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During the dark days of Christmas it’s lovely to bring the outside in. I love to snip Holly and Ivy foliage to decorate the mantlepiece, mirrors and pictures, and to use for table arrangements over the festive season.

Ivy has a bad reputation as being a bit of a thug, but it’s such a wonderful genus of species. Shade tolerant, easy to grow and evergreen, Ivy has a lot to offer gardeners. Their dense growth create a brilliant habitat for wildlife and their nectar rich flowers in autumn/early winter and dark berries in late winter provide a much needed source of food for the Ivy Bee, Thrushes, Black Caps and Wood Pigeons and many other creatures, when few other nectar or fruit sources are available.

The Ivy Bee

The species of Ivy are allopatric – populations of the same Ivy species grow in isolation and are unable to interbreed due to geographic separation, creating a strong family of plants. Many Ivies make excellent ground cover or love to climb shady walls, whereas compact forms can be used in containers, as trailing houseplants or clipped or trained around frames for topiary.

Hedera helix ‘Duckfoot’

Green leaved Ivies offer an array of forms and  textures, from bold to frilly. Hedera helix ‘Duckfoot’ is compact and trailing, with three-lobed, pale green leaves (that resemble duck feet, hence the name!) Great for containers and especially as a houseplant, it has an RHS AGM (‘Award of Garden Merit.’)

Hedera helix ‘Lalla Rookh’

Hedera helix ‘Lalla Rookh’ is has an interesting appearance and is another compact, trailing form with broad, waved, emerald green cut leaves with toothed lobes. This one is also great to use as ground cover in the garden.

Cream and yellow variegated Ivies brighten up shady walls and fences and give good contrast to dark evergreen shrubs. Hedera helix ‘Golden Ingot’ is a slow growing climber reaching a maximum of 90cm. Its soft golden leaves are splashed and edged with lime, grey-green and emerald. Another AGM winner.

Hedera helix ‘Golden Ingot’

If you want a more vigorous climber choose Hedera helix ‘Oro di Bogliasco,’ (Gold of the village/Goldheart, in Italian.) It is an enthusiastic climber and reaches 8 metres high by 1.5 metre spread. It has neat, dark green leaves blotched with bright gold in the centre, on red stems.

Hedera helix ‘Oro di Bogliasco’

Green and white or cream variations make uplifting back drops as climbers. Hedera algeriensis ‘Gloire de Marengo’ is a slightly less vigorous climber to ‘Oro di Bogliasco,’ reaching a maximum height of 4 metres. The bold triangular grey-green leaves are edged with cream and are perfect on a shady wall.

Hedera algeriensis ‘Gloire de Marengo’

My job for the weekend is getting out and cutting wintry foliage to decorate our house ready for Christmas. Happy Holidays!