Even the evil invasive ones give a landscape a certain mystique....when you think about a vine as one plant you realize that they are actually huge organisms. But even though they are huge, vines seem like a humble plant. Perhaps that is because they crawl.

Good Life Quest # 5 / Curious Vine Experiment
Find a your yard or on your walk to work...or maybe pick up a little ivy from a local nursery. Train it up a stick, or pole, or fence. If you find a wild vine just take notice of which direction it is growing. Mark on the trellis with a marker where the vine ends. How much has it grown in a week? Clockwise or counter clockwise? Unwind it and wrap it the opposite way. Then give it another week and see what happens...did it right itself? Place something just a few inches away from it and see within a month how the vine inches toward it....strange huh?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We can almost see the Kudzu growing, as you described. It is one of the most destructive vines. Actually, just yesterday, Bob and I were saying that we needed to eradicate some that is growing over onto our trees from the neighbor's house. It will choke out trees with a strangling effect. It's painful to watch and not do something. The rate at which it grows is amazing. I've enjoyed reading your blog, Nan, so keep up the good work.