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It's strange to be writing about Ivy as something that people might actually want to plant in their garden because I've spent a lot of the last month fighting with the darned stuff and trying to get rid of it.
Many people have romantic notions about an ivy covered cottage in the countryside. I see such places in our village and many others and I wonder if the owners of the houses have any idea what the plant is doing to their house. They don't live in Angkor Wat so why do they want their house to look like it's being eaten alive by greenery?
We had ivy on the side of the porch. It was horrible. We hacked away at the base and after a month or two for the leaves to go brown and die, I peeled it piece by piece off the stonework. It was a pain. I learned my lesson about not leaving it too long and so I attacke another patch. I attacked it at its base and then a week later, whilst the leave were still green, I peeled a patch about 3 meters high by 4 meters wide off the front of the house. Fortunately I got it before it hit the cuttering or got under the slate tiles. When you look at the ivy you've pulled off a building, it's not unusual to find small bits of brick, mortar or stone sticking to the ivy. It's a very destructive plant.
Ivy doesn't just climb over our building - it also fills parts of our garden, blocking out everything else you might want to grow there. That's my next project when I get back after my holiday.
On the plus side, if you want to hide something ugly, plant ivy and it will quickly cover it. If you want to keep down weeds, it's not a bad ground cover plant. If you hate your neighbours and want to ruin their home or garden, plant ivy and it will invade their garden quite quickly.
I spotted a row of stone cottages recently where someone had planted ivy and it was invading the facades of their neighbours on either side. I couldn't think of anything more likely to have me on the phone to the local council to complain about anti-social behaviour than an invasive ivy.
So please, think carefully. There are other prettier climbers that will do the trick. Want the cutesy country cottage look? Try wisteria - it grows like a weed but it won't destroy your masonry and it does at least flower.
I first started growing ivy as a house plant when I got a gift basket with it in. All of the plants died off except the ivy which was pot bound so I decided to plant it outdoors. When I did so it continued to grow very rapidly and started winding it's way up my metal trellis. Eventually it grew very thick and looked so nice that I planted some more ivy around the garden.
Ivy has a strange reputation as a climbing plant. Lots of people think that it can damage brickwork and trees as it seems to be very tight and thick and grows into every nook and crevice! I admit it's a plant that can get out of control very quickly. It needs regular pruning and cutting back when it becomes too heavy for any structure onto which it is growing. I often have to cut it back from my garden fence, for example, as the fence isn't strong enough to take the weight. I also have ivy on a wooden trellis which may snap with the weight of the ivy so it needs heavy pruning.
Ivy looks thin and spindly when it first begins to grow. A thin twisting shoot with small glossy leaves that are larger with a broader shape on mature plants. Leaves can be bright green or variegated depending on the variety. Ivy flowers in the autumn into lime green balled spikes which are often a late source of nectar for many insects, particularly wasps. After this flowers often turn into glassy purple berries but I've found that the fruit tends to only appear on mature ivy that has been allowed to grow. Birds, in particular blackbirds, adore the berries during the winter when other food sources are scarce.
If ivy is given a structure to climb up it can reach 30 metres. Until recently I had an old dead tree trunk which became a column of ivy as well as two trellis structures which were thick with the plant. The ivy provides great nesting space for many birds and I've had pigeons, doves, blackbirds, chaffinches and wrens nest in the gnarly, twisted but very firm structures.
Since it's evergreen ivy looks beautiful all year and looks particularly good in the height of summer when the leaves appear radiant. It also looks very natural and British, since ivy is a plant you will often notice growing wild.
My only concerns are that it takes a lot of pruning if you wish to keep a certain shape or need to trim back to ensure the plant doesn't harm a structure. I trim back in late summer but am keen to leave enough plant to enable flowering. It can also grow roots and spread quite easily and I often have to remove new shoots from areas in the garden. Generally though I think the benefits of having ivy outweigh any negatives and I would recommend it to any gardener.
When we moved to our current house we were happy and not so happy to see ivy had been grown purposely by the previous occupants. They had selected the fence at the back of our garden but not either side thankfully.
This was twenty years ago, at the time it had only made its way halfway across the fence so still had a way to go. Seeing the fence had gaps in and was facing a public alleyway we decided finally we were grateful for their plan of action.
I would say I like ivy although it is like marmite among gardeners and there are many fair and interesting arguments whether towns or urban areas should purposely grow this.
We had a bad reaction initially because our previous place had terrible problems with roots and no one was maintaining it at all and it grew out of control and looked tacky.
