Gardening: Grab the upper hand while you canBy Linda Fort
July 22, 2011
It was raining very hard on Saturday and in the early hours I pictured a scene of devastation.
A few years ago my Solanum crispum – the potatoto vine – fell off the wall in heavy rain and tumbled over into my neighbour’s garden.
For the past two weeks I have been visiting the side of the house looking at the fabulous display of purple flowers with trepidation.
The huge plant had formed a vast awning over the path and the tallest parts were not attached to any supporting wires.
It was reaching the critical mass necessary for a gigantic collapse and the weight of rain was likely to be the tipping point.
I went out on Saturday expecting the worst, but the solanum was still upright.
Nevertheless, action was imperative. So with stepladder, secateurs, long-handle loppers and a mac I set out at once.
S crispum is poisonous and tastes very bitter. I don’t know how you get the taste of it in your mouth while you’re cutting it down, but you do.
The rain was hammering down and as I lopped away under the vast sodden canopy, a further shower of drips poured down on to my head.
I have a genuinely waterproof mac so I was soaked from the neck up and the knees down. The wetter I got the more enjoyable it became.
The job is now almost done. I need to get out the longest ladder to cut back the very tallest shoots but when I do all the flowers will be gone and that will be a pity.
Its weighty sag was worsened by a neighbouring Clematis cirrhosa that flowers in winter and is extraordinarily pretty.
The clematis finds its own way up supporting wire while the solanum has to be tied in. The clematis then wanders through the solanum and weighs it down where it is not attached to the wall.
It was a recipe for disaster brought about by inattention at the crucial moment about six weeks ago. However, disaster has been averted for another year and a bit more clipping and tying will get it back under control for now.
Last time it tumbled I almost got rid of it, but stayed my axe hand.
This time it has been looking so lovely in its unruly poisonous way that I don’t feel in the least inclined to do away with it.
I just need to remember to visit my potato vine more often.