• John R

The Return of Snidely Whiplash



I really don’t mean to complain and whine. It’s just that I’m so good at it. And my motivation is off the charts.


Sigh. It’s the vetch.


Imagine that the last person on Earth you want to hang out with is Aunt Vetchie. Then the doorbell rings and standing there with dual suitcases and a little smirk is…you guessed it.


It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The heartbreaking thing about this latest bout of vetch is that I spent much of last year removing the pernicious little bugger from our garden, strand by snaky strand, shuffling along on my knees in an attempt to pull them out before they could go to seed.


Vetch among the phlox.

Deb helped because it gave her license to do what she loves best, which is to cheerily remove living things from our property. She took out her share of vetch all right, along with handfuls of phlox and asters. As she plucked she gave a little running commentary: Oops! Collateral damage there! and Oh well, we have too many asters anyway.


Nevertheless, I can’t tell you how proud I was of our vetch-removal efforts (although possibly I just did). I told myself that, thanks to our dedication and determination, the Following Year there would be no vetch—or at least very little—and any stragglers would be easily removed.


Vetch pretending to be a daffodil.

This right now happens to be the aforementioned Following Year, and the vetch has gone bonkers. It’s everywhere. It’s reproduced itself in nightmarish, Medusa-like multiples, sending up slender tentacles that can be seen rising throughout the front garden, waving their seed pods in a disturbingly ominous way. It’s threatening a hostile takeover.


Vetch pretending to be a rock.

The thing about Coronilla varia, a plant that I have referred to in a previous blog as “the Snidely Whiplash of plants,” is that it’s completely shameless. It hides among other, more prestigious plants, cowardly trying to camouflage itself until it can propagate. It spreads by means of underground stealth—an extensive root system anchored with rhizomes—and pops up when the mood strikes, which is often.




NC State Extension Service says vetch is common to “roadsides and waste areas.” We’re right on a street, so we’re definitely “roadside.” Also, there are areas of our property that, if you saw them, you’d likely exclaim, “Whoa! What a waste!” So our place pretty much adds up as prime vetch territory.

Buttloads of vetch.

Unfortunately, without using chemicals in a “scorched earth” approach to ridding the garden of vetch (and everything else), eradication is pretty much impossible. It’s will to live is proving stronger than our ability to remove it effectively, our Previous Year notwithstanding. So the only remedy is to take it out by hand, hunting through the garden on all fours like a hog snuffling for a truffle.


Sure, I’ve cried a little about it. What garden hasn’t brought a guy to tears? However, I’ve sobered up and plan to purchase a kick-ass set of knee pads, fire up the earbuds, and do some serious snuffling. Vetch, here I come.



Illustration © Foxyliam | Dreamstime

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