When to tie plants into knots –vote here

Max said I should discuss this issue.

Max concernedI hate it when the dog is right.

Okay fine, here’s the story.

Spring progresses here in western Oregon and grape vines are growing like mad with new shoots firing off like rockets into space.

Now, it may be that grape vines have Growth Plans built into their DNA, complex possibly-computer-asssisted drawings with “circles and arrows” sort of like what Arlo Guthrie sang about…  But to me it looks like an every-vine-for-himself philosophy, with new shoots zinging off the trellis in all directions in some kind of botanical explosion with no thought for tomorrow or for adjacent trees or even low-flying aircraft.

grape vine attacks maple treeGrape vine goes berserk and attacks tree.

One’s first thought is, “Where did I put those pruners?” But this is a rare case where whacking is not in order. Because I happen to know (don’t ask, I just do) that if you prune a grape vine in spring it will bleed.  Creepy clear grape vine blood will drip-drip-drip for days, changing what was a chaotic green explosion into a graphic murder scene.  (I knew a woman once who put band-aids all over the grape vine where it bled after she cut it and NO I WAS NOT THAT WOMAN.)

Now, you may not realize it but I’m an ordained Smarty Pants Gardener by way of the Universal Garden-Life Online Certification site –I have the certificate, somewhere, and the Paypal receipt for $4.95.  (NOT to be confused with the Master Gardener program where you actually learn all about gardening but gosh it takes a lot of time compared to how I just clicked that pay button.) So anyway I felt it was desirable and also somehow expected that I would intervene with the delicate subtle guidance which wise gardeners have shown for eons if not longer if anything is longer than eons:

tying knots in grapevinesReally it’s a cute crafty touch.

And if you think about it, those tendrilly things the grapevines grow all over the place are perfect for this management plan. They LOVE to twine around one another in a supportive embrace; to become one with their neighboring shoot, to sacrifice airy independence for the sake of unity and also so they are not blown off to Seattle in the first semi-tornado. I’m just helping them twine is all, because they need it.

So WHY does Mr O say, “I see you’ve been tying the grape vines into knots again,” in a tone exactly like it was some kind of perverse sick habit on my part?!

grapevine containment system

Does he offer an alternative?


Are the manic vines already climbing into the maple tree?


When left on their own do the crazed shooting shoots make the entire arbor look like it’s having a Bad Hair Day?


rampaging grape vines

I feel certain you have an opinion on this…


About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
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60 Responses to When to tie plants into knots –vote here

  1. Well, I must admit that vining plants in my garden are treated to all sorts of knots, windings and what-nots… But at least I do allow some of them to attack treas; I even encourage it in the case of the honeysuckle in the Hedgerow. As a matter of fact I routinely scold it for not winding itself around the large birch tree as it should!

  2. kininvie says:

    I have nothing to say on this subject (for once) since Scotland is not known for its vineyards. So I’ll abstain on the vote.

  3. Funny post! Tying the vines sounds better than cutting back, but I have never grown grapevines.

  4. Lyn says:

    Thanks for the giggle, Linnie. I wanted to vote for “give them a stern talking-to” but for some reason you didn’t include that option. Just so you know, if one is English or Australian, there is something longer than eons – aeons are one whole letter longer. Just off to my Spelling Pedantics Anonymous meeting now.

    • linniew says:

      Gosh I’ve talked myself silly (temporarily of course) trying to get plants (and dogs and children) to do what I want. Never works…

      Now, in defense of my spelling of ‘eons’ I must announce that I looked it up as I do almost every word that isn’t something like “who” or “bit” because I know there are people watching, waiting for my spelling and word-use blunders, and each list I consulted indicated that ‘eons’ was the first choice and ‘aeons’ was a lesser-used second choice. And no, I did not ask the OED. But now I am afraid to.

      Lyn, does Spelling Pedantics Anonymous have chapters in Scotland do you think? Just wondering…

      • kininvie says:

        Oh dear, when I saw that orange link, I just knew it would be me. And I was trying so hard to stay out of this post! It’s certainly true that aeons has a nice, respectable Greek pedigree. But for a young nation just making its way in the world, such as yours, I imagine that eons is OK (though it does look a bit like something from Star Trek)

        • linniew says:

          Well Kininvie I fear you are confusing eons with maybe Klingons…or something. In any case I am enchanted to learn that you are a Trekkie. (We Trekkies must stick together.) (What? Not a Trekkie? Too late–assumption made.) And just because I live in a practically brand new only-recently-liberated-from-that-king country is no reason to get all “good enough for who it’s for” about my spelling.

          • kininvie says:

            Well, you did ask (sort of). I thought I gave you a very measured response. It gave you considerable latitude in choosing to drop the ae on grounds of inexperience. If you choose to be huffy about it, I fear I can’t be to blame….

      • Lyn says:

        You should be afraid of asking the OED. Very afraid. Spelling Pedantics Anonymous (SPA) has chapters everywhere. Actually, it should be Pedantic Spellers Anonymous, (yes, I’m also a member of Grammatical Accuracy Groupies Anonymous, but I’m recovering) but what kind of acronym is PSA? I’d much rather be going GAGA in the SPA.

