Walls laden with ivy. Enchanting and mesmerizing. A sense of timelessness and thoughts of a secret garden of delight and wonder…ponderings as to what secrets are lurking beyond its cool, green foliage of mysterious splendor and richness in bright emerald green….
English Ivy (Hedera Helix) is a fast growing and quick spreading evergreen vine with glossy and angular leaves. A member of the Araliaceae or ginseng family, English Ivy is native to England, Ireland and the Mediterranean and Western Europe. It is believed that the illustrious vine traveled to America by way of immigrants from Europe during colonial times in 1797.
English Ivy is similar to Boston Ivy, as both have similar leaves. However, English Ivy has vine runners and Boston Ivy does not. English Ivy expands to cover a wide area, especially growing onto buildings and architectural features. Attaching the vines through tendrils, this glorious vine will last for years, even decades, once established. Long used in landscaping designs, this hardy plant, when given the proper growing conditions, will thrive and delight the eye, for certain. A cascading and climbing glory of green…
It is, indeed, a cultural icon that has been recognized throughout history. In ancient Rome, the Roman god of wine, Bacchus, wore a wreath of ivy on his head as a visual representation to abstain from intoxication. Ironically, Roman festivals held around 200 BCE in his honor were eventually banned due to the flagrant revelry! Who knew? In ancient Greece, successful athletes and poets were crowned with ivy for their accomplishments and Greek priests presented newly married couples with a wreath of ivy as a symbol of fidelity. In Medieval Europe, it was believed that ivy symbolized eternal life. During the Victorian Era, the meaning of ivy returned to the notion of fidelity and was added with prominence to bouquets. Again, who knew? Of course, I cannot touch on the subject of “ivy” without mentioning the well known reference of the “Ivy League”, which began as an athletic conference comprising of eight private institutions of higher education in Northeastern United States. Viewed as the most prestigious universities of academic excellence in the United States and worldwide, the term “Ivy League” connotes a myriad of educational and social implications. Indeed, the word “Ivy” has truly been placed in a league all its own.
After viewing the stunning beauty of this vine, it should be mentioned that the vine itself has the ability to overtake other vegetation and plant life, including trees. In fact, it has even been termed a ‘ground eater’. Interestingly, in 1939, Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) of Britain established what was called the “Ivy Squads” to remove English ivy vines from trees and walls that might eventually be destroyed by the vines themselves. Perhaps a strong negative aspect of the lustrous green appeal of Ivy, but the positive side, with maintenance, is superb. The key with this climbing ivy green can be best quoted by John Milton, “Direct the clasping ivy where to climb”. How true! It is the maintenance, direction and consistent pruning of the spreading tendrils of the English Ivy, and other ivy plants, that determines a positive outcome with this grand vine.
Impressive and majestic with an air of elegance, climbing walls and saturating its glossy green leaves throughout landscapes and structures, the enchanting appeal of the English Ivy is longstanding. Timeless and enchanting, indeed.
“For ivy climbs the crumbling hall to decorate decay”- Philip James Bailey