Monday, July 18, 2005



The word "husbandry" makes me feel inadequate. Technically, "husbandry" refers to agricultural practices -- cultivating crops and breeding livestock -- but I can't help but think of it more broadly as a kind of dutiful, manly zest for doing chores that husbands are supposed to do. The ones that show up on the so-called (here I choke back a certain distaste for this cloying phrase) "honey-do list."

I don't have this zest. While not totally inept or clueless with tools, neither am I particularly clever with them. And my attitude toward choredom borders on ... well, let's call it "sloth."

This past weekend, I was tasked with some yard and garden husbandry: specifically, to search and destroy all vestiges of the dread Trumpet Plant. The trumpet plant (or "trumpet vine") is a viney shrub whose trunk eventually grows thicker than you can wrap your hand around, reaching heights of 8-10 feet. Last summer, we basically paid off our neighbor to remove her trumpet plant growing right along our property line.

trumpet1 Untitled-1
Left: The trumpet plant, summer 2004. Right: the same view today --
minus trumpet plant. (The remaining orange flowers are day lilies.)

You might ask, "why destroy this plant," whose pretty, orange flowers shaped like the "bell" of a trumpet are said to attract hummingbirds? Because, in fact the trumpet plant is not an element of "landscaping," so much as it is a sci fi monster.

To begin with, the the leaves of this plant are kind of ugly and those pretty orange flowers aren't so pretty up close -- they seem lurid and surreal, and I'm surprised they're not actually carniverous. Also, I don't recall the flowers attracting a single hummingbird in five years. They did, however, attract big black ants -- the flowers were usually crawling with them -- and wasps. That's right. Not bumblebees -- wasps. Now look again at the picture above. Imagine getting out of your car on a summer day into a faceful of wasps.

Finally, the trumpet plant must be one of the scariest breeders in the plant world. It sends out long shoots, many of which popped up along the foundation of our house. Look at the photo again: the shoots grew underneath the driveway and came up the other side. B and I took to calling it the "X-Files Plant," in honor of the X-Files epidsode with the giant underground fungus that ate people.

trumpet-plant 010

Why the trumpet plant had to die: Above, shoots sprouting up from our neighbor's yard last summer, under our driveway and up along our foundation. Below, the same shoots just one month later.


Well, the alien mother ship -- I mean the main trunk -- of the trumpet plant was removed this spring. But yesterday, while conducting the "search" part of my "search and destroy" mission, I counted at least two dozen new shoots. Here are a couple of them.

Surviving spawn of the evil trumpet plant.

So I donned a pair of manly work gloves -- well, actually they looked more like yellow Mickey Mouse gloves, but Mickey is a male mouse after all -- and set about the "destroy" part of my mission.

An aforementioned work glove. Sneer if you will, but note the gas barbeque
in the background, on which red meat is grilled by yours truly!

Summoning all the husbandry at my command, I gripped each shoot powerfully as close to the root as I could, and gave a series of mighty tugs. I needn't have bothered. Each shoot snapped off as easily as a dandelion, leaving the sinister roots deep in the ground.

Surveying the disappointing results of my effort -- a small pile of trumpt shoots lying dead on the driveway -- and realizing that the shoots will be back again, I felt that this latest adventure in husbandry was not a complete success. Still, I like to think I'm not entirely without husbandly virtues. For one, I'm a good listener....


The trumpet vine must be a relative of the southern Kudzu (known in Firesign Theater routines to devour entire towns unless placated with a virgin sacrifice). I've actually seen hummingbirds near a plant that looked similar, but it was out in the "country".

We've got something very similar to that critter growing in our yard as well. It's called a "Wisteria". Very pretty for about 3 weeks in April, and then it tries to engulf our shed and is sending scouting parties to check out our garage.
Oh, woe. Will you have to spray 'poison' on its leaves?
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I had this wonderful moment early in my marriage when I felt thoroughly appreciated and not taken for granted. And this had to do with my low expectations in the husbandry area. One day my then-husband "J" was asked to help a friend "K" move some furniture at K's house. When J and K arrived at K's house, they were met at the door by K's wife "S." S immediately presented K with a long list of chores for him to complete. She didn't seem the least bit happy to see her husband. Instead, she treated him like a child and barked orders at him. This scene freaked J out. He felt embarassed for K and relieved that he was not married to a shrew that bossed him around. So, when J returned home, he gave me a big hug and kiss, told me about what happened at J's house and thanked me for being me.
I agree with you 100% about the way this plant absolutely takes over. We moved into our house in 2003 and I've been trying to kill the one that's crawling up the the south side since then.

Poison doesn't work dude... it's like some mutant that thinks poison is a treat and asks for more. i've been digging... and chopping and i still can't find the source or "heart" of it... i'm thinking silver bullet, or something along those lines.
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