Red-and-gold jewels

I have just finished the book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver and it’s, well, inspiring. Her writing style is fabulous, and she has filled my head with so very many amazing thoughts and ponderables….but most notably is the desire to connect with the land.

We were away at the beach for a week and immediately upon returning (OK, immediately after I started the first load of sandy laundry) I needed to head outside and spend some time in my gardens.  Sadly I didn’t put in a vegetable garden this year – with the exception of some potted herbs on the deck – but my perennial beds and borders are prolific. Particularly so after we’d been away for a week.

Typically, I have to say that I specialize in invasives.  The primary crop around here seems to be bittersweet, closely followed by poison ivy, thistle, wild grapes, wild roses, wandering wisteria, and more.  Fortunately we haven’t yet been invaded by the crazy wild morning glory that has been creeping up in our area, but I would happily trade that for the bittersweet. At least the morning glory can be pulled without pulling your muscles. (If you have ever dealt with bittersweet, you understand.)

Many years ago I planted two small wisteria plants on either side of a wood arbor/archway in a corner border bed in the back yard.  I was eager to see the gorgeous dripping clusters of lavender blooms (and this was before I started traveling to Italy in April). I had heard that wisteria could be a bit finicky about blossoming, so I was patient. After a few years we were rewarded with beautiful blossoms…..and vines so strong they completely annhilated the wooded structure of the arch.  Reinforcing the arch with steel poles was still no match for the powerful vines.  We’ve had a love-hate relationship for quite some time now.

The vines have traveled and taken root as far as 25 feet away, where they suffocated a fabulous butterfly bush.  The battle continues each year. I am losing. The space where the archway once stood has been taken over by bittersweet, wild roses, wild grapes, wild raspberries, and, yes, more wisteria.  Earlier in the spring I cut and pulled most everything from that space except for the wild black raspberries. The kids love to pick these for summertime snacking.  Beside the former arch a small unidentified tree had started to grow and I had allowed the wisteria to climb up it. We’ve had discussions, this purple creeper and I.  When it reaches out to the neighboring hydrangea or weeping cherry tree I have said “NO, You are not allowed here.” Whack. “You may stay here and climb this other unknown sapling so I can see your blossoms in spring, but DO NOT WANDER.” Sadly, despite my clearly audible out-loud words, the vines don’t seem to listen.

Today I tried to prune back some of the wisteria (the blossoms have passed, and long fuzzy pods have taken their place) so that the raspberries might flourish.  There are many berries on the bushes – mostly pink but some (yum) deep purple. As I pruned large vines of wisteria from the tree branches above to give more sun to the berries, I uncovered small golden fruits blushed with red….cherries!! My first thought was that the neighboring ornamental weeping cherry branches, that bow down and mingle with the vines, had somehow started producing fruit. After some careful sorting and unknotting or vines and leaves and branches, it turns out these little golden cherries were growing on the wisteria’s unidentified ‘host’ tree. Delicious. Golden. Cherries.

Many years ago we had a few golden cherry trees on the orchard where our street now passes through….I can only assume this was once a pit from one of those trees, carried here by a bird, the wind, or spit from the mouth of a summer snacker.  The wisteria vines are as thick as the tree itself, and have tightly wound their way into the very flesh of the branches.  With a bit of tough love, most of the vines have been untwisted from the branches…and most of the cherries have been enjoyed. With continued diligence, strong words and aggressive clippers, I’m hoping for a much bigger crop next year.  As for the beautiful dripping blossoms, well, I can always go back to Italy in April.



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