Virginia Creeper

(Question)

I live in Deep RIver ON and have a rather large yard. Many years ago, my next door neighbors planted Virginia Creeper on their fence and it has since spread all around my property. WHat is a good way to get rid of it?

(Answer)

Dear Homeowner,

Thank you for writing from your home in Deep River, where Virginia Creeper,  Parthenocissus quinquefolia, apparently thrives equally as dependably  as in Toronto.  This well-known vine is sometimes called ‘five-leaf ivy” —  referencing the configuration of its leaflets on each compound leaf — but “ivy” it is not. Virginia Creeper is a proud member of the Vitaceae grape family.

You mention that your yard is ‘rather large’, and perhaps you refer to its depth: if your neighbours are close by, next door, perhaps they felt that some lush, green summertime growth could afford both of you some pleasant visual privacy, preferably within the space of a few years. Virginia Creeper would certainly have fit the bill, with the added bonus of presenting the most brilliant, fluorescent golden-red leaves — as red as a sugar maple — when the sunlight hours start waning in the autumn.

For readers who might be inclined to call out this vine as a pushy, nuisance, ruffian, under any circumstance — please know there is a middle ground. Unlike, say, the brutish hard-wood growth of the Wisteria, Virginia Creeper’s growth is much more flexible. This plant can conduct itself quite nicely, within a defined space, with other garden plants species, and humans. It lends itself to easy pruning with loppers, shears and clippers. Both tender runners, and older growth, will easily pull away from wood, brick, stone or concrete surfaces.

Now, to answer the question: you say that the vine has “spread all around my property”, and ask for a “good way to get rid of it”. In a residential, fenced, garden area, there is a certain sympa that gardeners and their plants are assumed to develop. For example, you get to somewhat call the shots as to where, and in what quantity, you wish a plant to grow; in turn, the plant’s job is to show you what it’s capable of, its strengths, and what it requires to keep up its end of the bargain. All this to say, that you should have no problem shearing back what you consider excess growth on your property (dispose in garden waste bags), but at the same time you can define for the plant where you might appreciate and profit from its trellis leaf-cover for shade, or for softening the visuals of a fence or, as another bonus, providing an abundance of fruit (deep purple grape bunches) for the birds! Going forward, give your vine regular guidance.

All the best on your summer project, and for your interest, please see another TMG reply on this subject:  Birds feed on Virginia Creeper fruit.