        • linniew says:

          Gosh Lyn I can’t keep up with your neuroses! Thank goodness there are all those organizations… And I’m relieved the Grammatical group has nothing to do with Lady Gaga. I mean, right? I used to have this one-volume edition of the OED. The print was so tiny you couldn’t actually READ it, but still. It was free with the Norton Facsimile of the First Folio of Shakespeare. (I love Shakespeare.) But I traded the OED to someone for something, I forget what. What’s important is that I still have the First Folio. It might explain some stuff. Probably not.

          • kininvie says:

            Not once did Shakespeare use the word aeon. Nor eon, as it happens. (Aren’t online concordances useful?) Does that explain anything?

            • linniew says:

              No. But at the least, for this word, it puts us on equal Shakespearean ground, which is to say nowhere. I must bookmark that concordance you are peeking into. Some kind of mutual escalation of…resources.

  5. Sheila Read says:

    I see nothing wrong with tying vines in knots, especially when they are threatening to swallow all surrounding structures. And, yes, I really think you should question Mr. O as to what he sees as the alternative…

    • linniew says:

      Mr O has a ‘it will take care of itself’ philosophy about grape vines and also about roofing and tilted trees. So you see what I am up against here Sheila. But I adore your comment.

  6. I voted to use glue because I have no idea what to do with a grape vine. Just don’t stand next to one too long or you may be the next victim. 😉

    • linniew says:

      Glue is my next plan if the knots are inadequate. And I have heard of children gone missing in fields of grapes, only to be discovered at harvest, a bit purple and tired of eating fruit.

  7. Rachelle says:

    Well, I’m of the Hack and Be DAMNED School, myself. Dignified, cultured tieing is reserved for queenly clematis, knotting for those rascally honeysuckle (and kininvie), and the rest of termudgeous crew can jump through hoops, the H&*%^ with THEM! I prune them early before bud break and typically don’t need to worry about them until well into summer. There is NO crying in gardening (or bleeding any of that creepy clear vine blood)!

    So good that rascally kinivie recused himself in this matter! It gives me more space to spread my Evil Plans for grape domination!

    Here in the fanciful Midwest where we believe in growing wine grapes, even if there is plethora of Methodists, I actually took a pruning class from the state university extension (those same people that bring us those Master Gardener persons…).

    “Prune away!” (Just like in ‘Signs”, doncha’ know!)

    • linniew says:

      Rachelle! How I appreciate your free spirit. But, Mr O prunes the grapes hard in winter. They go nuts in spring anyway.

      I’ve never heard anyone else call the Midwest ‘fanciful’ but it kind of clears things up for me in a way, and I like thinking Wisconsin has some wine to go with all that cheese.

  8. Alistair says:

    Gosh, I don’t know anything about this stuff Linnie, However I do know that the use of glue is the correct answer, I am just amazed that you were able to set up a poll in such a technical manner, not that I have any reason to think you wouldn’t be capable, grovel, grovel.

    • linniew says:

      Yes I’m starting to seriously lean toward glue. But as to the highly technical poll– in WordPress when you are writing/editing a post, just click on the round button between the ADD MEDIA and the ADD CONTACT buttons. It will get you poll forms.

      I would like to poll about everything but it seems the form is a little frightening to my readers, perhaps because of previous scary experiences here I don’t know– you are brave to participate Alistair!

      • Alistair says:

        Always learning something new Linnie. You are so helpful and attentive to your commenters, I think you could be the Marjorie Proops of the garden blogging world, better looking though.

        • linniew says:

          So that drove me to google because I have certainly never ever heard of Marjorie Proops (don’t forget the ‘r’). Now, after extensive minutes of research, I can announce to my fellow Americans that Marjorie Proops=Ann Landers only British and with a more fun name. And also that I am completely ready this second to begin my syndicated newspaper garden advice column and editors should feel free to contact me right away.

  9. kininvie says:

    Linnie, if you start asking your readers their opinion about everything, you will soon find yourself in inflatable banana land…
    P.S. Why don’t you have a ‘search’ widget somewhere? How can I track down your louche habits with inflatable bananas without one? Your readers deserve a link!

  10. kininvie says:

    Dear Linnie, I spend very little of my time on inflatable bananas. I was merely being helpful in pointing out that polling your readership about ‘everything’ might lead to unexpected results….

  11. Fay says:

    I’m with Alistair – use glue. There are actually quite a lot of vines in Orkney. I think its some mad perversion, folks put up a greenhouse and as a rebellion against the climate (sub-arctic) as we’ve discussed, they then plant a vine in it. I’ve seen them trying to trendlise (is that in the OED?) the glasshouse roof tops but luckily for the grapevine owners, a nice gale often tames the trendils inside again.

    On a different but not unrelated subject, perhaps if you do intend to trim or tie might I suggest a wee wumman who lives in Kirkwall, in my old street. She has a Clematis montana which is the height of tidiness, not a trendil out of place, as flat as a flat thing up a screen. I’ve never seen such attention to detail. So I do think you should employ her tying in services. She is magnificent and has the tidiest clematis in the county.

