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Some Invaders Strangle Our Landscape, Others Eat it Up

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Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

By Bill Primavera

Ah, the ways of nature and how we roll with them on our properties can be challenging indeed.

Recently, I read an article online warning of nine plants we should never have on our properties because of their invasive nature, literally taking over the landscape.  I was reminded that of the nine deadly sinners, I harbored three of them on my last property.

In order of viciousness in bullying their way into the landscape, they were: wisteria, bamboo and trumpet vine.

Wisteria was on the property when I arrived. Bamboo and trumpet vine, I invited in, the first because I thought it was beautiful and the latter to quickly cover an aging stockade fence.

On the same day, I read about how a different kind of predator, white-tailed deer, was removing everything from what is known as the underbrush of our woods and forests, threatening their survival.

On my property, deer relished my hosta, phlox and climbing geranium, as well as the leaves from the lower reaches of my weeping cherry, leaving naked branches. Even though I sprayed everything the deer like to eat with Bobbex repellent, whose smell is so foul that it repells me as well, I sometimes failed to spray every 30 days during growing season. I would sometimes wake up one morning to find that my plantings had been eaten.

Too bad that these two phenomena, plant and animal, don’t somehow cancel each other out, but that’s just the way the balance of nature is tampered with.

Half of my 1.5-acre property was wooded and, when Irene and Sandy took down a swath of sugar maples, cherry and ash, almost a quarter-acre was laid bare. But nature, regenerative as it is, gave me a new, dense thicket of samplings there.

There was one problem: they were all locusts. Deer gobble up maple saplings but eschew those of the locust because they are very thorny. I was aware that, if I want to have my woods repopulated with maple and cherry, I’d have to buy them from a nursery at a stage where they’ve already grown beyond a deer’s eager reach.

To deal with the deer problem, I fenced in my entire property, excluding the driveway which was then the property’s only entry point. To deal with the invasive plants, I had another plan – containment.

When I first moved to that property, I fell in love with draping garlands of wisteria hanging more than 60 feet in the air, hanging from one tree to the other. It was gorgeous. But an arborist warned that all the host trees would soon be dead – and some already were – if I didn’t cut the strangling vines off at their core.

Taking his advice, I was actually depressed viewing those hanging, dead vines with all the blossoms gone. I wonder what would have been the harm if the host trees died. I suspect the strength of the thick wisteria vines could have held the trees’ carcasses up on their own.

From that point, I continued to allow wisteria to grow on my property, but I pruned the vines before they climbed into the trees. It was the same with my trumpet vines. When I planted the aggresive trumpet vines, I contained them by placing the roots within a large bucket so they didn’t take over the property.

Some years ago, when I was visiting friends in Orange County, Calif., I was taken by the beauty of the bamboo that shielded their pool from their neighbor’s property and I made a mental note of wanting to have some of my own.

But I had already heard the stories of how it can invade a property to the point of destroying basement walls and pushing up driveway blacktop. Nevertheless, I chose to plant some on the perimeters of my property, having been assured by my landscaper that it was not the most aggressive variety. But that caution doesn’t matter in some communities.

In Malverne, L.I., the town council passed a law making the planting of any bamboo variety a crime punishable by a $350 a week fine until it is removed or 15 days in jail.

Imagine, while you might find the beauty of an invasive plant arresting, you can be arrested for planting it.

A journalist and publicist, Bill Primavera is also a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester ( To engage the services of The Home Guru to market and promote your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.


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