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Poor Will's Almanack: September 21 - 27, 2021

Jim Choate
Flickr Creative Commons

Just outside my back door, on the north side of my property, I have a tall green wall that looms over the garden.

Built on a foundation of honeysuckle, it is a solid, layered mass of poke weed, hops, Japanese knotweed, wild grape, tree-of-heaven and false buckwheat vine. The wall is probably over twelve feet high and extends maybe forty or fifty feet from west to east.

In its scale and dominance, it reminds me of the hillsides of kudzu that impressed me once when I visited South Carolina on a fishing trip. Instead of covering the land, however, my wall climbs up into the sky, creating its own mountain.

Almost all of the species that create this structure are invasive or out of favor, but they encapsulate the season, anyway. The pokeweed berries are black and starting to wither now, the red stems wrinkled and flabby. The petals of the Japanese knotweed flowers, once so lush and attracting so many bees, are twisting and browning. The most dramatic drapery of the wall, the prickly common hop, with its pale green overlapping bracts, creates an ornamental patchwork in the dense foliage. The dainty white clusters of the climbing false buckwheat twine throughout, reaching into the weathered tree-of-heaven leaves.

It is easy to imagine that I am safe behind my green wall, which is so honest and so vital even in its decline.

Here I put aside the cultural issues that might arise about its invasive power.

Here there is no argument. Love the garden. Love the wall.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the fourth week of Early Fall. In the meantime, Love the garden, love the wall.

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Bill Felker has been writing nature columns and almanacs for regional and national publications since 1984. His Poor Will’s Almanack has appeared as an annual publication since 2003. His organization of weather patterns and phenology (what happens when in nature) offers a unique structure for understanding the repeating rhythms of the year.