I have ivy on my mind this week. And not only is it on my mind, but also under my fingernails, ground into my palms and stuck to the bottom of my shoes with copious amounts of mud.
For probably 50 years, ivy has been growing to cover the foundation of my house along two sides. This was fine, and I would keep it trimmed and in bounds, for the most part.
Or so I thought.
But when I started to trim this time, my trusty pruners would hardly cut through the tough, hairy stems and, to my dismay, I found tendrils had wiggled their way behind the bottom rows of aluminum siding, up the downspouts and way back into the crawl space, where they had rooted and created new monster vines.
Ivy certainly has determination and adaptability. Some tendrils found a way into the bottom of the compost bin that lives by the back door, and grew through the contents of the bin (full after the winter's vegetable scraps), and surfaced on the top ready for more adventures.
It took the better part of two days to get it all cut back and dug out, producing a very large pile of brush to haul away. And now the foundation looks strangely naked.
Gardeners and home owners are divided on the advantages and disadvantages of English ivy in the landscape, and those opposed to hedera helix certainly are in the majority.
But there are some benefits to an ivy-covered wall or building. It provides safe habitat for many birds, bats and insects, and this can be regarded as a plus or a minus depending on the location.
Few gardeners would welcome colonies of bats to their house walls, and yet they are valuable, interesting mammals that consume enormous quantities of insects.
Ivy also is an attractive way of disguising an eyesore. It can turn a decrepit building into a mysterious, romantic structure - from a distance, at least - and can cover a dead tree in a short time.
Problems with ivy stem (pun intended) from its ferocious growth habits. It has spread to many areas of the world from its native Europe and is classified as an invasive plant in a number of countries. In the western part of our country, ivy is a menace in the redwood forests, and programs to eradicate it are in effect in many parts of California through the National Park Service.
If there are no trees or buildings to climb, ivy will creep along the ground as a ground cover.
At Princeton, one of the original Ivy League colleges, areas under some trees are deliberately covered with ivy to delineate areas where students are not allowed to sit.
Ivy climbs by means of aerial rootlets that are difficult to remove from tree bark or wooden or brick walls, as I discovered, and many remedies are suggested for those trying to eradicate it, including herbicides, scraping, paint remover and even a propane torch.
After reading several accounts of extreme measures taken to save valuable buildings or trees, I should be happy mine was within reach and comparatively simple.
Of course, I am sure I have not removed all traces and it will need to be attended to every year.
And it did look rather nice.