Ivy – curse or blessing?

by Jane on February 19, 2013

It’s about time to start talking about the new gardening year, with  bulbs coming up and seeds to sow.  But first, an issue I’ve been mulling over: is ivy a good thing?

For years I’ve assumed ivy is great for my country garden, and I’ve let it go wild in the hedges, in the shady wild bit under the lilacs, and even up the house wall.  Lately, however, I’ve been noticing it has been going rampant in places I would rather it didn’t.

– When it grows upwards, it acquires a thick trunk and goes to seed, thus becoming hard to cut down and spreading round the garden

– It has strangled the lilacs, forsythia and privet round the front, and also throttled Unknown Flowering Shrub in my shrub hedge

– It has strayed from the tree stump/windbreak it was growing over near a bench at the back, and started strangling the rowan tree and hawthorn

– It came in with a plant I was given which went in a border.. enough said – now it’s ineradicable there

– Going up the house walls is irritating – I’d rather have the stone, thank you.

Ivy growing up house wall

I had a gardener who was obsessed with getting rid of ivy, which has perhaps had an effect on my stance towards it.  But what of the benefits?

– Great ground cover under the trees, suppresses weeds there and looks picturesque

– Good to grow over a wire fence, to make a cheap yet lasting ‘fedge’ hedge

Ivy growing over wire to make a 'fedge'

– Pigeons eat the fruit

– When the ivy’s in flower the hedge is heavy with bees as well as flies wasps and hoverflies

– The Holly Blue butterflies live in it

– The sparrows nest in it and are safe from predators

– It is evergreen and provides colour in winter

– Frost on ivy, especially with berries, is beautiful
Ivy with berries in frost
– It makes an additional screen above the front wall, providing privacy for my garden.

So overall, I like ivy – just in the right place!

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