3 min read

Flowering vines will break your heart.

Flowering vines are like good dogs.
Flowering vines will break your heart.
Hide and seek with the electric meter.

At her condo complex, my mom belongs to a senior citizen poetry discussion group known as the Dead Poets' Society and, this week, one of the participants brought Rudyard Kipling's "The Power of the Dog." The poem is about how a dog will break your heart when it goes.

Flowering vines are like dogs: a wonderful addition to your life, but watch out. Sometimes they will wrap themselves in a way that leaves you with a stark choice: let it win over something you need, or kill it.

There is a big, beautiful clematis vine on the south wall of 615. It blooms purple in season, and it is situated so that it covers the ugly electrical meter and pole on that side of the house. It's in just the sort of spot a clematis favors: the roots are shaded, the vine is in the sun.

And – you guessed it – now that we're upgrading the electrical service to the house, we have to give the clematis a big ol' haircut. The local power company, the Lansing Board of Water and Light (BWL), is requiring that we "unblock" the mast and meter for the work. We're hoping that the haircut doesn't mean this mature vine dies.

There's another vine near the property that does need to die, unfortunately, and that's the trumpet vine wrapped all around the streetlight in the parkway. If you don't know what a "parkway" is, that's the strip of greenery between the sidewalk and the curb. As I learned working at the news operation I founded for the people of East Lansing, the city owns the parkway, but homeowners are required to upkeep the space. (Government!)

The prior owners wrapped a trumpet vine around the light pole in the parkway, no doubt with good intentions. It stopped flowering a while ago, but it didn't stop growing. And growing. And growing.

At this point, it is a monster – I call it "the Kraken vine" – and it is sending up shoots all over the place. More concerning, it appears to have tangled its substantial root base with the base electricity of the light.

The base of the trumpet vine. Can you see the streetlight pole in there?

I tried calling BWL to ask what we should do. They didn't respond. Hell, it's BWL. I'm not sure what I was thinking.

So then I contacted my friends at the city's Department of Public Works. I explained I can't hack this thing back without fear I'm going to either damage the pole or electrocute myself. The arborists came out, sad to have to stop the vine, but understanding.

They took the steps necessary to get rid of it today. It's been cut and the roots poisoned. They'll come clean it up at a later date.

I appreciate their help, but none of us felt good about this. And I realized flowering vines are like good dogs. They wrap all around and take you down with them. Even if they no longer flower, it hurts.

Tomorrow morning is the friends/neighbors "free estate sale," from 10 a.m. to noon. My good friend Stu Paterson helped me prep the house today, marking off where people can pick and where they should not go. A few more things were spoken for, but there's still a lot left. Read more here and here.