Hedera–Ivy Family

These are the ivies which many people fear in gardens because they believe that they will damage the masonry of their houses or kill their trees. In fact it is only old-fashioned lime mortar that may be shrunk and dragged out by ivy and only very old trees that are already dying that are likely to be overrun by it. Ivy can actually protect walls and keep them dry, but it can be a nuisance if it is allowed to fill gutters or grow beneath roofing tiles. There is, however, no reason why ivy should not be cut back drastically in spring or be clipped or pruned at any time of the year. It will grow in any soil and situation, in sun or shade, and all forms of the common ivy are completely hardy, though this is not true of all the other species.

There are also, in addition to the normal climbing ivies which support themselves by aerial roots, bush ivies with no ability to climb and the habit of flowering freely and producing abundant crops of black berries. These are produced by rooting cuttings from the flowering stems of ordinary ivies and they resemble their parents in every respect except habit.

ivy on wall hedera

The common ivy, Hedera helix, has a great many varieties differing in leaf size, leaf colour and habit. Representative examples are arborescens, green leaved, non-climbing; Buttercup, leaves yellow; cavendishii, leaves edged cream and pink; conglomerata, dwarf, non-climbing, with crowded wavy-edged leaves; cristata, leaves round, crimped at the edge; Glacier, leaves grey, white edged; Gold Heart (also known as Golden Jubilee), leaves dark green with central yellow blotch; hibernica, the Irish ivy, leaves to 6 in. across; marginata elegantissima (Silver Queen and tricolor are the same or very similar), leaves edged white with some pink as well in winter; sagittifolia, leaf arrow shaped, lobes very narrow.

Hedera colchica has much larger leaves, up to 7 in. across, and in variety dentata variegata they are dark green, grey green and cream. This is one of the most handsome of all variegated climbing plants. There is also a fine green, grey and cream-variegated form of H. canariensis, the Canary Island ivy, named variegata or Gloire de Marengo, but this is a little less hardy.

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