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The property we are gradually developing into a forest garden is absolutely overrun with Purple Winter Creeper (Euonymus fortunei). It's quite the invasive and suffocates most other species in the area. My first instinct is to just sheet mulch it under. But what else could we do with it? What are its uses and functions? It's pretty fibrous, does it make good rope and what is the process for making rope out of it?

Are there any good ways to contain it or keep it in check? It's so invasive that I have trouble imagining much competing with it successfully. It grows as a surface vine so rhizome barriers are of no use here. Is it worth trying to keep it in check to benefit from its uses or should we just wipe it out?

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Many, many plants can be made into rope. These range from sunflower, to nettles, to jute. The process is quite complex and requires some knowledge, practice, or more expensive equipment. I have a student in another endeavor who taught herself spinning and weaving and I have had some discussions with her on this as well as this having been an interest of mine for a while.

The basic process of extracting fibers from plants additionally poses some sustainability problems if not well managed (there were significant laws passed in the Middle Ages to keep people from fowling the rivers and streams making linen) but if managed reasonably well can provide some additional nutrients for your plants.

The first step is to cut the plant, and you may want to strip the leaves to compost them separately. Next you take the stems and ferment them under fresh water until the fibers start to separate. Discard the water (perhaps onto your garden). The next step is to pound the retted stems until the fibers are separate, and then spin them into twine. I don't think that the fibers need to be combed between pounding and spinning, since they should start off parallel, but don't quote me on that. The twine can then be "plied" into rope.

Spinning either requires use of a drop spindle (which requires significant practice but the tool easy to improvise) or a spinning wheel (more maintenance, more complexity in the tool, easier use but still requires practice).

Additionally am I right that this is an annual? if so you might consider, instead of sheeting it under, seeing it as an initial temporal layer in the garden while perennials are becoming better established.

  • No, it is not an annual, it is an evergreen shrub/vine. Some cultivars can form an actual shrub. The one we're dealing with forms a very thick ground cover unless it has something to climb on, in which case it vines. And I think, but am not sure, that it might do some of its growing during winter ("winter creeper"). In that way it could grab new turf while other species were dormant. It really is very aggressive. – Daniel Bingham Feb 28 '13 at 13:20

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