Michael Z

Mike Zielinski

The winter of my discontent is approaching. I’m allergic to cold, snow, ice and frostbite. There definitely wasn’t a polar bear or two residing on a branch of my family tree.

But there is one nice thing about winter: no yard work.

Actually, I don’t mind taking care of the lawn and flower beds. Landscaping is good therapy. You can get some sun, break a little sweat, mess with your hay fever, and you don’t have to think while you work.

I don’t know about you, but I work best when I don’t think.

But one aspect of my yard that I don’t miss during winter is my raging battle with ivy.

Granted, ivy looks good on the outfield walls of Wrigley Field. And ivy is great groundcover. I have a lot of flower beds and my wallet and back would be broke if I planted perennials and annuals everywhere.

Hence, my ivy comes in handy. It maintains its green foliage throughout the year and hides any sprouting weeds. You don’t even have to mulch it.

Ivy is great because you don’t have to nurture or nourish it. Like a bad skin rash, it just grows and grows.

Which is its biggest problem. Nobody evidently told ivy that moderation is a good thing. My ivy grows relentlessly. It conquers more territory than Caesar’s Roman armies.

If I didn’t stay on top of it with all the zeal of a Trump disciple, my ivy would cover half of the township by now.

It covers everything. Fences, walls, trees, patios. If you leave a pet or even one of your kids out in the yard long enough, it will cover them, too.

Consequently I’m always fighting a turf war with my ivy to rein in its eternal encroachment. You can prune it, pause to yawn, and it’s BACK. If my hair grew like that, I could be a cover boy for a paperback romance novel.

Alas, while I’ve been good at corralling my ivy on the ground level, it has gotten the best of me in the air. It has sprouted up many of my trees, especially the evergreens. My ivy holds air sovereignty over me and it’s doubtful that I will ever regain supremacy of the sky over my backyard.

Unless I want to spend most of the year hanging from a 30-foot ladder or from a hovering helicopter while pruning ivy vines from tree branches and trunks, I’m stuck having ivy clinging to my trees.

I’ve already lost several evergreen trees and I know it’s because my ivy’s clinging vines smothered them. Come to think of it, clinging is too mild of a word. Death grip is more appropriate.

My wife suggested that if I were a tad younger and more adventurous, I could swing from tree to tree on those ivy vines and play Tarzan in our yard. I didn’t follow her advice, but I did check out the fine print in my life insurance policy.

Now I know why they call Harvard, Yale, Penn and their sister institutions Ivy League schools. Their graduates are the only ones wealthy enough to afford gardeners who can trim ivy 24-7.

Thank the Good Lord that my ivy problem soon will be in winter hibernation. But I know only too well that it will be awaiting me with a vengeance in the spring.

Mike Zielinski, a resident of Berks County, is a columnist, novelist, playwright and screenwriter.

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