Battle Ivy

English Ivy (Hedera Helix)..what can I say about English Ivy?  Words come flowing, however not much of what I have to say is appropriate for a general viewing audience. Every single time I believe I conquered the ivy in my yard… it rears its ugly head once again. I find it under the hedges in front of the house , i find it creeping through  the fences that border my neighbors yards, I find it in beds where I cleared it less than 12 months ago…It reminds me of that rotten cold you just can to shake, the pesky younger sibling just to name a few thoughts.

This year it is the ivy in my neighbor’s yard which has gone unchecked for years that is threatening a few of my garden beds. The ivy problem in her yard is so bad that it has actually strangled a few of her trees and killed them.  The Ivy took  over at least a third of her yard and is threatening even more.  I noticed that the ivy is sending shooters once again under the ground and it is making its way in to our beds and climbing over the fence. As a result, We have no other choice than to get rid of it . I am grateful my neighbor feels the same as we do and is working with us to put an end to the problem. The question is what to do?  My husband called a few of the garden centers and nurseries in our area hoping for some kind of quick fix to no avail. If you know anything about this invasive ground cover, you are aware that the only solution is to dig it up and pull it out of the ground…not a pretty job.

Here are a few resources I have found regarding this nasty subject:

Why is English ivy a problem?

English ivy is not native to the United States and has no natural predators or pests to keep it in check. It easily escapes from planting areas and invades natural areas, parks and urban forests. It creates “Ivy Deserts” – areas so dominated by ivy that no other vegetation survives. Ivy affects trees negatively, especially when it climbs into the canopy. By adding weight to limbs and reducing air flow around the tree’s trunk, ivy makes a tree more susceptible to canopy failure, wind stress and disease. It can also strangle trees around their base and reduce the flow of nutrients up and down the tree.

English ivy does not provide a significant food for native wildlife, but does provide habitat for rats.

here is a sample from the above mentioned blog…

Hedera helix grows by spreading runners which climb over and smother anything and everything in their path including buildings, shrubs, and trees.
If you’re a homeowner, you REALLY do not want this plant climbing up your walls. The rootlets will burrow into masonry, eventually weakening them to the point of collapse. On wooden siding the dense cover retains moisture, which causes fungus and decay, while the rootlets pry apart siding and eventually rip your outer walls apart.
As a ground cover, the quick growth and dense cover shade out native plants and suppress their growth. In tree canopies, the enormous weight of the Ivy will eventually topple each tree. The rootlets burrow under the bark, causing fungus and decay while creating opportunities for disease to enter.

English Ivy is dangerous because it can spread very quickly through native woodlands, both by it’s creeping runners, and seed dispersal by birds who eat the berries. As it spreads, native species are lost and biodiversity is reduced until we are left with a very simplified ecosystem or monoculture that is unable to perform all ecosystem services which are essential to wildlife and human survival.
Every spring I fight what feels like a losing battle chasing down ivy runners that have sprung up in my garden because this plant is in every yard that surrounds my yard. It really makes me kind of cranky because while my neighbors are doing no maintenance of their properties, I am doing constant battle to keep this plant out of my yard.

Like the author of this post, it makes me angry that I can walk into Home Depot and Lowes and find this awful plant for sale in the ground cover section. This plant needs to be banned because it is nothing more than a bully .  There are states such as Oregon and Washington that have banned the sale of hedera helix, and I believe more states should follow suit. Now if  anyone in Chicago is reading this  …. I love the ivy on the walls at Wrigley as long as it stays there


My Garden… My Soul

Hidden among the concrete and bricks of the city where I was brought up were neighborhoods filled with surprises on every corner. Every street had its own identity, a mixture of single family homes and multi family buildings as well. Space was and still remains a valued commodity, tucked away in many yards were gardens filled with beautiful flowers, often times roses that climbed high up the sides of the houses. Sweet smelling surprises, late season mums, flowering trees all poking out of chain link fences delighting this child.  Even the public housing complex where I called home had a lovely lilac bush that bloomed in May with the most fragrant purple blossoms I have ever smelled.

As a child, I took delight asking a home owner to clip a rose here and there, snagging a few lilacs, picking a buttercup and holding it under my chin. I loved flowers, I loved looking at them , trying to draw them, smelling them but beyond that I never paid much attention to them. Flowers magically appeared in the spring, some like roses stayed all summer and as fall and winter came they went away. As a teen ager the only attention I paid to the flowers were if I had an attentive boyfriend who bought me a bouquet of carnations from a street vendor.

I grew up and  moved into my home in the suburbs with my husband and there was a yard full of flowers awaiting me, only thing was the following year they did not magically appear back in the yard. I had no idea what to do to make them come back. The yard fell quickly into that state where the neighbors send disapproving glances your way and as time went on they eventually started to say things about the horrible condition of my yard.

I will be honest I had no clue what I was doing, the closest thing to gardening I had ever done was to pick dandelion out of the crack  of the sidewalk but I knew I was ready to have a yard full of flowers. So I started reading magazines like Better Homes and Gardens, began to watch Martha Stewart and invested in good tools because due to all of my neglect in my yard there was a pretty serious weed problem. Actually worse than the weeds was the English Ivy…I hate the crap, you can not kill it ( a lesson learned the hard way)

I was a good student, I learned how to give my soil nutrients to bring it back to life . I was a mad scientist adding compost, peat moss, perlite, vermiculite  and cow manure to turn soil that was light brown and lifeless into gorgeous black fertile soil suitable to grow plants and vegetables alike. I pulled weeds, dug up roots, painfully made decisions to have cedar trees whose needle cause an acidity problem in the soil and killed my grass removed. Things were not pretty at first, however I discovered this was something I love to do. In my garden I found life and I found peace. Unruly forsythia bushes along a fence were removed to make way for hydrangea plants that have grown over the years to form a hedge. Roses that people find baffling  seem to enjoy the soil and compost I give them and give off endless buds all summer. Different plants are grouped to bloom all spring and summer long filling my house with flowers.

My garden is the place where I go to work hard and to think hard. I write blog posts in my head as I yank weeds out of the soil or plant annuals amongst the perennials. I have my moments of zen amongst my flowers and vegetables. Nothing smells as sweet as fresh cut flowers, tomatoes right form the garden taste sun kissed. My garden is where this city child discovered her  passion and her soul, there is something magical about all of this. I hope to share this and if you are really interested I have garden delights board on Pinterest