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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Torture and Torment, a Guide to English Ivy

It’s been established to my satisfaction that torture does not get adequate returns in terms of information. Besides that, no one puts forth the argument that torture does very bad things to the torturER. I would like to see that issue addressed more seriously, especially because I, myself, was recently accused of torture. It happened like this.


English Ivy is considered an invasive species in Virginia. (Bear with me, I’m getting to the torture part.) Close to eighteen years ago, before anyone cared about such things. we moved into our current house. The front slope is 100 feet wide and 12 feet deep with a slope of 45 degrees. It was purportedly planted with grass, but the few weeds that actually grew on it were not enough to prevent the loose soil from eroding away in gullies. In order to save the slope and to present more attractive curb appeal, I nuked (i.e., used Round-Up) the slope and planted 144 English Ivy plants and 24 Periwinkles (Vinka). It was summer, it was hot, and I still remember the gnats and mosquitoes going at me while the sweat dripped off me as I dug the little holes and popped in the plantlings.

The following spring was worse. Yes, the ivy and periwinkle were slowly growing, but so was the crab grass. Every morning after the kids got off to school, I spent an hour weeding. That entire season, I had nightmares about weeding crab grass. It didn’t help that the nightmares were simply re-runs of my mornings.
But then the glory! The ivy grew thick and shiny. We mulched all around it so that it wouldn’t creep onto the lawn or into the woods, and it covered the slope with the little purple, periwinkle flowers blooming amidst the green. The year before we went to Russia, there were some brown spots, and the man at the garden shop recommended we use a fungicide, which I duly did. The brown grew worse. I used it again the following year when we visited home from Moscow. Needless to say, upon our return, nothing had improved. In fact, one local gardener currently stands in awe of me because he has never before seen anyone who is able to kill English Ivy. Well, we all have our talents.
I’ve been nursing that ivy along for four years now, and I finally sought expert advice (which I thought I HAD sought from the garden shop man, but it seems he was WRONG. *@#(^) This year an ivy expert from a different garden shop told me that I had been TORTURING AND TORMENTING the ivy all these years. I hung my head. Oh, the SHAME! It seems all it needed was regular fertilizing. How was I supposed to know? When you plant ivy, all anyone ever tells you is that you’ll be sorry; soon you’ll be beating it back. No one ever warns you that it can die. Next year we are supposed to mow it back (hey, we planted it in the first place because you can break your leg trying to mow on that slope!) and fertilize annually.
Damn if the ivy isn’t looking up. Hardly any of it is really, really dead. You know, like in the Princess Bride, it was only almost dead. So this year I got the recommended lawn fertilizer and a few more periwinkle to fill in some of the dead spots (seems the periwinkle does better with neglect than the ivy).

The stakes here, unsuspicious, non-spaient vegetation, were about as low as they can get. Still, I have to say that being so blind to the fact that I could torture ivy through neglect has left me feeling sheepish and rather stupid, a little diminished for being clueless. How much is a person diminished who tortures human beings?

[And, oh, crap, when did I grow so serious? These entries used to be all fun and giggles. Am I growing up? No, say it isn’t so!]

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