I think it was four or five years ago that my husband, Curry, brought home a little vine in a pot for the garden. It had this beautifully delicate name, silver lace vine. We needed something to replace our purple clematis, which, sadly, had not returned that year to climb on our Martin House pole in the corner of the garden. Mind you, we don’t really have purple martins in urban Nashville, but it was certainly a lot more open around our garden when Curry gave me that Martin House for our second anniversary, 25 years ago! But I digress …
That first season it obediently thickened and climbed the pole, reaching about three-fourths of the way to the house. It bloomed around August with sprays of tiny, white, lace-like flowers. The butterflies seemed to enjoy the nectar, especially the Monarch butterflies. We were pleased with our silver lace vine.
The next season, Curry decided to leave the skeleton of the old vine on the pole for the new shoots to climb on. It made short work of that stretch. Then came the hard part, the “Mt. Everest” phase of the climb, attaining the house summit. You could almost hear the grunts as it labored up that last slippery section of pole. I would have loved to have captured in a video that final leap to latch onto the Martin House porch. It must have been something! Once that first brave branch was in place, many others followed and enveloped the house.
You have to understand something about a silver lace vine. It is not a single vine. It has offshoots all along it and each one is reaching out and searching for something to climb on, whether it be on the picket fence surrounding the garden or the hedge outside of that, or on its neighbors of bee balm, goldenrod and hysop, or on the rest of the vine itself. Like a child who will not keep his hands to himself, the silver lace vine must be disciplined. In its case, a few well-placed snips will make it behave. It’s easy to see why this vine thickens so quickly and why the birds love to hide and play in its branches. This refuge comes in handy when the neighborhood hawk is on the hunt.
Curry made the mistake of leaving the old vine on the pole again the third season. The birds loved it, but it got so big and top-heavy we had to stabilize the pole with two ropes! When bad weather moved in, the wind would catch the bulk of it and turn the Martin House around. We don’t make that mistake anymore. Now, Curry just risks life and limb climbing a ladder and cutting it down. We cut it back almost to the ground, because that plant is pretty much indestructible!
I have come to admire the silver lace vine and its passion for life. I am inspired by its refusal to die and how it never stops growing. It teaches me to be tough as nails and nurturing at the same time, as the bees and butterflies suckle at its flowers and the birds find protection in its branches. And, yes, the silver lace vine is also naughty at times, but so should we all be now and then, just to remind ourselves we’re still alive!
And THAT, my ALS brothers and sisters, is the lesson of the silver lace vine … Peace.