Hedge bindweed, Calystegia sepium, teaches a hard lesson in humility and patience.

Hedge bindweed, Calystegia sepium © Aislinn Adams 2009

A new greeting card.

This week I post another botanical illustration from my Washington Post ‘Digging In’ gardening column days and the subject of my latest greeting card design- part of my Botanical Illustration Series #1. In this series I combine my illustrations with favorite quotations. For this card I’ve chosen the quote:

“Many things grow in the garden that were never sown there.” Thomas Fuller (1654-1734)

When I read this quote I think optimistically of all the serendipitous plants that turn up in the garden. Often I have bought a plant from my local nursery only to find another species has hitched a ride in the pot. I have acquired some interesting specimens this way: a happy and welcome accident.

Hedge bindweed, Calystegia sepium, not a ‘happy accident’.

This week’s blog subject is definitely not one of those ‘happy accidents’, rather the opposite. Hedge bindweed, Calystegia sepium– formerly known as Convolvulus sepium– is a troublesome weed by anyone’s standards.  This vine twines counterclockwise around plants, often overwhelming them. It is also a well-traveled weed as it can be found throughout the temperate regions of both the northern and southern hemispheres. Calystegia means “covered calyx” while the older name, Convolvulus, means “to entwine” -a name that says it all.

Why do I celebrate this plant in a blog and as a greeting card?

When Thomas Fuller wrote this quote in the 18th century I doubt he was thinking of this troublesome plant. So why do I choose to celebrate this plant not only in a blog but also as a new greeting card? The answer is not that easy to explain.

© 2010  Aislinn Adams

I like my botanical illustration of hedge bindweed in spite of the actual plant’s bad behavior. But this is not the main reason I’ve created this card. The truth is that while working on this design I also battle with the plant in the wildlife garden or ‘naturescape’ (natural landscape) at my daughter’s elementary school. For three years I’ve worked hard to create this naturescape and I don’t want to loose it to this fast-growing plant.

Hedge bindweed- a difficult weed.

In my experience this weed, while not an ‘invasive exotic’, is one of the most difficult to remove from a garden, almost impossible in fact. At the moment it is succeeding quite easily in taking over a large area of the naturescape. Last spring I organized a group of energetic volunteers to pull the weed but within a few weeks it was back again: fresh spring-green shoots pushing through thick hogfuel bark mulch.

I have wasted a lot of time worrying about this plant, wondering how I can get rid of it, imagining it taking over the whole naturescape- kudzu-style.  Maybe by creating this card I hope to weaken the spell this plant has cast over the naturescape- and my mind. Maybe by combining this botanical illustration with a thought provoking quotation I can view it from a different perspective and maybe by thinking more philosophically about this plant I can lessen its power.

My ‘Coyote plant’?

This is my ‘coyote plant’. You know Coyote the Trickster of Native American fame. It teaches me that all my efforts to create the perfect naturescape with lots of well-behaved native plants -not always the case of course- is foolishness on my part. I can’t control nature, even this small area on the south side of my daughter’s school.

Grudgingly I learn that I have to respect this plant: its tenacity to keep growing in spite of all my efforts to eradicate it, and to admit that it too has certain qualities that could be called beautiful. But I will keep pulling it and as soon as school starts again next month I will organize another volunteer day of weeding. In the meantime I will reflect on this quotation and learn to live and let live- for the moment anyway!

Aislinn Adams

2 Responses to “Hedge bindweed, Calystegia sepium, teaches a hard lesson in humility and patience.”

  • Aislinn, I wonder if this is the same plant that is growing like crazy in our flower bed out in front of the house here in Maryland. There are two types of leaves, one fairly large and the other very small and narrow. I saw something similar today in Luray, and posted a photo here: http://yfrog.com/0irh4atj

  • Aislinn Adams:

    Hi Dave,
    Yes it is- unfortunately. It can have some variation in the leaf size. I read that another common name for it is ‘bearbind’!! I thought that was a pretty good description for its capabilities. Good luck with it.

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