I suppose I should have realised that there might have been a bit of an issue when I bought the house. The clue is in the street name after all: Ivyhouse Road. Oh yes, there was ivy there at the bottom of the garden when I moved in, but not too much. I was able to keep it pretty much under control. Until a couple of years ago. That’s when I decided to try to get rid of the ivy in my garden.
I kid you not, it is like a Triffid. It’s almost as if it sees you cutting it down and thinks, Ok, I’ll get you, I’ll just sprout over here, you won’t beat me. It embeds itself in brickwork and concrete and clings for dear life. It overtakes the other plants, blocking the light from them. Admittedly, it doesn’t help that two of my neighbours don’t do anything to keep their ivy under control, but I still think the ivy is taking it personally, so now, I am a woman on a mission. And, thanks to my brother and his lovely wife, Alison, making some headway.
Who is Ivy?
When Alison and I were in the garden this week, we were intrigued by the size of the leaves on some of the ivy, it didn’t look like the normal sort of stuff you see climbing up the sides of buildings. (By the way, I hate that. The stuff is full of insects that love to bite me, even in December, and it makes me sneeze. It even made Alison sneeze.) I’m no expert but I think it may be that this one is the adult form of ivy, as the adult and juvenile forms of the plants differ.
The genus is Hedera, and there are about 15 different species within the genus (I’m a bit vague about it because plants have a habit of mutating and Hedera is a fast growing plant. Strangely enough, poison ivy is not true ivy, it’s a different genus altogether, Toxicodendron radicans, is native to North America, has leaves that grow in groups of three with a pointed tip and grows clusters of white berries.
The ivy that we see in this country mostly is Hedera helix, also known as common ivy or English ivy. According to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, it is prized for its ability to thrive in the shade. Hmm, mine seems to thrive in full sunlight…. Apparently, people like it because it covers unsightly walls, and so on, and the berries are loved by blackbirds. Sorry birdies, I’ll forego seeing you in the garden for a while. Or you can eat the holly or pyracantha berries instead, I’m sure they taste even better. Ivy can cause skin irritation and minor allergies, as I know only too well. As an aside, the Kew Gardens also suggest that it should be “clipped” alternate years to stop it from getting too heavy.
There are other species of ivy that colonise pretty much everywhere in the world from Algeria to the Himalayas. In fact, the only places they don’t seem to grow are the arctic regions.
How do you get rid of it?
Not as easily as you might hope. It’s hard work. You have to cut and pull. As in cut the ivy growing on the wall/tree/fence, pulling off the ivy as you go. The easiest way is to cut in a couple of different places to make it easier for yourself. When you are trying to get rid of ground cover ivy, you can, apparently, roll it up in sections.
The prescribed wisdom for killing it off seems to be white vinegar (it’s more acidic than malt vinegar.) Apply it to the roots after you’ve cut down and pulled up as much as you can. Applying it to the leaves isn’t always successful because the leaves are waxy which makes is harder for it to penetrate. I’ve liberally applied some salt around the roots too (another good weed-killer, I’ve read, is white vinegar, a handful of salt and a liberal dash of washing up liquid, all mixed in water. It’s worth a try.) I added the salt to the root area because it effectively makes the plant die of thirst. You do remember osmosis from your school days, don’t you?
Theoretically, once you’ve cleared the lower down ivy, the stuff above shoulder height should die off, so I will update you in a few months. In the meantime, I’m awaiting my delivery of my job lot of vinegar…
© Susan Shirley 2016