Planting Virginia Creeper? Beware!
The Virginia Creeper is a beautiful Plant
Certainly it is a beautiful plant; the stems have five leaflets and are pleasantly attractive, especially in May when they are still ‘Spring Green,’ but the 'pleasantly attractive' vine does tend to take over.
Most gardeners plant the vine for privacy. It is ideal for covering the fence between you and your neighbours; not only does it cover the boring blandness of a fence or wall, but it gives you a delightful plant to look at. As a plus in the way of privacy, the vine will extend about a foot higher than the fence.
If you don’t get on with your neighbours, the Virginia creeper is a must during the summer months. The vine will protect you from their prying eyes when you are having barbecues or erotic pool parties. Not only do the robins love building nests in the foliage, but all the other birds drool at the first sight of the vine’s blue/purple berries in September. As an added bonus, the reddish leaves are breathtaking in the fall.
(During research, I was very surprised to find out that the vine’s berries are poisonous and the sap can cause irritation - http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_paqu2.pdf ), a fact that does not seem to put the birds off.
Although it loses its foliage during the winter months, this is no big deal to most Canadian families, as by that time they have emptied the pool and hunkered down, with snow-blowers and shovels to hand; not forgetting the ample supply of chilled beer to help immunise them against the dreaded effects of cabin fever. The BBQ is left in a convenient place on the deck in case there is mild day of around minus 10C when it can be used again.
Why should you beware of planting such a multi-talented vine?
The Virginia creeper has the mentality of a megalomaniac, and it has been suggested that the Creeper be urged to run for office. Hiding within that cutting that you are about to plant is a ruthless, power crazed determination. To you, the cuttings will grow to be an eye-catching method of hiding your neighbour’s antics, but the Virginia creeper views the top of your fence as a jumping off point for world domination.
Most gardeners, who decide to plant the Virginia, on learning that the vine grows up to 50 feet high, tend to check their garden for tall buildings or trees, and if there are none, sigh with relief, and go ahead and plant it. Do not make this mistake. The creeper does not care whether it is climbing upwards or sideways. By the same token, don’t sigh with relief if your garden is less than 50 feet in length. The vine also has a spread of 50 feet, and it does not care how large your garden is; it will grow to its allotted 50 feet no matter whose garden it’s in. The vine doesn’t care if it grows over your car, or over your swimming pool, but most importantly, it doesn’t care if it grows under your home.
It is the insidious under part that is the most dangerous.The vine spreads by the use of little suckers; the suckers attach to anything – concrete, brick, wood, steel, mail boxes, sheds, decks, trees; it is a cosmopolitan, multicultural plant with no racial or ethnic tendencies – just as long as it is in control. The suckers can be easily removed if caught in time. The ‘caught in time’ part is what matters most. At first the vine appears to be harmless, belying its true intent. You will probably be delighted at its rapid growth over the first couple of years.
After the second year, you may decide to do some pruning – that is when you will realise that all of the delightful little leaves aren’t just sitting there for you to admire; they are working feverishly in a Virginian creeper underground. Each bud that is lying on the soil is spreading – downwards, and sideways. The vine is quietly reproducing itself via its creeping rootstalks or rhizomes.
Your tiny little bud eventually becomes nearly impossible to eradicate – and almost impossible to dig up without a backhoe. But with the scientific name of Parthenocissus Quinguefolia, what else would you expect?
You have been warned.