This time we knew we could manage this and glad now we didn't remove it.It now fills up the entire fence and blocks out any views from the public pathway.
We have what is known as the 'Devil's Ivy which is quite ironic for our family as Christians[!] Its a little joke that breaks the ice I suppose.
This is an evergreen vine that can grow up to 20m [66ft] and to infinity and beyond in our case.
Only one year we were lazy, so much was going on and you know you always think maybe tomorrow? Well six months later the little devil [hoho] had grown three heads above the fence and attached itself to the woodland that sits behind the fence and boy its was carnage trying to sever the tree and the ivy.
The evergreen is also known as a climber, as we found out due to the woodland issue, and it will attach and grow along whatever it finds so along the floor bed we have had to cut this back maybe once or twice a year and away from our other two fences.
A neighbour a few doors down though this would be a good look over her houses brick work, four years later she had bad trouble with structural damage on the walls and the trunks of the tree are embedded so deep it would cost a fortune to remove.
If you wanted to go down that route of erm... removing the root of the ivy it is not so easy as adding weed killer you need to buy super strength glyphosate, which is available at gardening stores and there are many discounts online.
White wine vinegar is known to work in some cases but its a case of trial and error.
The ivy we have seems to have a mind of its own or maybe it the weather? Over the twenty years, it's been easy to maintain to a degree and looks visually, very stunning.
We are blessed that we have a gorgeous yellow rose bush in front [see 'Crown of thorns review']
When the roses are in bloom it really stands out against the ivy which has a dark shade of green on its leaf and a mellower colour of green striped through. Also, the shape of the ivy is a bonus, it appears in a beautiful heart shaped.
A note to cat and dog lovers: Please try to avoid your cat or dog eating the leaves as they can be toxic and cause stomach upsets. We have had cats over the twenty years and never seen them eat the leaves so don't panic but best talk to a vet or garden expert.
Happy ivy growing, check out the different types online or on wikipedia
My experience with Ivy
To me Ivy is the worst and best plant, I have seen it cover walls of houses, forest floors and even constrict and strangle the strongest and largest of trees and bushes. Because I studied Biology at GCSE and A-level I have to look at it in terms of its success as a plant and as a great garden accompaniment.
As a successful plant species
The plant has adapted to survive virtually anywhere in terms of the varieties we have in Northern Ireland. The leaves are dark green and full of chlorophyll much more than other species, this helps them to collect more light for energy creation and growth, the positioning and shape of the leaves are also adapted so that they can collect as much light as possible, the leaves are evenly spaced out so they can maximise the amount of light they can collect also. This gives the plant the advantage in our usually dull and rainy climate especially when on a forest floor.
The leaves also have a waxy exterior and are thicker than other species too so they don't lose as much water through the upper epidermis layer, this reduces the amount of water lost through evaporation, so the plant doesn't need as much constant access to water even as other species it is surrounded by. When it does have lots of access to water and light however it flourishes engulfing and strangling all other plants in its path, therefore it is one of the best adapted species of plant we have in Northern Ireland.
From a Gardener's Perspective
However its adaptability can also be a bad thing as I have seen on numerous occasions the plant becomes out of control. Ivy has totally constricted and killed a large tree in our back garden, the tree is totally rotted and the only thing holding it up is the ivy itself which shows no sign of retreating, it has only grown stronger forming a thick leathery wall of overwhelming plant life.
In the instance that it grows at a tremendous rate can be dangerous to the more fragile plants in the garden, so it really needs to be kept an eye on something my family fell very far behind on.
There is a really great advantage to having an ivy wall however in that it provides a secret haven for smaller species of animals that are currently losing their forest habitats and falling ill to disease such as bees and small bird species. It provides cover, food from flowers and berries and safety from the rain, so it is really a matter of perspective whether or not ivy is a good plant to have in your garden. It provides cover, food and safety from the rain.
Interesting instances of Ivy
There is a derelict shop in Belfast with a glass front which has basically been taken over by ivy from the inside, I have no idea how it got I there or where it seems to be getting its water supply from but it has basically taken over the good part of a half of the entire shop window and from what I can see there are no cracks in the glass or cement. This by itself is enough to provide us with the evidence that ivy is one of the most durable and adaptive species readily available in Northern Ireland.
