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Hedera is a humble ivy plant with so much to offer. Six reasons to LOVE this evergreen.Ivy is an unsung hero of the plant world that has so much to offer that its difficult to know where to start.
- This is a plant that can be used indoors and out.
- It's as hardy as they come and can be used to climb, to trail, or as a groundcover.
- It's great in shady places (even on a north-facing wall) and can be used equally successfully in sunny spots.
- It has many different forms, including variegated foliage in glorious tones of white, cream and yellow.
- What's more, it excels at Christmas and in flower arranging and plant containers throughout the year.
- And it's excellent for biodiversity and wildlife throughout the year.
What is Hedera?
This is a genus of up to 15 species, all evergreen and mainly climbing or ground-creeping. It's a useful plant and doesn't deserve some of the bad press it sometimes attracts. Many people believe that this plant is a positive addition to the exterior of a home, provided it is kept in check. The climber creates warmth and therefore helps to cut down heating bills. Common ivy, Hedera helix, is as tough as old boots and you probably wouldn't want it growing all over your house. It will happily climb to 10m or more and won't mind where it goes including over the window panes.
It's great in the garden
But there are so many different species and oodles of safe spaces for which ivy will be perfect. Garden walls, fences, sheds, garages and many more places. Just make sure your mortar is sound, however, as this plant is self-clinging and can easily dislodge unstable surfaces.
Take Hedera colchica 'Sulphur Heart', for example. This holds the coveted RHS AGM (Award of Garden Merit), so you know you can trust it to be great. It is also known as Persian ivy and bullock's heart ivy. It has a yellow, sulphur coloured splash near the centre of each large green leaf and grows only up to around 4m high. In tune with most variegated plants it does prefer a little more light than the common ivy, but it really is stunning. What's more, the flowers are loved by insects and it rightly deserves its place on the RHS Perfect for Pollinators list. Ivy 'Sulphur Heart' will cling to brick walls and surfaces with a rough texture, provided it is able to get a grip.
Then there's Hedera Dentata Variegata (above), which is a similar ivy with just about the opposite pattern of variegation on its leathery, large leaves. These have a creamy margin and green on the inside, as if you had selected the inverse of 'Sulphur Heart'. It's another self-clinging beauty that can grow to about 6m high if you want it to. Both these glorious plants can be used as a ground cover if you prefer to train them in that way.
The beauty of evergreens
Ivy looks splendid at this time of year when deciduous trees and perennials are throwing off their summer colours with gay abandon. The rich evergreen with its variety of colour splashes will brighten up dark places all winter and beyond.
It's magic!Not only this, but here is a plant that has been endowed with magical powers. It was believed to provide protection, healing and good luck, guarding against negativity and trauma. It was said that if ivy wouldn't grow on a grave, it meant that the soul was unhappy in the other world and needed to be put to rest. This plant has a metaphorical ability to bind things together and a physical capability of doing the same. It is easy to appreciate how the plant can be used to provide shelter too. Not only for insects, birds and small mammals but also when it is used as simple rope to bind wooden poles together during the construction of a shelter.
This amazing plant is often persecuted without due wisdom. It is perceived to kill trees by its very presence. Some mature trees carry a heavy and dense ivy colony, and this worries a lot of people. True, very elderly and damaged trees can suffer limb failure due to the sheer weight of the ivy. However, healthy trees are more than able to support its lodger. Ivy is not a parasitic plant but has a separate root system. Its presence gives huge benefits to wildlife. The crown of a tree will prevent ivy from going right to the top and it will adopt its mature, flowering and fruiting form much lower down. This is great for wildlife. Cutting it down can deprive more than 50 creatures, that have been found to be associated with it, of nectar, shelter, food and nesting places. The Woodland Trust does not cut or manage ivy on its sites unless there is specific reason. Leave the ivy! It's a blessing.
The holly and the ivy
It's certainly not too soon to think about Christmas! Ivy is forever bound to the festive season, alongside holly and mistletoe. Why? Because it is so green, lush and plentiful at a time when outdoors can look grey. It's such a great filler plant, offering a reliable foliage all through the year with equal zest for life.
People would use evergreens such as holly and ivy to freshen the indoor air in winter . They reminded occupants that spring would come, bringing fresh growth and renewed hope. Enjoy this lovey plant indoors and out.