We have a fair sized garden for where we live.  To be fair, my wife has the garden.  I’m the laborer who makes some of the bigger chores happen.

One chore that we get to do twice a year (mid to late spring and early to mid fall) is pull Virginia Creeper vines out of the lilacs, mock oranges, off the fence, and generally out of everywhere we can pull it out from.  Now, its a pretty enough plant.  However, like most vines it tends to not “stay put” and grows pretty aggressively.

It can, and will, choke out other plants – it has done in a couple of ours and several of the neighbor’s much loved mock orange trees.  It looks a bit like poison ivy and actually works pretty well as a deterrent for keeping some of the unscheduled visits to the garden and yard from youngsters (and oldsters) in the area to a minimum – they don’t realize that vine is NOT poison ivy.

In the fall, the leaves turn a stricking red – astoundingly bright color. 

Did I mention that it grows REALLY fast? 

While I pulled a huge amount from the one area I worked in, I know there is more there.  I focused on the big mature stuff that would be sending out more runners in the spring.  Any smaller vines I came across I also pulled but I did not go looking for them.  (Kind of like looking for defects that really impact a system vs those that should be fixed but don’t really impact anyone.)

Like many people dealing with this plant, I started out, many years ago, pulling hard and aggressively.  I was going to show it who was the boss.  I was going to WIN!  Ummm, not so much.  You see, vines tend to break off at resistance points.  So if a couple of tendrils have looped themselves around a wire in a fence  or a branch of another bush, the “stem” will break if you pull hard – the tendrils will hold the rest in place.

What I learned, and greatly amused my lady wife as she watched me do this, is I can identify a large vine, gently lift it and apply even pressure on it.  That will break the tendrils off so I’ll have a much large section with little or no resistance to pulling.  I’ll then look up to the top of the bushes (the lilacs along the North side are quite tall – over 10 feet) and watch what moves when I tug on the vine.  That way, if the vine DOES break, I’ll know generally where it broke off.

I’ve also found that if I start a gentle, consistent pressure, I’ll get much more of the vine off per attempt than if I give it a good yank.  Like all heuristics, that one is fallible.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  Much of the time through it works. 

So as I was pulling vines this last week, I got to thinking about software defects.  If I dive in aggressively looking for HUGE problems, I tend to find some.  If I use a more gentle, subtle approach, I may find some of the same ones I found with the aggressive techniques.  I also find others that I perhaps may not have found.

I’ll experiment some more tonight when I get home.  I need to transplant some of the smaller lilac bushes.  It should be much easier since so much of the virginia creeper was pulled out of that portion of the garden.