Vinca loves mild winters

One of my first experiences with "easy to propagate" plants in the garden was variegated Vinca major. This plant arrived in a hanging basket, and eventually got planted in the yard at the base of one of the large raised beds I built years ago.


What I found was that vinca grows as a quite long vine when in the ground, and that almost everywhere the vine touches the ground it will root, quickly forming a large colony of plants. This is great when you only have a dozen plants or so in your new garden, but a decade or more later the vinca has bulked up, challenging me to feats of strength every summer.

***


Oh, I win those challenges every time, but the vinca is persistent and tenacious, testing the limits of my patience, forcing me to keep an eye on it all season long. If I don't do this, it will sneak some tendrils out of its designated planting strip and outward they will move, hugging the ground, using the surrounding plants for cover.

At some point it I will take up the challenge, and will need to not only chop back the main plants, but pull or dig up dozens of new plants that have rooted.

There's a raised bed under there somewhere!

Usually, the cold winter temperatures are my ally, as the vinca will die back almost to the ground. In a typical year that means I get to cut and pull dead or half-dead vines out in late winter, preparing the area for a burst of early spring growth.

Seen from above, there are vinca plants in the raised bed, and
a huge mass of them on the right, moving into the lawn. Sigh.

This year though winter left me to battle the vinca alone, and the plant has stayed green, growing, and even flowering all winter long. Which means that it's got a 3-month head start on taking over my garden.

This is what the vinca looks like after a typical winter in March:

The vinca back in March 2010.

This year, not a dead leaf in sight, so I have to get aggressive and do some severe pruning. Here's a quick before and after:



I haven't seen birds using the stream very much this year -- that's probably because they couldn't find it! (Most likely the foliage made them nervous.)

Now things are back in balance, and although you can barely see any vinca at all right now it will soon bounce back, softening the base of the box as I want it to.


This work is just partially finished --  I still have to dig several plants out of the box, then attack the bed on the other side.

You may have won this winter's battle vinca, but you'll not win this war!

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sandy lawrence –   – (April 12, 2012 at 9:52 AM)  

Arggghhh! Vinca major is the bane of my gardening existence! I didn't plant it, but I am still trying to get it all out after 8 years of pulling, tugging, digging, and an occasional episode of naughty language. That stuff is an invasive, murdering, smothering thug here in TX. It is right up there with Bermuda grass for me.

danger garden  – (April 12, 2012 at 10:58 AM)  

I have to second Sandy's comment. The first project I tackled when we bought our house was digging out a thick carpet of overgrown Vinca by our sidewalk. It took everything I had to cut through and dig out that stuff. I haven't yet tackled the mass at the north end of the patio in the backyard. I pull as much out as I can to keep it from covering the patio but someday I'll work up the nerve to tackle it all.

Gerhard Bock  – (April 12, 2012 at 10:59 AM)  

I have a variegated Vinca minor (a very pretty plant, I think) in a shallow bowl and while its tendrils have long escaped the bowl they haven't actually rooted. I do keep a watchful eye on it...

Christine  – (April 12, 2012 at 1:52 PM)  

I pulled out all the vinca out of my garden 2 years ago - it was taking over along with the ivy. Mine was not the same pretty colour as yours though.

~Gardener on Sherlock Street  – (April 12, 2012 at 6:55 PM)  

My vinca completely died back but I rely on our hot summers to keep it in check or rather the sun. It only gets thick where it can get some shade. It's nice to lighten the area below some trees but hasn't ventured far out of the shade here. Mine started in a hanging basket too.

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