When we moved into our house, other than some nice trees, there wasn’t really anything worthwhile in our backyard.? Along one whole side was a long wire fence that was completely covered by a jumbled hedge of plants and vines.? While we replaced the broken-down fence on the other side of the yard, we kept this side intact, partly to save money, but partly because we liked the privacy we got from what was essentially a six-foot-high green wall.
The “hedge” itself is a jumble of different species, most of them unfortunately invasive. All along the base is English ivy (Hedera helix), which spread out over a six-foot wide strip into the lawn. There are several different fast-growing woody shrubs. Mixed in is a healthy dose of Japanese honeysuckle. And worst of all, the dreaded air potato (Dioscorea oppositifolia, aka Chinese yam or cinnamon vine), a villainous tuber which is capable of smothering all surrounding vegetation.
The lone native representative of our fence community is Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), which is vastly outnumbered, but right now is putting on a nice show for us with its fall colors.
Other than ripping out a lot of the ivy on the ground itself to make room for flower beds, we’ve mostly been playing defense with the hedge. We cut back woody branches that are overhanging too far several times a year, and try to keep the air potatoes at bay (though any attempt to remove the strangling tendrils sends the tubers themselves flying in all directions to launch new attacks on the yard ? imagine the scene in Gremlins with the gremlin spores flying off the back of the Mogwai after it got wet, and you’ll get the picture).
This fall we’ve started an offensive of our own.? We completely cleared out a small area where there wasn’t much vegetation and put in a native coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens).? While many of us are used to the fast-spreading invasive honeysuckle, the native version is much less aggressive, and, like just about all natives, offers greater benefits to wildlife.? We’re particularly hoping to spot the hummingbirds that are a big fan of honeysuckle nectar.
We don’t plan on ripping everything out all at once. We’re hoping to clear away the invasives section by section in advance of the growing honeysuckle. As we clear, we’ll try to keep the Virginia creeper in place and give it more room to grow and mix in with the honeysuckle.? Over the next year, we’ll add more honeysuckle plants to the fence line to speed up the process as well.
Over time, our big green wall can be something we really enjoy instead of something we’re always fighting against.