I'm sitting here in the warmth looking out into the frost covered garden. Obviously, at this time of year, there isn't a lot of colour or interest, but one plant in the garden always looks fantastic no matter what time of the year it is. The Ivy plant. The Ivy plant that we have in our garden covers the whole back fence, creating a deep green backdrop for the rest of the garden. We have a couple of evergreen trees planted against the Ivy, and this creates a beautiful constast of colours and textures. Used correctly, Ivy can be a useful addition to a garden, but it needs to be used carefully, as I will discuss later in this review.
The Ivy plant, or Hedera Helix in Latin, is a climbing plant that can grow almost anywhere, in any type of soil. Even if you are not green fingered, you will be able to grow Ivy in your garden, even in shady spots where nothing else will grow. Although common, the plant comes in a beautiful variety of colours, and the different types also vary in leaf shape and size. One of the most common varieties that you see in gardens is called "Goldheart", and as the name suggests, it has a variegated leaf with a gold centre. This can look particularly stunning when planted near a shrub with red foliage, or berries, as the combination of green, red and gold looks quite festive and works well. Other vaieties incluse Hedera colchica, which has an oval shaped emerald green leaf, and Hedera hibernica, which has the more typical shaped Ivy leaf in a very deep green shade. You can also get a variety with white veins on a dark green leaf called Hedera Caenwoodiana, so the Ivy you choose for your garden is really up to your personal taste.
Ivy has practical uses, and we grow it up the wall at the side of our house for two reasons. Firstly, to cover up a patch of graffiti on the wall, and secondly, as a barrier, to prevent more graffiti appearing! People have mixed views about growing Ivy up walls, and it is certainly something that should be considered very carfully. It is a myth that Ivy will damage your wall. If your brickwork is sound, the Ivy will not damage the wall, in fact, it provides natural protection against the weather, as well as an extra layer of insulation. However, if you decide to remove the Ivy, this can be extremely difficult, as the stems can grow very thick and are hard to cut. Also, once removed, the plant will leave its suckers on the wall, which can look really unsightly. A problem that we have with our wall Ivy, is that it goes mad in the summer, and we have to constantly prune it to stop it growing too high up the wall and into the roof. Ivy is no good for people who haven't the time, or energy to keep it in check and stop it running riot. Another slight concern I have about our wall Ivy is the though of wasps nesting in it, although it hasn't happened yet!
Ivy is an absolutely brilliant plant for encouraging wildlife in the garden. It actually produces very small flowers quite late in the year, and these provide food for insects after most of the garden flowers have died. Ivy provides an excellent shelter for birds and bugs, and we were even lucky enough to have some blackbirds nesting in our Ivy at the bottom of the garden. This is the perfect plant if you want to encourage nature to flourish in your back garden. Our garden is very small, but it is a haven for small creatures and birds.
Ivy is also useful in winter containers and planters to add colour and interest during the cold months. It is also an excellent houseplant. The advantage of keeping it in a container is that it can't grow too rampant! A friend of mine often uses Ivy in flower arrangements, and pinched some of our Ivy when she wanted a particular type of leaf for use in buttonholes at a wedding. Hope there weren't too many spiders in there!
Ivy has what are called "adventitious roots", which are little roots that grow from the stem and help the plant to cling to surfaces. Because of this, we do tend to have a problem in our garden with the Ivy rooting itself everywhere and creeping up the borders and around the trees. Keeping it cut back is a big job, and you also need somewhere to put all of the pruned off pieces of Ivy. Once you have planted Ivy, you have lots of work ahead of you, or your garden will be consumed! Again, if this is a worry, you would be better planting the Ivy in a container or pot, rather than directly in the soil.
In conclusion, Ivy is a useful, colourful plant that adds interest to the garden all year round, as well as being a haven for wildlife. Left unckecked though, it can go a bit crazy and take over the garden. It can be a weed, as the definition of a weed is a plant in the wrong place, but used correctly, this plant will be a lovely adition to your garden.
Ivy is a lovely trailing or climbing plant that will give a lovely bit of greenary to even the dullest part of your garden.
You can buy ivy from garden centers for realy cheap, i payed 59p each for small pieces of ivy which after two years is trailing all over the side of my shed and up onto the roof, you can take your own cuttings by cutting a piece off your ivy plant and using a rooting powder aswell.
Ivy is ever green so will give you a lovely green folage all of the time and is quite a hardy plant, it doesnt need much water and can survive in almost all conditions, it will survive quite happily in direct sun light or like mine in the shade constantly.
Ivy doesnt need a lot of watering so you can just keep the soil moist slightly and it will thrive.
