They (now) say a person’s home is their castle. And what castle is complete without a lovely ivy covered wall or two?
Ivy is a plant which has a lot of things going for it; it is quick growing, looks great, and makes a very effective screen or ground cover.
I both love and hate ivy. I love the romance it adds, particularly to large stone buildings; I hate the damage it does, and will never have it growing where I live.
Ivy is a better climber than Spiderman, thanks to its ‘aerial roots’. These roots spread out from the vine itself, and can grip to just about any surface. They can insert themselves into almost any surface and become almost impossible to remove.
- In some places ivy can prevent moisture from evaporating, leading to premature rotting and moisture damage.
- In other places it can suck the moisture from building materials, leading to cracking and deterioration as the affected parts do not expand and contract along with unaffected materials.
- It can damage bricks and mortar, although mostly older, softer materials. (Sound masonry is reasonably unaffected).
- Small shoots will grow into every little crack, then grow larger and will easily loosen, or pull trim from wall, roofs and gutters.
- Because it sticks so well, and grows so thick, it is easily climbed by star crossed lovers, burglars, mice, rats and possums alike.
- It makes an excellent refuge for vermin, and also encourages insects to migrate above their usual habitat (around ground level) and damage or enter the building at any height.
- Vines will enter a roof space at one point and spread to other locations. This can add an unwanted amount of flammable material in the roof space.
- The berries are moderately poisonous, and the flowers attract European Wasps.
Good things about Ivy
In the interest of providing a balanced view, there is possibly one good thing about ivy. Some research in the United Kingdom suggests that ivy covering stone walls may be beneficial by creating a thermal barrier in regions where the walls are subject to freezing/thawing cycles. This isn’t a huge problem in Tasmania, unless perhaps you own a stone castle in the central highlands.
Ivy sticks like the proverbial to a blanket. I have tried to pull it from a brick wall, and actually pulled the surface from the bricks and mortar from the joins. Don’t do it. An easier way is to cut all the roots at ground level and dig them out. Then wander off for a few weeks, the rest of the plant is definitely dead, preferably crispy. Then you should be able (with care) to pull the ivy from the wall. The dead aerial roots will tend to break before they rip off the surface they are sticking to. Then the hard work begins; with a stiff brush try to remove as much of the remaining aerial roots as you can. Better still, pay someone to do it as it is hard and tedious work.
WARNING: be careful when removing ivy to make sure you don’t damage the building, and be prepared to fix any damage you may uncover.
Keep a close eye out for new shoots for some months after. If any shoots appear: at the next full moon salt the ground, then soak in petrol, and burn at midnight while performing an exorcism. Some people also recommend painting your naked body with the blood of a sacrificed chicken and dancing around the fire as added security.
I’ve also been told spraying with weed killer works equally well. While definitely more civilised, it isn’t nearly as much fun.
Some varieties don’t have the aerial roots. If you really need some ivy action in your life, talk to a nursery, or someone in the know. They will be able to point you in the direction of the less damaging and invasive varieties.
Ivy (genus Hedera) has 12-15 species, of which 11 or so can be found in Australia. Some of these varieties, particularly the drought resistant types are banned in some parts of the country. The reason there isn’t an exact number is because there’s a family argument going on. Some plants (represented by some botanists) don’t recognise some other plants as being part of the family. Naturally these other plants, (represented by other botanists) are feeling marginalised and a bit left out. They say talking to plants is good for them, but I reckon if all you’re talking to them about is a family feud, you seriously need a life…
Until next time