Wile E Wisteria

I've been waging war on our wisteria. It's a beautiful tree, lovely when it flowers and puts out its seemingly-delicate tendrils, but it comes with triffid-like aspirations. It climbs and reaches as high as it can and settles contentedly in gutters, blocking the flow of rainwater. Like a needy child it coils itself around anything that can be coiled around, its grip tightening and hardening. It crushes itself against windows, like ragamuffins pressed up to a bakery, tumbling in once the window is opened. And keeping those windows shut is no guarantee of impregnability: its tendrils snake and slither and insinuate themselves into even the tiniest sliver of a crack, then proudly, brazenly wave a greeting once they're safely through.

Viewed from afar it's picturesque - even long after it has flowered - with green-gold sun-kissed leaves providing a leafy frame to Victorian sash windows. Viewed from indoors those sun-kissed leaves are still lovely - the problem comes when they insist on coming in, uninvited. Last year it flourished in the wet summer, this year it enjoyed the heatwave; during the spring it survived being trampled by scaffolding and decorators, and was insouciant about being evicted from the gutter - whatever the weather or the treatment, it's irrepressible.

Cutting it back makes little difference, except for the first few days - the wisteria doesn't take the hint and instead seems to regard any chopping as a challenge to grow even more. I lean out of my bedroom window and hack away with the secateurs, and within a week it has bounced back, like one of those cartoon characters which improbably survives being squashed, bombed or dropped from a great height. Think Wile E Coyote and you'll understand what I'm up against.

The problem is, of course, that the wisteria thinks it is being pruned, something it enjoys and benefits from (especially now, the optimum time for doing this!). This morning, as I tugged it away from my window, I recalled Jesus' words to his disciples: I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower... every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit... (John 15: 1-2). My intention is most definitely not to enable the wisteria to bear more fruit, but that's how my actions are perceived and received! Just as so often happens in life, when an ill-intentioned action can unintentionally produce a good result, or vice versa, so here we have a wisteria convinced I'm chopping it back purely for its own growth and benefit - and "rewarding" me accordingly! I can't win... it seems that God and nature have conspired to ensure that, in my efforts against the wisteria, the odds are heavily stacked in the wisteria's favour...

PS: I tweet a daily quote from Society writing. Searching for today's, I clicked on a link and found myself reading these very appropriate words by our foundress St Madeleine Sophie Barat, daughter of a barrel-maker and vine-dresser: The time for pruning the vine has come... how much there is to say on this subject which plays such a large part in the work of growing holy. It suddenly occurred to me that we generally regard the pruned one as being the one who grows holy through this process... but maybe the pruner too can benefit, even if only with an increase in patience and letting go..?