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Hedera - Care Guide
Hedera helix, the common ivy, which is ever present in all our woodland gardens, causes more aggravation and work than almost any other plant. Shaded areas rapidly get a groundcover mat of ivy and this soon finds its way up any tree or shrub in its way. In evergreen shrubs the first you often know of it is as a large flowering and fruiting clump at the top of the plant. In deciduous shrubs it is rather more obvious in winter and, quite apart from being an unsightly nuisance, it is often causing actual harm to the tree by competing for its water and nutrients in the ground and slowly strangling its host as the ivy shoots, with their clinging aerial roots, become thicker and larger. In older trees ivy can grow into huge trunks with a 4-6in circumference reaching right up to the crown of the tree. As the tree begins to rot and decay so the ivy will colonise and root into the cracks and fissures and very much hasten the end of the tree’s life. On cold days in winter we always try to have a concentrated attack on ivy on larger trees and shrubs. The satisfaction of seeing the leaves wither and drop is considerable but you nearly always miss a bit or a shoot can remain alive from its host even when cut at the base. Getting the last bit out of a wall is even more difficult.
Despite all this, there are many different named ivies with attractive leaves which do have a place in the garden. Perhaps as groundcover on a bank or, more often, to brighten up a shaded wall or fence with attractive foliage. Those ivies with variegated leaves exhibit better leaf colouration in sun rather than shade but, make no mistake, these plants are pretty indestructible. They will grow and colonise themselves in any soil and any situation. Rigorous pruning is needed to keep the more vigorous varieties in check but, they relish the challenge, and will grow away again regardless. The leaves on the climbing shoots, which are sterile, are very different from those on fertile flowering shoots. When large and mature enough ivies produce greenish umbels of tiny flowers which develop into black berry like fruits much loved by pigeons.
We only stock a few of the most popular varieties.
H. canariensis ‘Gloire de Marengo’ is the Canary Island ivy and grows, more moderately, to only 10-12ft. The leaves have a silver, grey to white variegation.
H. colchica ‘Dentata Variegata’ (Persian ivy) has grey and cream variegation on its large leaves and grows to about 15ft.
H. colchica ‘Sulfur Heart’ (‘Paddy’s Pride’) has leaves which are splashed and suffused gold. Its height is much the same.
H. helix ‘Glacier’ has a grey green leaf with a white margin. Grows to only 6ft or so.
H. helix ‘Goldleaf’ has leaves with a splash of gold in their centres. This grows to only around 3ft.
H. helix ‘Green Ripple’ has jaggedly lobed leaves. Grows to around 6ft.
H. helix ‘Hibernica’, Irish ivy, makes excellent dense green groundcover but easily grows to 30ft if it can find a host of suitable height.