A Problem with Vines

I have always loved vines. To me they mean grapes (and therefore wine 🙂 ), beautiful ivy covering old brick buildings, passion fruit or some beautiful flower like wisteria. Or that’s what they used to mean. Now they mean pests, tree killers, light thieves and back ache.

The farm has been left to its own devices for at least 2 years. In that time trees, fences and anything that didn’t run fast was taken over by creepers. I don’t know exactly what kind of vines they are but there are 2 major culprits: Balloon Vine (Grandiflora Cardiospermum) with its sturdy, ropey stems, light green leaves and puffy seed pods-cum-flowers; and an ivy-like vine with dark green leaves and little roots or suckers growing from the vine and grabbing onto the host tree. I think the ivy is a bigger problem because it’s harder to remove and it’s on more of the trees which I’m sure will kill them. Not, of course, if I kill the vines first!

When we initially came to the farm, there was no light getting into the master bedroom and most of the back verandah was draped in this Balloon Vine. It was my first vine-eradication effort.

Chinese Lantern Vine

Balloon Vine


Back verandah before I removed the vines

This poor mulberry was trying to produce berries and leaf buds. Well, it was actually succeeding even through this heavy, ivy-like vine. It was the 2nd project I tackled.

Mulberry tree covered in vines

Mulberry tree covered in vines

I hacked and pulled and tugged and got rid of the vines around the base of the tree. I’m hoping they will die off up in the tree and then be easier to rip down. Even if not, it’s got to be better for the tree to have lost that heavy shade cloth draped from top to bottom.

Mulberry tree with vines hacked off, but still in the branches

Mulberry tree with vines hacked off, but still in the branches

The next plant I plan to tackle is this cactus (Cereus peruvianus?). It’s taller than a 2 storey building but it’s easy to not even notice it’s there. It’s got both of the pesky vine-types growing up it. How long can a cactus live in a plant-cave?

Giant Cactus covered in vines

Giant Cactus covered in vines

Each one of these projects takes me multiple hours. And there are trees ringing the property and vines everywhere. I’m going to keep working in order of importance (based on which plants I think are most vulnerable) and may just get on top of these vines before I’m unable to escape their stranglehold. Wish me luck!

Update 7 August: Thanks Ruth for identifying the Balloon Vine (Grandiflora Cardiospermum) so I don’t misrepresent it as Chinese Lantern any more. I really need some horticultural training. I’ve got so many new species to identify!

About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: www.laurarittenhouse.com for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
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17 Responses to A Problem with Vines

  1. Glenn Rittenhouse says:

    Wow. What a job. Good luck. I see the new Wheen Bee Foundation web site is back up. http://www.wheenfoundation.org.au/

  2. Kerry says:

    Hi Laura. You certainly have a problem with the vines. I live on a 5 acre property bordered by cattle and macadamia farms near Dunoon, north of Lismore in the Northern Rivers. We too have weed problems- Lantana, cats claw vine, Madeira vine and others plus rampant weeds. Can I suggest that you contact your local Landcare group to give you some help? If you can’t find them the local council will put you in touch with them. They will advise you on the best way to permanently erradicate the pests and how to preserve the trees.
    You certainly have a huge job ahead of you. We had the opposite problem when we moved here…..the owners had hardly planted a thing and used roundup to weed. We now have a lush garden with orchard ( including two pecans), olives, 45 citrus, vegetables, with tropical, natives and exotics plus climbing roses…..10 years of work. Because we are up on a mountain range it gets very cold but also extremely hot.
    Kerry Harvey

    • That’s a great idea. More than physical help, I’d love some advice on what is a real pest that needs eradication and what just needs a bit of control (and maybe even what needs nurturing).

      It sounds like your 10 years of hard work has paid off. I hope this place goes from strength to strength with the effort I’m putting in and with a good bit of help from Mother Nature. I have so much to learn and the climate here is just enough different (both colder in winter and hotter in summer) to where I’ve been living that I can’t just transplant the techniques I’ve been using. Luckily I love learning!

  3. Oh wow, I have never seen those chinese lantern vines, can’t believe the vines all over your house. You really have alot of work to undertake there, I wish you good luck with it all.

    • In the beginning I kept expecting Hansel and Gretel to arrive looking for that gingerbread house but now that some of the vines are gone and the worst of the overgrowth around the house is beaten back, it’s starting to look more like a home and less like a witches house 🙂

  4. Oh that looked like the house was being overtaken! Glad you are getting a handle on it, and I am sure with your tenacity that the whole place will soon be weed free. I can just imagine those pods bursting open and scattering the seeds all around!

  5. Wow. That looks like an overwhelming task! We don’t have many vines here and the ones we do are pathetic compared to those. But my dad had to dig out an old house in GA that was completely covered in vines so you could not even see it. I could not believe the before/after pics.

  6. cohutt says:

    Haha. Vines? What vines?
    The best vine attack weapon I have found is the woodman’s pal machete/axe/pry-bar thing. It isn’t particularly cheap but is very effective. Besides the machete edge on it, it has a very wide end (useful for prying vines loose that are strangling trunks) and a hook with a concave blade edge on it (useful for pulling / cutting vine bases and general bramble masses).
    Between sawbriars, english ivy and some unidentified monster vines I had quite a bit of reclamation to do here…. it was worth the $ for me and I still use it.

    • Looks pretty fantastic as far as it goes, but I’d rather get something that comes with an operator so I can sit on the porch sipping lemonade while the cutter does all the work. Bring on the robotic vine cutter I say!

  7. Pingback: Moving the Bees | Laura Rittenhouse's Gardening Journal

  8. Creeping vines and ivy can look good (in someone else’s garden). I’ve found the creeping weeds the most difficult to deal with. Ivy is the bane of my life and I am trying to reclaim the shady area under our trees at the back so that a variety of plants can flourish. Even in the woods outside ivy can take over ground and create an ivy desert.

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