…and the Ivy

December 28th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Hedera helix 'Goldchild'

“The Ivy… is to me a lively representation of the work and power of faith,” writes Charlotte Elizabeth in her intriguing and eccentric Chapters on Flowers of 1842. “Its strength consists in the tenacity with which it clings to something foreign to its own substance; identifying itself, by a wonderful process, with what it adheres to. Alone, it cannot stand: if you tear it from its prop, down must fall every branch, at the mercy of any trampling foot of man or beast….”

“Many years ago I planted an Ivy, and watched its growth with childish interest. Having fixed its root firmly in the soil, it speedily put forth shoots; and as these grew, the short, stout fibres appeared, grasping the rough particles of an ancient wall, plunging into every little crevice, and securing themselves by a process that excited my wonder beyond any thing that I can remember, at that period of my (young) life.

“I have pulled away the young branches, endeavouring to refix them in a different position but in vain: the work of adhesion was one that human skill could not accomplish, nor human power compel. The utmost that I could do was to afford an artificial support to the detached branch, until, having continued its growth, it put out new fingers, as I called them, to take a stronger hold on its bulwark.”

Of course, she would not be aware that our contemporary walls are built with such very hard mortar that the “fingers’ cannot get a good grip and the weight of heavy rain or snow will loose them from their hold. I have never seen this happen with ivy growing in its natural habitat, on the bark of a mature tree, where the combination of the crevices and the texture of the bark which makes them up, provides an extraordinary grip. Choose a variegated variety, such as ‘Goldchild’, above, and you have captivating colour also.

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Is one of our best known gardening writers. A graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Graham was previously Gardening Correspondent of The Observer.
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