The War Is Ongoing

It began innocently enough. Spring in Tennessee quickly moves from greening to greened, and humid. The colder days of winter forgotten, the trees soon show their leaves, the grass grows tall, the bushes bloom. The north wind turns southerly, moisture from the gulf settles in and the sun goes from welcome winter friend to a blazing furnace intent on wilting your entire being.

It is thus as the war rages on. The bushes in the yard, I saw them planted many years ago, trimmed them and mowed around them, and then I got a little slack with the bushes. And they grew. And grew. I used to have a snowball bush. It was overtaken by the forsythia to its left and the almond bush to its right. Every so often I’d see a snowball bloom amongst the tangled web of bush, trying hard to find the light. Alas it appeared to be lost and forgotten.

But the first thing I noticed as the leaves began to grow this year was my enemy. My enemy had taken root, and taken over. It had encapsulated the bushes and taken defensive positions. It was out of control and had to be taken on. I knew I must meet the challenge. The honeysuckle had to go. Once I realized that, I soon realized that to tackle the honeysuckle problem, the bush problem had to be dealt with first. The almond bush was 15′ across and 8′ high, the forsythia 18′ x 14′ and 9-10′ tall, a constant threat to the satellite dishes that had to be cut back several times a year due to actively interfering with communications.  The lilac bush 12′ across and 9′ high and rounding out the problem a bush I don’t even know, it does sport small red flowers once or twice a year, this one had held back the onslaught of the honeysuckle, but was a wild sprawling mess.

But the honeysuckle, the insidious menace, had entirely overtaken the forsythia, what was left of the snowball and the almond. Tendrils had advanced to the lilac and set up shop there too. I really wasn’t aware of how bad the honeysuckle had infiltrated, I spent two mornings and one evening out there just trimming the bushes back. I could see then this was going to be one big job.

Wounded! I was using a spade in a jackhammer fashion to uproot a couple of forsythia clusters that were too close to the satellites. I was successful in removing two of them. The next day I had pretty  much lost my ability to even hold a coffee cup with my right hand. The forearm would take odd moments to throb with an electric shock feel that was quite intense. I had to take some considerable time off from my attack. Got back at it again yesterday morning.

I was actively destroying any honeysuckle I came across, tracing its twisting, winding, vine to the ground, snipping it about halfway so I could pull the vine free of the entangled bushes. That, a difficult sweaty miserable job is the easy part. You then trace the vine back to its rooted position and have to pry and pull and yank and hope your hands don’t fall off, I found that a pick works well to attack the root, you slam down close to the root and push the handle leveraging the pick under the root. Even then it is a difficult task to free it, this stuff is tough as nails. But I’m a tough old bastard too. Not tough enough, I am typing this with my right hand/wrist wrapped up again!

Interesting thing I discovered about honeysuckle. For every bit of vine you can see, there is just as much in the root system. If not more. It looks like it just goes to the ground to root, but oh no, not that simple. It expands in every direction above ground with reaching tendrils looking for a place to climb. These tendrils will go a couple of feet, then establish a root to ground, then keep spreading until it decides to ascend. It also, and this was the surprise, stretches out in multiple directions underground! There is a vast root system stretching this way and that up to two inches deep! You start uprooting what you think is the home base, the grandaddy root that will destroy the vine for good, and all of a sudden the damn root starts pulling up and you keep pulling, walking along several feet till it finally gives out. Long story short, you can’t just eliminate what you can see, you have to search and destroy the vast underground system if you want to free yourself from honeysuckle.

As I am wounded again. And find that I have muscles aching I wasn’t even aware existed this morning, I will have to take a few days off to heal up. But I will continue this war till every damn bit of honeysuckle I can find has been destroyed. If it doesn’t destroy me in the process.

I hope your transition to summer is faring better  🙂



14 thoughts on “The War Is Ongoing

  1. And some people say they like gardening! It’s a brutal battle and you have to be in for the long haul if you want to win.

    So, you do all this work and think maybe the battle is over. Ha! Not so fast.

