ENGLISH IVY (Hedera helix)

WEBSITE - ivy leaves

Europe, W Asia

In HOW TO MAKE A WILDLIFE GARDEN, naturalist and gardener Chris Baines reckons that this is the essential plant for a wildlife-friendly garden.

Our native Ivy offers an evergreen backdrop to other plants, while giving shelter to insects and other creatures. Easy to grow all year round, English Ivy can reach 10m x 5m in sun or shade. But you can shape its size to suit your own garden, patio, or windowbox.

 

Wildlife : If you let your Ivy to grow to maturity, more wildlife can make use of it. Insects visiting Ivy flowers include Moths, Butterflies (Red Admiral, Speckled Wood & Comma), Honeybees & other bees. In our garden, Wrens dive into the Ivy to forage for spiders and small insects, joined by Robins, Sparrows & Bluetits.  In winter, Ivy berries are an important food source for birds, when little else may be available to them.

“Research has shown that trees with ivy growing up them accomodate more wildlife than those without. Instead of assuming that all ivy must be cut away, it is better to be pragmatic about it. Investigate first whether it is really causing any damage. Most healthy trees can withstand at least some ivy growth before being cut back. The wildlife will appreciate it!”

http://www.buzzaboutbees.net/plants-for-bees.html

English Ivy flowers

Ivy berries

Ivy berries close up

 

 

 

“Hedera helix is common in woods and hedges throughout Europe and western Asia. YELLOW-GREEN flowers, rich in nectar, appear during autumn on mature plants, followed by globose, BLACK berries.

Ivy was sacred to Dionysius (Bacchus), the god of wine; if bound to the brow, it was supposed to prevent intoxication. Wreaths of Ivy symbolize fidelity and were part of the marriage ceremony in ancient Greece. They were banned by the early Christian church as a pagan custom.”

RHS ENCYCLOPEDIA OF HERBS, Deni Bown, 2008

‘GARDENERS URGED TO LET IVY FLOURISH TO  SAVE BEES’   

 Growing ivy in gardens may help to prevent the decline of honeybees

‘Scientists have found that Ivy is one of the most important plants to provide nectar for bees. They found that honey bees rely upon ivy for the majority of the pollen and nectar they collect during the autumn months, a crucial time when the insects are trying to build up stores for the winter and feed their young. 

The researchers are now urging gardeners not to rip up ivy when tidying their gardens this summer. Honeybees have suffered large declines in Britain with numbers halving in the last 25 years while wild bees such as bumblebees are also suffering.’  

Science Correspondent Richard Gray, in his April 25 2013 column for The Telegraph

Row 6 No 5 - Masonry or Mining Bee on Ivy
Richard Gray quotes Guy Barter, chief adviser at the RHS: ‘As gardens have become smaller, old buildings have disappeared and gardeners become more tidy minded, I suspect the amount of mature ivy has been decreasing’

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/beekeeping/10206225/Radar-antennae-reveal-how-disease-and-pesticides-are-harming-bees-navigation.html

  Scientists at The University of Sussex want to encourage the public to identify insects that visit Ivy flowers, to help monitor pollinator numbers. By tapping into their website you can take part, read about their work and download their pamphlet Appreciating Ivy and its Insects

http://www.sussex.ac.uk/lasi/resources/education/ivyvisitors

Mature Ivy in flower, September 2014

Ivy that is constantly clipped does not flower. When allowed to grow freely, ivy leaves change shape – from five lobes to something more oval – and produces its globose flowers on stalks. Our own Ivy, planted by RF some time before 2000, now has masses of these mature leaves, flowers and berries.

When our Hedera helix had a run-in with builders, half of it died, along with Plume Moths and Pug Moths living in it. We learned a new word as the builders worked – koorvah! They snarled it, they bellowed it, whenever they spoke it was the first word on their lips. Our overwintering Moths may have learned this word, and been heard to squeak ‘Koorvah! They’ve killed our Ivy!’

Ivy wall, Male Fern in front and Ash behind.jpgIvy leaf close upIvy wall, Herb Robert and Tom's bamboo lanternsMature Ivy leaves with flowers, 3 Sept 2014 Ivy berries, spring solstice 2015

Perhaps it was losing so much of itself to the builders that has driven our Ivy to flower so prolifically. We do make a point of not being as TIDY MINDED as those (often property developers, tidying up a property they want to sell) who rip up mature ivy in local gardens and toss it into skips to be carted away…

Hedera Vetch, Ivy leaf, digital bumblebee

 

The spirit of our wildlife garden is called Hedera Vetch. When a plot of soil presents itself, seemingly crying out for some high visibility blooms, Hedera Vetch will be whispering “Have you got enough Ivy? What about a little more Ivy to fill that space?”

“Do you really want to give that spot to something that will cease to bloom come autumn, offering nothing to our bees? Why not indulge in a little Hedera helix?”

As it happened, RF, the first gardener, provided enough Hedera helix to grow and expand along our southern and northern brick walls down the years, providing shelter for untold creatures, as well as berries for the birds and nectar for the bees in the shank of the year… Thank you, RF!