Behind our house there's an English Garden about the size of a squash court. It features a concrete table with concrete benches and a concrete birdbath. It's walled on two sides by colonnades of arborvitae twelve feet tall. A majestic rotunda of a maple tree dominates the near end of the garden. Rows of garden lights once marked out the paths and the birdbath had had a fountain in the center; both ceased working almost as soon as we moved in. We rent the house, and though we both work, we couldn't justify maintaining that sort of luxury on property we didn't own. The same went for the in-ground sprinkler system.
Once or twice we paid someone to weed the plot, but had been letting it go to seed for many years. The blackberry vines overwhelming the area stood as high as an elephant's eye. Underneath that, a thick carpet of ivy overran the ornamental flowers and everything else that once grew there. It had even overgrown the smallish alder tree to a height of ten feet, obscuring it as completely and opaquely as a leafy, emerald nun's habit.
I was just a wee bit chagrined at our boarder's picking the blackberries off the brambles and decided to reclaim the garden for a writing grotto. First I pulled out the blackberry vines. Some of the stalks coming out of the ground were woody and thick as bamboo. I hacked down the maple and alder saplings and raked the sun-yellow maple leaves out of the ivy. The wind came up and buttered the garden again, twice, and twice more I raked the ivy. After the third time, Sir Leafs-a-lot has pretty much exhausted his ammunition.
Now I come to the overrun alder. Thinking I was just going to pull the vines off the tree trunk, I quickly got a reality check. The ivy vines were as thick as my thumb and as woody as the tree underneath, and wrapped around the trunk and limbs in the strangleholds of an old witch’s arthritic claws. I cut through the thick ivy roots up and down the tree in a hundred places with a pair of long-handled pruning shears, and pulled off the ivy clump by tenacious clump. Finally, a rather pathetic-looking bare alder tree emerged. The only limb that has any leaves at all is a spur that grew out of the tree trunk down at ground level. I guess I’ll have to wait until spring to see if the tree proper comes back to life. Meanwhile, I’ll be trying to figure out if and how I should prune it at this point. I’m feeling helpless and guilty, as though I’d just run over a cat.
© 2012 Douglas J. Westberg