Most established gardens have Ivy growing somewhere, and depending on how much of it you have, where it is and it’s habit will depend on whether you view it as friend or foe. To some it’s an invasive nuisance and to others, it’s one of the best evergreen plants in the garden.
From a wildlife point of view, Ivy is important as an invaluable source of food and shelter for a large number of insects, pollinators and birds offering year round cover and edible nectar, pollen, berries. The leaves are also a feast for caterpillars and are a favourite of the Swallow-tailed moth caterpillar. You may never get to spot one as it’s camouflage is quite incredible; looking exactly like a stalk on the ivy plant. See it in this article from the Guardian about the benefits of ivy as food and shelter for garden wildlife.
From a gardener’s perspective, ivy is a useful evergreen climber due to its ability to cling, it’s dense layers to fill gaps and holes and it’s hardiness. It thrives in almost all conditions, is a reliable and easy grower, is simple to prune and shape. It’s also one of those plants that fits in with any garden scheme: contemporary, urban, wild, cottage or stately; it’s a naturalistic backdrop for all. See more recommended climbers that benefit wildlife from Gardener’s World online here.
The best time to prune Ivy to keep it in check is in Jan /Feb before the nesting season begins. It’s not advisable to put prunings in the compost as it’s such a successful grower, it is likely to take root in there. You may get away with putting in a few finely chopped up leaves but really, the only way to re-use clippings is to put them aside separately and let them rot down separately. It will take a while as they are waxy coated leaves but when they have turned into more of a mulch, you can then add them to the compost... or pile clippings into an unused corner or gap in the hedge to become another little habitat warren for insects and small mammals
There is lots of info online on decorative types of Ivy to grow and how to manage Ivy in the garden. If you can embrace it, Ivy can be an incredibly useful plant and your garden wildlife will thrive on it.
The Flatford Wildlife Garden is now closed for the rest of the winter season 2020 /2021. Details of re-opening in 2021 will be posted on this blog and the Flatford Wildlife Garden Website.
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