    The trick is to constantly be prepared for the preemptive strike every Spring. That’s how you win this war. I’ve been battling a type of African geranium here (and a type of Broom on the last property) for years because the roots you missed – and you have missed many – will return and try to mount a comeback just as sure as Jehovah Witnesses will show up at your door no matter how often you say, “No thanks.” There’s a certain amount of pleasure successfully spotting the depleted enemy early and then destroying the incursion before it can gain a beach head (in both cases… my young son used to call the JWs the Jesus Commandos after seeing a group of them tumble out each side of a van ready to do their door-to-door evangelizing). So plan on doing this mop up operation year after year as part of your Spring ‘gardening’.

    And there’s hope, too, that one Spring you won’t have to do this at all. After doing what you did, we now have a large backyard tract of land that has been culled just this way and, over a decade, is now a lush and beautifully coloured woodland forest above a soft pine needle floor that is teeming with life… an oasis copied by neighbours creating a ‘natural’ park of ten thousand shades of green dappled by sunlight and accompanied by birdsong in the day and croaking of frogs at night. And this is in the middle of a large and dense urban area… all because the invasive plant species that once ruled here have met their match not just with strong backs but a dedication of will. And the corrupting plants that choked out all others have been soundly defeated.


    • Welcome comrade in arms.

      I loved the Jesus Commando thing 🙂

      I am quite sure that this long overdue assault is just the beginning of a long difficult fight. As much of the root system I can eradicate, there will be places I missed or simply cannot see. In some cases the origin of the honeysuckle is so intertwined with the bush roots that to dislodge the honeysuckle I’d have to dislodge the bush. A time or two I considered calling my neighbor, who has a backhoe, and just have the entire damn thing dug up. But I figured I have had these bushes far too long to just give up on them.

      I am pleased to hear of your success. I can only hope to probably reach some sort of equilibrium with this honeysuckle, indeed it will be a yearly issue. If I can keep it beat back regularly after this, it won’t be as difficult a job…I hope.

      Your description of that success is both beautiful and inspiring 🙂


  2. Was the honeysuckle a metaphor for the bloodsucking plutocrats strangling our democracy? Sounds like …


    • Lol! Yes the honeysuckle could easily be analogous to the R’s and the gov’t in general the bushes.

      I did consider while sweat pervaded my being that the honeysuckle was similar to ISIS. We are fighting what we can see, but there has to be a huge underground system of support that we do not see. That is where the battle to defeat ISIS lies. I almost put that consideration in the post, but left it out…


  3. You poor thing, I’ll send you a blanky and a good shot of whisky lol!



  4. We are heading into the cold season. It’s not winter, there is no snow but my friend, cold days in the Tropics can be really cold.
    Wish you well in your continuing battle with weeds


    • Were they only weeds this would not have become the ordeal it is.

      You going to tell me that 11 C might cause terrible chills? (as per JZ) That’s what we call spring and fall 🙂

      I used to go diving, in a wet suit (rated for water temps down to 15 C or so) in water that was 3 C, come back to the boat, wet, and sit in air temps 4.5 C, with a wicked ass north wind blowing, grade out my catch, then jump back in the water. I got cold once or twice 😉


      • Obviously, none of you had to walk miles barefoot through snow drifts and howling north winds that froze your breath to your skin to school. Neither did I. But the older generation assures me that that’s cold.


        • I grew up in Illinois just outside of Peoria. It got plenty cold but it was damn well tolerable. I live 700 miles further south now and have experienced much colder cold here, than I did up there. It’s all about the humidity. (age could also be a factor)

          I also experienced 60 below once somewhere out west I think it was Montana. Was driving a semi truck through this stuff, ice forming an inch thick on the inside of the glass, with the heater blowing on it. I got out at a truck stop to check my fuel tanks they were freezing up and had been putting treated fuel in them. Had to go buy more fuel treatment or risk being one of the many dozens of dead trucks littered all across the interstate due to fuel freeze up. That was the coldest temps I have ever experienced.

          Incidentally I did walk to school many times in snow deep enough it was going down the inside of my boots.

          When the old timers tell me it was cold, I tend to believe them. I am damn near an old timer myself at this point 🙂

          I will have to consider that the tropical cold I am hearing about might have something to it. Though it is my first reaction to think “they find 50 degrees cold?”


      • Well you should try that in the tropics and at high altitude, you may think it is winter! When Jz tells you 11 degC is freezing cold, trust him


        • I suppose I will have to take your and JZ’s word for it. At least until I can come and visit one fine winters day in Brazil, or tropical Africa. I’ll bring my long johns 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s