Half of the nice Crabapple tree did not wake up this Spring. After some mourning and denial, it was necessary to remove the offending half in order to save the whole. There is also the ongoing issue of Powdery Mildew now affecting the alive half of the tree, which I am treating with a milk anti-fungal spray. My dog Clio loves to lick the Crabapple tree now.
Having cut away the half of the tree that covered up an ugly cinderblock wall that serves as a border to our yard, we are now forced to reckon with the Ugly Corner. This area does not have much going for it:
You can see that I bought a sad little Honeysuckle plant in an effort to get some coverage going back there. Vines of this sort are much maligned for their invasive properties, along with English and Boston Ivy. English and Boston would have climbed this wall by themselves, but then eventually eaten the neighbor’s garage and then taken over both of our yards. I looked at Trumpet Vine and Kintzley’s Ghost but could not find them locally. Honeysuckle seemed like a good compromise, but I’d have to build it something to grow on.
Raiding the shed I found four Cedar fence boards and some pine 1×1 and 1×2 that would do nicely. The boards would also act as a sort of continuation of the fence line, being roughly the same height and shape. I laid them out on the ground and spaced them evenly, then connected the tops with a single galvanized nail so that I could adjust the angles a little if needed. Then I added cross-bars to give the Honeysuckle something to attach to. (Honeysuckle doesn’t have the sticky feet that Ivy does – it wraps itself around things.)
Satisfied with what would pass as an acceptable Sunday Morning Amateur Scrap Building project, I raised this Fence Trellis up and stuck it against the cinderblock wall. Because I’d used only a single galvanized nail at each point, the whole structure still had some give, just in case I needed it to slant up or down. The yard slopes away from the whole house and the property was established in 1915, so there’s a lot of funky angles.
After a preliminary placement I dug four holes where the pickets would sit, leaving space between Fent #1 and Fent #2 for the Honeysuckle, and leaving future room between Fent #3 and Fent #4 for a second future Honeysuckle plant if needed. I stuck the Fentrellis (TM) into the holes, then used a big level to square it up with the Earth. Turns out the neighbor’s garage is actually level, so, bonus. Once squared off, I backfilled the Fent holes and roughly leveled the ground under the whole structure.
Since I’d already planted the Honeysuckle a couple weeks before, I didn’t want to move it too much. They are a bit delicately rooted at first, and the vines snap easily. But it was basically buried behind the new Fentrellis (TM), so the couple of good long vine arms had to be very gingerly moved to the front where they could be tied and trained. I use a nylon rope for this and tie it loosely, hoping the vine will figure out what to do next. The entire structure is footed about 12 inches from the wall at the bottom and slants in to meet the wall at the top. I may add spacers on the back of each Fent later on to provide a little more wiggle room once the vines get up that high. For now they have plenty of space to wrap themselves around everything.
Satisfied that I need a cup of coffee and this looks pretty good for a Sunday morning, I get out the hose and spray everything down, settling the Fent holes and giving the plant a nice drink to calm it down. It doesn’t look amazing, but it looks like it could be Something by the end of summer. I’ll keep an eye on the vine arms, lead them in promising directions, and see what happens. The plant is in a good location on a south-facing wall with good exposure and sloping drainage, so conditions are right. I’ll keep looking for local Kintzley’s Ghost but for now this is a good solution for the Ugly Corner. (PS that’s a Colorado Bluebird House and it’s currently unoccupied.) Huzzah!
“Fent / Fents” by B. Kliban.
PS! Here’s a little illustration I made of Ugly Corner last summer when the Crabapple was in full bloom: