July 10, 2012
My name is Frank, and I'm a staff writer at Gwinnett Daily Post. My wife and I recently bought our first home, a 1,400 square-foot, four-sided brick house with a half-acre backyard. This blog is about our new place.
Monday night's weather was fierce. The sound of raindrops drummed steady against our rooftop as the storm knocked out the phone lines, internet and power one-by-one.
Thunder exploded and lightning popped, sending our two house cats scurrying beneath the couch, eyes large, hair raised on their backs.
Me, I was terrified too, but not of the summer storm.
I envisioned the miles-long, tangled masses of woody vines rooted in our next-door neighbor's yard, snaking their way through the chain length fence, gathering strength from each fat rain drop.
What may have started decades ago as a flowering addition to backyard landscaping has grown into a writhing, hardy, many-tentacled creature of the night.
And Monday evening's torrential downpour was making the wisteria stronger.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's website, wisteria vines climb "by twining their stems around any available support."
The website states that the flowering plant can climb as high as 65 feet above the ground and spread out 30 feet laterally.
"But they produce such beautiful flowers," says the person who's never done battle with the devil weed, saturated in sweat, fists aching as they try to rip up the ropy cords choking the life out of any plant, tree or shrub in its path.
And to think, just weeks ago I was outright oblivious to its presence. While drinking cold beer on the back porch with a friend, he gestured toward a group of big pines at the edge of the yard, their trunks cloaked in the mysterious leaves.
"I hate to be the one to tell you this," my friend said.
It's true that ignorance is bliss.
In coming weeks I would pledge undying animosity against any light green stems that poked out from beneath the pine straw or the English Ivy.
I dug my heels in, tearing out the small vines. For the big, fat runners that had for years been gathering strength, I had to employ more strategic techniques. Mind games.
Using gardening shears, I lopped off a portion of the vine, while leaving much of it still rooted in the earth.
Filling a Mason Jar with concentrated, yellow herbicide, I dipped the still-living end of the wisteria into the container, and for about two minutes, made it drink poison.
It was a technique my friend suggested from his years of hand-to-hand combat with the devil weed. He said it might work. Might. Trying to eradicate the plant, he explained, was about 50 percent technique and 50 percent luck.
Looking online, I tried to find other ways to get rid of it, but I first stumbled upon something that stopped me in my tracks.
Apparently, for the past 90-something years, Sierra Madre, a city in Southern California has held a gathering called the Wistaria Festival. It's a six-week celebration of, you guessed it, wisteria.
According to the city's department of tourism, every March more than 100,000 people make the trip to see the world's oldest and largest known wisteria vine, which measures more than an acre and weighs 250 tons.
Well guess what, Sierra Madre.
Once the rainwater soaks into the ground from Monday night's storms, and the ropy tendrils in my backyard begin to spread, you may have yourself a contender.