Friday, January 22, 2016

Garden Update and Recipe: Removing Ivy (And Triming Wisteria)

When we started, our garden was a bit of a jungle of ivy divided by a wall of wisteria. While cozy, private, and green, it wasn't the garden we wanted. We wanted a light, open space where we could grow delicious food, host friends, and enjoy the sun. So we started the process of bringing the garden back to it's bones (ie trimming overgrown plants and removing unwanted ones) so we could get to the hardscaping details.

I think this is a process that every gardener new to a space goes through in some way, and it was a process of discovery for us. Not only did we discover a beautiful arbor underneath all the ivy and the full potential for sun in our yard (look at it! And that's in January!), but we also found Cala Lily's being strangled by ivy (we saved the Cala's, obvs), a white camellia (also being strangled by ivy), and even a few glass marbles. 

We also learned how impressive a plant ivy is. Look at the trunk of what we have been calling "patient zero"! 

Now look at our yard post ivy removal--all the bright sun! And all the open space! It just feels airier and brighter. Ahh. 

After trimming back the wisteria that had been trained into a wall, we discovered that half of the wisteria was never trained properly (ie in a straight line leading up to the arbor) and so we're working on training it closer to the arbor posts. We're going to enjoy the blooms this year but are thinking next year, we're going to remove the oddly grown wisteria (keeping the correctly trained, and not pictured wisteria) and replace it with kiwi vine. Because kiwis are beautiful AND delicious.

We're excited to start planning our garden, building it from the ground up. But before we do completely dive in, we'll be removing the 10 year old redwood and pruning the rodent munched Live Oak tree. And yes, it's sad to remove a beautiful redwood but at only 10 years old, it's 30 feet tall and could eventually grow to over 300 feet and over 20 feet in diameter, which isn't really a size that's realistic for a residential backyard, not to mention that the massive mature roots will destroy an foundation or patio in it's vicinity. More on that later.

In the mean time, here's what I learned about how to removing ivy and trimming wisteria.

An overgrown nest of ivy
Some wisteria in need of a haircut

Garden gloves
A really good set of sheers
Small hand held saw
Power saw (optional depending on age of vine)
Ladder (optional, depending on how tall the ivy plant was able to grow)

Instructions, for the ivy: 
  1. Clip the ivy vines at the seem between the fence and the ground, which will separate the juvenile plants from the mature plants. Juvenile ivy spreads as a ground cover through vegetative stem growth but don't flower or product seeds. Mature parts of the plant grow vertically, attach to fences with little "sucker arms" (my words), and produce seeds and flowers. Both are invasive, but in different ways, and both are removed using slightly different steps. 
  2. In order to pull out juvenile ivy, pull the ivy carpet from the ground much like you would an actual carpet at a 45 degree angle. The ivy should come away in rolls of ivy mass. We found it helped to cut the ivy carpet into sections both for ease of disposal and ease of pulling--eventually the carpet roll just gets too large for leverage.
  3. In order to remove the adult ivy, pull those little sucker arms away from any fences they are attached too. If the ivy was "lucky" enough to reach an arbor like ours was, you will use your small hand held saw and loppers to cut the ivy into smaller pieces to remove. You may uncover a massive truck like we did, for which we need a power saw to cut the trunk into smaller pieces that were easier to pull off. And bit by bit, you will dismantle the tangle of ivy into a pile of ivy. A quick reminder that you won't want to add the ivy pieces to your compost pile unless you use a hot compost method because the woody ivy will take too long to decompose and you will end up with some ivy seeds sprouting all over. We added our ivy bits to our city compost, as we use a closed compost bin. 
  4. You may have some ivy that has climbed too high up a tree to remove safely both for you and the plant it's choking; if that's the case, cut the vine as high up as you can and eventually that ivy tendril will die with no connection to roots in the ground. And yes, this may take a few months. 
Instructions, for the wisteria:
  1. Wisteria can take a pretty hefty cut. In the case of our garden, the wisteria was entangled with ivy and overgrown into a wall. We did some pretty hefty cuts on the wall of wisteria, cutting it all away so we could see through to the back of our garden, often cutting the wisteria down to the root. Next year, if we were keeping all the wisteria rather than trading in some for kiwi, we would train the new shoots that come up to twist up towards the arbor. While this may reduce some of the blooms this spring, as wisteria blooms mature wood, the upper branches of wisteria will bloom this year. 
  2. For the upper branches of wisteria, properly resting upon the arbor, I trimmed these back for the architecture of the vine. Pruning for architecture mid winter helps the wisteria vine focus on blooming on aesthetically placed wood. While trimming the ivy back, I was as careful as possible to leave the wisteria alone.
  3. In the summer, two months after the wisteria has bloomed, it's good to trim again. You should trim within three buds of the base to encourage more blooms the following year. Trimming mid summer will keep wisteria growth in check as the vine can get overgrown (say no to wisteria walls!)

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