Back in the Autumn of 2014, my attempt to eradicate the trumpet creeper from my perennial borders resulted in a trip to the local Urgent Care and a round of steroids. Once I returned to work, I told my sad story to a co-worker, who — conveniently enough — had been wanting some trumpet creeper of her own. She and her adult son came by my house not long after, and he (being unfazed by the itchy plant) dug up every last bit he could find (along with some maypops for good measure) and loaded it into the back of their minivan.
That took care of the worst of it… but not all of it, unfortunately.
In the two years since, I’ve ever so carefully dug it and pulled it and hit it with herbicides. It’s nearly eradicated, with the exception of a few stubborn bits that pop up in the daffodil bed, where I also have some stubborn maypop / passion flower vines and some cosmos (a hopefully-reseeding annual I started growing this summer).
Earlier this summer (late June, to be precise), I suited up in long sleeves and long pants and eradicated all the trumpet creeper I could find. My only casualty was a tiny crop of blisters on my left wrist — which isn’t bad, considering how much of that vine I pruned out and dug up.
Even so, there are a few sprigs that keep popping up in the daffodil bed. Now that I allow the maypops to climb up an obelisk in the center of the bed, I can’t necessarily see any trumpet creeper that might sprout within that jungle of vines. I didn’t think this would be a problem.
Over Labor Day weekend, I enjoyed an afternoon of gardening, including de-grassing the front garden and taming the tangle of maypops in the daffodil bed. Probably five days later, I was surprised to find those familiar allergic blisters popping up on my arms and face. From the pattern of spread, I figured that I pulled a vine that had twined around some trumpet creeper, then scratched my right arm and the left side of my face.
At least now I know what to do: take antihistamines and anti-inflammatories (i.e. Ibuprofen), wash the area ever so gently, and apply Ivarest cream. No scrubbing, no scratching.
At my husband’s behest, I contacted my GP (since, unlike two years ago, I now have a GP) to see if there’s something she can do for me. Alas, her sage advice was to continue home treatments and schedule an office visit only if the condition worsens. Also, be sure to wear long sleeves when working in the yard. Oh, and destroy the trumpet creeper.
Does Captain Obvious have a theme song or a fanfare? Just wondering.
Anyway, I continued taking antihistamines and ibuprofen multiple times a day, and new blisters continued forming as the old ones either dried up and flaked off or continued to weep and ooze. My right arm did swell up a bit, but not bad enough to warrant an office visit.
Two weeks after the initial exposure, I was spreading mulch along the paths in the front garden when I saw it.
That made everything clear to me. I’d been in the front garden that Labor Day Weekend, pulling bermuda grass that was threatening to go to seed, and to my immediate right was poison ivy. Every now and then, a tassel of grass would tickle my right arm or shoulder, and I’d scratch before pulling the offending grass. That explains why my reaction was so strong: I was probably touching the ivy without realizing it, then smearing the oils all over my arm. In fact, I know exactly when I touched it, because I found some animal poop right next to it, and moved some leaves to cover the stinky pile.
Sometime very soon, I’m going to ask my husband (who is immune to poison ivy, as far as he can tell) to suit up and pull out the ivy growing up the dogwood tree.
For protection in the future, I bought a long-sleeved button-down shirt from eBay with the intention of keeping it in the garage to throw on over my clothes any time I plan to do anything in the daffodil bed, along the front fence, or near the dogwood tree in the front garden. That should do the trick.
I also need to wash the hell out of all my dirty gardening gloves and the towel I was kneeling on that day. I should probably rinse out and bleach the 5-gallon bucket I was throwing weeds in, too, and bleach all my tools. (They need a good cleaning and sharpening, anyway.)
So, what now? Just being more careful when I’m in either the front garden or the daffodil bed, and always assuming I’ve touched something that will give me a rash. No more complacency. Long sleeves whenever I’m in the vicinity of either the poison ivy or the trumpet creeper (because I’ll unthinkingly scratch myself with my gloved hand).
‘Cause, man, this rash is seriously no fun.