The Last of the Crown Vetch at the back of the garden.The root system below the fern-like plant is a high-strength, industrial grade woody vine. Three years ago, I sprayed a small patch of it with Round-Up, covered the stuff with 5 mil black plastic and secured it with large rocks, so it would receive neither light nor moisture. It fried and smoldered underneath through the intense heat of summer (it faces west), and froze solid in the temps of winter…and when I uncovered it the next spring…IT WAS ALIVE! Or some of it anyway, and it continues to return in that spot every year for me to pluck up. Unfortunately, the rest of the garden did not get that same aggressive treatment. So, on this Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, while others are on picnics, playing golf, or at the annual opening of community pools, I am tiptoeing through a steeply sloped battlefield, doing hand-to-stem-combat and murmuring things like, “I hate you!” “You are of the Devil!” “Thank-you Ohio Department Of Transportation…brilliant idea!”
See, at some point in the past, ODOT thought it would be a good idea to plant crown vetch on the steep sides of highways in order to stem the tide of erosion….and for that application it was a brilliant idea because, as I mentioned, the root system could hold together a pre-fabricated bridge. But now, having learned the hard way, we know that introducing a non-native plant or animal into an ecosystem can be like opening the kingdom doors for the Trojan horse. In the end, the good gesture turns out badly.
I’m sure the previous owner of the house planted crown vetch for the aforementioned reason on the steep grade by the driveway (eventually these invasives wind up at garden centers). My vision, though, has been to annihilate it and create a garden where native plants thrive in the hot sun and dry soil for which they adapted…but if I wait too long, even just a few days, and plant things before yanking up the vetch…it becomes a hideous, overgrown, choking mess of pretty, green fronds and sweet, pink flowers!
But beauty is definitely in the eye of the informed beholder.