Getting at the root of a fast-growing problem

Ivy choking a healthy tree compared to influences that can impede our lives.

I had some uninvited guests visit my back yard last summer. Some small patches of green ivy popped up in the ground cover under the trees. At first I thought they were fitting in well with the other residents, filling in some bare spots and cuddling up to the ferns and hostas. So I just let them stay.

It was mostly green back there  and I had once thought about infusing some colour between the yucca plants but then I decided, with fronds like that, who needs anemones? Nature always seemed to know just what my little jungle needed.

By fall, when everything else was dying off or going dormant for the winter, I noticed my guests were still growing strong and they had even started to work their way up the fir trees. It actually looked pretty, giving my forest an English garden look, and soon my back yard looked more like Oxford or Cambridge than Brookswood.

But it showed no signs of stopping and by spring it was crowding, choking and covering everything and it was now well up into the trees. After some investigation, I found that when this visitor had first appeared I should have said, “Sorry, you’re not welcome here. Move along.”

It seems this particular strain will develop a root system that robs nutrients from the tree roots, it attaches to the tree in such a way that it kills the bark and if it gets to the canopy, it blocks the photosynthetic process and the weight of the vine can bring the dead tree down.

I followed guidelines and donned a dusk mask, goggles and long sleeves and began the task of peeling it off and, on a couple of trees, it came off intact, a huge 50 foot ecosystem. I could almost hear the trees take a deep breath as the foliage fell to the ground. It was a lot of work but if I hadn’t let it go so long, it wouldn’t have been such a big task.

But that’s human nature, isn’t it? We tend to leave things alone until the situation becomes critical. We let depression start around our feet and ignore it until it has covered our entire body,  blocking out the sunshine.

We wait until the vines are squeezing our chests. Then we decide to do something to free up our hearts and lungs. We wait until our abuses or addictions have choked out  and smothered the healthy life around us and then suddenly, we find ourselves starving for light.

The secret I found to rid these vines was to do some digging, and find the root of the problem. Once I had the root firmly in my grasp, if I was careful  I could pull it all away in one piece. In some cases it wasn’t that easy. The invader had to removed bit by bit, in small pieces. But the secret was to not give in to it.

Getting to the root of the problem is where you have to start. It may take getting down on your knees, it may take asking for help, it may mean getting dirty and you might not like what you find down there, but it’s a good place to begin.

Summer is a good time to clean up your garden, your body and your mind. Take a close look at what you’re letting grow in there. At least that’s what McGregor says.

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