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Ivy : Friend or Foe Discover designer tips for using this much maligned climber.

Is there any more pervasive plant that we have to deal with in our gardens than Ivy?

Having moved to a new home this Autumn, I have been spending alot of time clearing it from my new garden. I have an immense Ivy tree that has crushed the old fence, it is growing up and travelled many metres throughout my neighbours garden. She wants me to leave it, for the wildlife, I need to secure my boundary to prevent my dog escaping!

I also have a dense lawn of ivy under a huge Cotoneaster.

Due to the mild Winter it seems to having been growing continuously. Its like being under seige!

However, it is a really useful plant in the garden if kept under control and planted in the right place.

In this design by Rees Roberts + Partners LLC. The Ivy creates a cool green backdrop to this understated courtyard.

There are numerous decorative climbing Ivies that will clothe a fence, wall or trellis. They are self supporting, using aerial roots to attach themselves. This will not cause damage to sound masonary. They will also act as ground cover or edging, under trees and in the most uncompromising places.

In the garden of this Amsterdam Museum (above), Ivy has been used to edge the gravel area.

It can be kept neatly trimmed like a low hedge.

The most common species used in UK gardens are Hedera helix (common ivy) and Hedera colchica.

Garden worthy varieties of Hedera helix are :

Hedera helix ‘Glacier’ grey and cream variegation (shown below)

Hedera helix ‘Ivalace’ compact climber with small leaves

Hedera helix ‘Atropurpurea slow growing, purple tinged leaves in Winter

Hedera Colchica is vigorous, with large floppy leaves. It will romp up trees if allowed and can spread 8 metres.

Garden worthy varieties of Hedera colchica are:

Hedera colchica ‘Dentata Variegata’

Hedera colchica ‘Sulphur Heart’ (shown below)

When Ivies reach the top of fences or trees their habit changes. They become woody and will flower in early Winter. They produce valuable nectar for insects and their berries are eaten by many garden birds.

In recent years shrubby Ivies have been used widely in Holland and France as evergreen, structural planting. They are now becoming more popular in the UK. You can see them on the right hand side of the photograph below.

I first saw them used on a trip to Amsterdam several years ago. I was impressed by the strong grounded forms and rushed to the computer on my return to research what variety was used.

I discovered that it was Hedera helix ‘Arborescens’.

Until last year, it was tricky to find suppliers but happily it is now available. It grows into a metre high mound and doesn’t run or climb.

This Summer we found another mound forming Ivy, Hedera helix var. hibernica ‘Arbori Compacta’ for sale at Clockhouse Nursery in Enfield. It has nice, glossy, rounded leaves and looks like it might be a really good variety.

If this Blog has inspired you to think about using Ivy in your garden, take a look at Fibrex Nursery for a wide range of Ivies with interesting leaf shape and colour.

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