Ivy looks lovely on the ground under trees or on old buildings like my shed as it sticks very well to brickwork or fencing.
You could use ivy in your hanging baskets aswell if you wanted to and have it trailing out of the basket but you would need to keep it trimmed as it does grow quite quickly and has a habit of strangling any small plants it is planted by.
I decided this afternoon that one of our ivies, having died, needed to be removed from the garage wall, roof, guttering, etc. I suggested this to my husband, who along with me has a bad back, what a ridiculous suggestion. Yes the ivy was dead, but did it want to be parted from the garage "no it did not". Three hours later after using a spade, a bow-saw and a pair of secatuers we gave up. What we were left with was a pile of dead leaves, a pile of woody stems, a very unsightly corroded wall, a broken gutter and that was only 1/3rd of the garage. The other 2/3rds is covered in a live ivy, which after seeing the damaged caused by the other one has got to go. So although you may think ivies, look nice, grow quickly and cover well, please bear in mind the damage they can do.
Poor old Ivy. The old girl’s got her name up there, in the Garden section, under “Climbing Plants”. But she’s been totally ignored. Is she taken for granted? Is she just “there”? Does no-one ever notice? Poor Ivy is the wallflower at the gardening hootenanny. Always in the background, hugging a wall, waiting and hoping to be discovered. Well, tonight’s Ivy’s night. Always the sucker for a sob story, Aspen goes steaming in to rescue poor Ivy from life on the shelf. The genus Hedera is not confined to that dull green pointy-leaved climber which blocks your guttering and invades your roof-space. True, they are all climbers. True, given the chance, they will all clog your guttering. But variegations abound, with creams, silvers and golds conspiring to produce a decorative disguise for that unsightly fence or crumbling wall. Nor are they confined to growing upwards. Ivy will make an excellent ground cover, too. Let’s look firstly at some of the misconceptions surrounding much-maligned Ivy. The most familiar incarnation of this grand old lady is climbing up your wall. In common with only a very few climbers, Ivy needs no support. And it is this self-clinging ability which has given Ivy a bad press. Yes, she will produce aerial roots which will penetrate the mortar of your joints. But only if your joints are already in a state of decay. Debunking of Myth One. – Ivy will not damage a sound wall. Ivy will only accelerate damage to a decaying wall. And, yes, Ivy will curl around your guttering and penetrate your roof tiles. Debunking of Myth Two. – Ivy will only knacker your guttering and roof if she has nowhere else to go. Half an hour’s pruning is all it takes to avoid half a year’s salary spent on redoing the roof. Don’t blame Ivy, blame the gardener’s neglect! Another familiar sight
is Ivy scrambling her way up and through a tree. Whoa!! Ivy kills trees! Hack her down! Burn her! Debunking of Myth Three. – Yes, Ivy is bad for young trees. Ivy grows vigorously once established, and can indeed strangle an immature tree. But a mature tree can cope perfectly well with being clasped to Ivy’s bosom. The two are perfectly compatible. Enough debunking. In addition to the above, Ivy will happily hide and ugly fence or wall. It will do so all year round, without complaint, being evergreen. But Ivy is also very suitable as ground cover, and much underused in this respect. She’s a rampant old girl, so best not used in a confined space. But if you have a big garden, or perhaps an unsightly bank or piece of waste ground, plant some shrubs with Ivy underneath. She will quickly cover the bare ground, and smother weeds in the process. Her tendency to climb will have to be curbed of course. But she can easily be kept out of the shrubs with a few judicious snips. The smaller varieties are excellent additions to hanging baskets and tubs. The greens and golds and creams make a lovely foil for the summer bedding. Ivy’s Offspring. Hedera helix Goldheart. This one has small leaves with gold centres. Hedera colchica Dentata Variegata. Light green leaves with broad creamy margins. Hedera helix Buttercup. The leaves are pale green in shade, but turn bright yellow in full sun. Hedera helix Glymii. Leaves are a glossy dark green, but turn a deep reddish-purple in colder weather. Hedera rhombea. A bit unusual, in that the leaves are unlobed, and is not immediately recognisable as an ivy. Ivy grows anywhere. I’m not going to bother with the cultivation bit here. Dry, wet, sunny, shady – Ivy doesn’t give a monkeys. Plant her anywhere, and she will grow. And propagation? There are few plants easier. Break a bit off
, shove it in soil or compost, and it will root. Simple as that. Plants for free. Ivy is an accommodating old girl. She tries to please. Don’t leave her ignored and unloved.