WWCoCo New Media
The Clematis That Ate My Front Yard
by Margo Kay

I have this clematis vine growing on my front step railing. It's incredible. Each spring, tender shoots reach out toward whatever solid objects they can wrap themselves around. I go out and twine those eager little vinelets around my railing.

On a good, hot day those tendrils grow a foot each, branching all over the place, waving, searching, reaching. The railing. Fine. My juniper. Not fine. The hostas. Not fine. The potted impatiens. Not fine! The juniper again. Definitely Not Fine!

Once every couple of days I have to go out and peel the wayward vines off what they shouldn't be on, and tangle them with their siblings onto the railing where they do belong.

It generally grows all the way up the railing, a good ten feet. Then in fall it flowers. Little cream colored four-petal, star-shaped flowers. Billions of 'em, all over the thing. It freezes in winter, I rip it down, and it starts anew in spring.

Last summer, it stopped just short of the house. This summer, it was up to the house by June. Fortunately it hasn't figured out how to climb brick yet, but I worry that next year I'll need a machete to get in my front door.

As I type this, the plant is still alive and kicking, despite weather in the mid-20s and two inches of snow the other day. In fact, it's still got an eager young stalk reaching for whomever walks past. And it's got flowers. No kidding. A couple dozen flowers, in freezing weather.

I am reminded of my mother's huge backyard tomato plant in southern California one unusual year when they never had a hard freeze. By the time the tomato plant froze the *next* winter, it was as big as half a car and threatening to take over the whole backyard.

I think my clematis is taking lessons. Every day I keep looking to see if it's dead yet - or if I have to buy that machete yet this winter.

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