Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Monday, December 13, 2010

Not Poison, but a Problem

English Ivy: Pretty Menace

English Ivy is a ubiquitous landscape plant- you see it everywhere...and, unfortunately, it is growing everywhere. I can see why people use English Ivy- it is sturdy, hardy, can take a lot of abuse, attractive, and is great at stabilizing slopes. An ivy-covered brick wall, for example, is very pretty. In my early gardening days, I used it to stabilize a sloped front yard and it did the trick. But English Ivy can be an invasive plant and has taken over some forested areas in the northeast and in other places in the US. The problem occurs when English Ivy begins to climb, which signals the plant to flower and produce seeds. Birds eat the seed and scatter it, along with their "personal fertilizer," often from a tree limb, with the seed falling at the base of the tree- another perfect environment to create climbing ivy. The big worry is that, over time, ivy climbing on a tree can smother the tree, killing it, especially if it is a small or medium-sized tree, like a crape myrtle (see photo above). If you see this happening on your tree, it's time to cut the ivy down at the base and remove it from the tree (the particular ivy in the photo has already set seed, and needs to come down). So, if you must have English ivy, use it as a ground cover and do not let it climb. Better yet, make another choice. The Southern Gardener's Book of Lists (see book review in this blog) states that English Ivy is one of the "ground covers that can quickly get out of control," along with honeysuckle, Virginia creeper, bamboos, creeping Jenny, Boston ivy, and Bishop's Weed, and a few others. Green and Gold, creeping thyme, prostrate juniper, euonymous and euphorbia might be better choices.
Happy gardening!

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