A Feast of Creepers
You probably know Sophie McComas for her writing and editorial talents, which have seen her work with Broadsheet Sydney, Australian Gourmet Traveller, Time Out Sydney and ELLE Australia to name a few. But here at The Planthunter we know Sophie for her obsession with creepers. That’s right, Sophie’s a connoisseur of climbing and creeping plants and vines that have command of walls and fences all over the world. This month, we talk to the ‘Super Creep’ herself!
Hi Sophie, can you please tell us a little about your life with plants?
My first plant memory involves a giant jacaranda tree that hung over the neighbour’s fence into my parents’ garden in Sydney. Every November as its purple flowers fell on our patch of grass, I remember gathering the flowers and squishing them between my thumb and forefinger to release their milky sap. I remember sitting there doing that for ages and ages. I loved that tree. I grew up with gardens that were always pretty neat and tidy. The grass was always mowed and the hedges were always trimmed in perfect lines.
Perhaps that’s why I love creepers so much; they ain’t falling in line for anyone.
How did your obsession with creepers begin?
It’s tough to pinpoint a particular moment, but I used to walk to work in the city each day from Paddington, where every single corner has a tendril of delicious ivy growing up it. I thought they were pretty and whimsical, so I started hash-tagging each one I saw and popped them on Instagram. Soon, friends travelling overseas started sending me photos of the ones they’d found. It sort of snowballed from there. I think that’s why I’ve kept at it – I like to think people will think of me when they see a huge blanket of ivy or vine, even if they’re in Sweden or Italy or Mexico City. Once you notice them, they’re everywhere.
Do you like other plants too, or just creepers?
I have creeper blinders on now. Other plants are basically dust to me (not actually that true, but I’ll stand by that statement for the purpose of this interview).
What qualities do you look for in a creepy creeper?
This is the thing, there are so many good things about them, that it’s quite a broad umbrella. I love a perfectly uniform wall of Boston ivy, but I’m also partial to a single tentacle creeping from a crack, like an unruly worm. Jasmine is one of my particular favourites, I love the lushness of it in spring, plus it smells better than ivy, which usually smells like dog pee.
If you had to make a garden out of three creepers, what would you choose?
Jasmine, absolutely. The next would probably be passionfruit vine, because it’s so damn easy to grow it almost feels like stealing when it’s time to harvest its fruit. The last would have to be Boston ivy, a big lush blanket of it that miraculously kept its leaves all year round.
What is the most mind-blowing creeper you’ve ever seen? Where was it?
I haven’t seen it in the flesh, but there’s an island off the coast of China, east of Shanghai, called Shengshan. On the island there’s a fishing village called Houtouwan, which was completely abandoned by its fisherman inhabitants in the 1990s. Since everyone left, the village has been completely overrun with creeping vines and vegetation. Every building is covered in the stuff, from floor to crumbling ceiling.
I love the idea of that, that nature will reclaim a place that humans abandon, really quickly, too.
Do you identify with any of the personality traits of creeping plants? Tenacious, sticky, vigorous, occasionally spikey, often destructive?
I’m sticky during the month of February in Sydney, as is everyone, and sure, I can spring some spikes when called upon, but if there are any creepy characteristics I’d like to mirror, it’d be the ability to conquer anything. Slowly, slowly, while nobody is looking, you’re everywhere, destabilising the foundations.
Anything else you want to share about your creeper love?
My favourite bit about this whole obsession is the community aspect. If you come across a creepy plant you think I should see, let me know. I’d love to create a creepy map of the universe.
Main photo credit: Creepers at the Luis Barragán House, México City, by Sally Wilson.