Ivy – not just for Christmas
Ivy has its roots firmly anchored in the history books. The plant appears in the works of Euripedes, Virgil, Cato, Horace, Keats and Tennyson.
More than 3,000 years ago the Egyptians used it for a decoration and as the symbol of celebration. Later the Romans adopted the plant as an emblem of paganism.
As time went by the more risqué elements of the Ivy’s history disappeared and it became incorporated into Christian ritual.
The plant, whose botanical name is Hedera, is now used with holly for Christmas wreaths and garlands.
Ivy is versatile. It can cover ground, climb walls and trail from tubs and baskets. For the modern day gardener growing Ivy has several advantages. It can help prolong the life of walls if well managed, as it is not parasitic and does not feed from its host. Ivy likes most soil types but does best on alkaline soil.
It is easy to grow and relatively trouble free. The plant offers endless scope as it can be planted facing North, East and West. Even South facing walls are acceptable if the right variety is selected. Other advantages include its capacity to grow quickly; it can cover posts, unsightly tree stumps, pergolas and even woven chain-link fences at speed. It can also be teamed agreeably with flowering climbers such as Clematis, Roses and Honeysuckle.
Ivy has two distinct growing forms – juvenile and adult. The juvenile is common in the garden, while the adult is one that has stopped growing, finished climbing, flowered and produced seed. These can be seen high up in hedges.
Different leaf shapes and variegations are mutations. These plants have to be propagated from cuttings, or by layering or grafting. If seeds of variegated Ivies are sown green Ivy will grow.
When planting your Ivy you must remember that it is a woodland plant. It needs partial shade and leaf-mould mulch. Forest Bark, Chipped Bark and Composted Bark are required when planting. Ivies can be planted almost anywhere as long as you consider carefully species and varieties. They are not fussy about soil type but do need nutrients.
Whether planting climbers, trailers or ground cover Ivies follow the same simple rules:
- Fork the soil deeply, Ivies are deep rooted. The pan at the base of the topsoil should be broken.
- Use slow-releasing organic material. Incorporate it into the soil.
- Remember to remove all weeds
- Do not use chemical fertilisers - the plants needs are low and surplus nutrients may scorch the roots.
- Do not partially fill the planting hole with compost that will either dry out or hold too much surplus water.
Variegated trailing Ivies also grow well in containers and hanging baskets. Their colour lasts throughout the seasons.