    • linniew says:

      Fay! You got through the spam filter! (I hope it wasn’t painful.) And that’s another vote for glue.

      Sub-arctic, really? I could almost believe it from your weather reports.

      I think the OED problem here is trendil versus tendril, but I have such trouble with the various Englishes that who knows? In any case I NEED the wee wumman to not only tidy my clematis vines but do organize my knitting yarn, balance my checkbook and find a missing photo album, so send her over right away!


  12. Alberto says:

    Dear Linnie, ok, I’m not in the right position to give advice, not after that ash murder thing with my roses but I see all the people here pruning very hardly their grape vines before the end of winter (probably in time for the vine blood to freeze immediately). I assure you they cut a lot, maybe you shall start planning your pruning tasks before the end of May????
    (and we all believe that THAT WOMAN wasn’t you…)

    • linniew says:

      But Alberto we DO prune. Mr O cuts everything back in winter, so the grape vines are all tidy and simple looking. Then the weather warms in May and somewhere someone lights a fuse and tick tick tick then the vines blow up into groping crazy undisciplined chaos. But yeah I have not recovered from how you killed those roses with wood ashes. (Just wanted to mention that again so no one misses it.)


  13. kininvie says:

    I was obviously hibernating when this ash murder thing with roses took place. Do tell.

    • linniew says:

      It was during an email consideration of Alistair’s WordPress issues when Alberto told me about it (quite confidentially you know so keep it very quiet)–how he k-i-l-l-e-d several of his favorite rose bushes by over-dosing them with wood ashes.

  14. I see that a large percentage of your savvy readers use horticultural (or facsimile) glue to clear a path for low-flying aircraft. I am duly enlightened. And should I need to kill a rose bush or 10, I need look no further than the household wood stove. So much to learn from reading your blog, Linnie girl!

    • linniew says:

      I do feel a great deal of pressure from how most all gardeners look here for facts and guidance.
      So, what do you think Gracie: epoxy? gorilla glue? (Oh dear this reminds me of an obscene limerick…)

  15. Katie says:

    Why stop with the tendrils? Think of the beautiful things you can weave with those long, long vines. Maybe your tree could use a coat.

  16. Peter/Outlaw says:

    First Martha tells us we must braid our daffodil foliage and now this. Soon plant stylists will start opening salons. I know nothing about growing grapes. Thanks for the giggle!

  17. b-a-g says:

    I grew up with Cypriot/Turkish/Greek neighbours on both sides for whom grape vines are a key feature in the garden. I imagine they were for making dolmades. Many times vines would creep over the fences and I’d wait for the tiny grapes, really tart and a liitle bit sweet. It was with those memories that I voted NO (the only one). I’ve thought about planting a grape vine next to my exuberant wisteria, just to see which one wins.

    • linniew says:

      I’m not at all surprised that your neighbors’ vines crept over the fence b-a-g. I would not be surprised if they had crept over your house as well. Now, having grown both wisteria and grape vines I would say they play from the same handbook except the wisteria is more like rope and the grapes more like… skinny rope. So I think you would end up with wisteria vines wrapped in grape vines –sort of reminiscent of the dolmades but not nearly as desirable.

      I’m glad you voted your heart, so important.

  18. kininvie says:

    So, that’s a week gone and nothing new to argue about….winter’s forgivable, but not this time of year. And still no hummingbird post! I’m termpted not to show you my new bantam chicks…..

  19. I really can’t believe that I just voted but I guess it is my birthright.

    • linniew says:

      Absolutely Carolyn!, and I say this standing with my hand on my heart…

      Well of course I couldn’t type like that so really I am sitting and both hands typing because I was speaking figuratively which is not lying, no, that is a whole different thing entirely; I have no experience with it at all.

      But I always vote.

  20. KennyK says:

    I realize that the posts on this page are rather dated and so my post might not even be read or even appreciated, since I’m not a chick. Who knows? And, I would have to admit that I didn’t read all of the posts either, because they seemed to be headed in a different direction than where my post is going. I simply wondered if the vines would get mad if you tie them into knots. There’s a grapevine in my yard that is continually trying to grow across my path and I simply wouldn’t dream of cutting it back. I hate cutting any living thing, even plants. But then it occurred to me that perhaps I could just tie it in a knot, but then I also wondered if that might make it mad. Does anyone have an opinion on this?

    • linniew says:

      Yes the page is dated but I’m not getting any younger either so that’s ok. But to your question: of course vines can feel frustrated when they are not allowed to grab onto trees and shrubs and maybe kill them, but it is our job as vine maintenance people (sometimes called gardeners) to keep all this sort of chaos under control. And really tying tendrils into knots is not in the least like whacking them. It is just a kind of guidance, like if you were their dad and they were about to make a big mistake with their Facebook page or a car or a boyfriend or something. And really what does a grapevine have to be mad about anyway? Gosh Kenny, I bet you capture moths in your house and ever so carefully release them outside! (I do that too.)

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