Tag Archive: ivy

A little out of control?!

A little out of control?!

Swift action can prevent ivy from causing structural problems

Self-clinging climbers do not usually cause damage to wall surfaces but ivy supports itself by roots on the stems and where these penetrate cracks or joints they may cause structural damage. Its dense cover can also hide defects in the fabric of the building or hinder maintenance work.

At the Old School we have direct experience of this. The main gable end is of flint and brick construction and when we moved in (some 28 years ago) was painted white. This seemed strange, but we later discovered that we had a damp problem on the inner face of this wall. I took what I thought was the right action at the time and covered the wall with another coat of (this time brown) wall paint and for some years the damp problem seemed to wane. Then ivy got a hold and virtually covered the wall by last year, when we decided to remove this (it was a pain trying to keep it cut below the top of the roof) and try to remove the paint (there are, in fact three layers) and restore the original bare flint surface.

Having removed the ivy we’ve noticed how the roots from the stems have got behind a lot of the paintwork and whilst there’s no obvious major damage, we have seen our damp problems return; maybe a case of the ivy helping to prevent water coming in?! Well, we’re still waiting for quotes to do the paint removal work (and to repair some defective flashing on the adjacent roof which I think partly explains the damp problem), and I’m soon going to get into the border next to the wall to remove the roots of the ivy (I think this might be hard work).

In some situations Ivy up the wall may also provide handy access for intruders and harbour pests like mice. Where brickwork is sound, the main task is to keep growth away from gutters (and certainly from getting in under the roof slope) and paintwork.

Ivy under control, but it can be a pain getting up the ladders and trimming back annual growth...

Ivy under control, but it can be a pain getting up the ladders and trimming back annual growth…

Large climbers can pose a risk to house foundations. This is most likely with older buildings constructed on clay soils that are prone to shrinkage.

In the past, Ivy could be killed by cutting through the stem near ground level and treating the stump with ammonium sulphate, but this chemical is now banned so you have to resort to cutting the main stems and digging out the roots and any seedlings. Top growth may be treated with a brushwood killer or a weedkiller containing glyphosate, but ivy is not easily controlled in this way because the leaves are glossy and the spray simply runs off. Repeat applications may be necessary.

Dead foliage and stems are relatively easy to remove from walls (I used a crowbar to lever off quite large chunks, once these had died off), but aerial roots are persistent and can only be removed using a hard brush, wire brush or paint scraper. Here’s a useful video to summarise the basic approach to removing ivy (including from trees and shrubs).

Source: ‘RHS Wisley Experts- Gardeners’ Advice’ – Dorling Kindersley, 2004

Old School Gardener

Some of the volunteers who helped to t idy up the Church Yard on Saturday

Some of the volunteers who helped to tidy up the Church Yard on Saturday

I’ve written before about our local church, St. Peter’s, Haveringland, or ‘The Church in the Fields’. On Saturday I helped tidy up the church yard, which doesn’t have any regular care or attention, particularly since services here now occur only once a month. 

About twenty willing volunteers strimmed (or ‘Whipper – snipped‘ as I believe it’s called in Australia!), raked, weeded and (my own contribution) removed ivy from the church yard walls. In about two hours I managed to clear one wall (see picture below); fortunately there’s only one more that needs the same attention – I will return to finish it soon.

The wall cleaned of its Ivy- and, inadvertently a mouse nest too...

The wall cleaned of its Ivy- and, inadvertently a mouse nest too…

Some years ago an enthusiastic parishioner planted a number of Yews and other conifers around the church yard, and I remember at the time this caused a bit of controversy, as some people (my wife and I included) thought a ‘softer’, more naturalistic  approach to the planting (with wild flowers etc.) might be more appropriate. Well, I must say, 10 plus years on and these trees do add some interest to the church yard and were probably a realistic planting option, giving some shelter to the space and taking into account the limited community/church interest in looking after the area since.

On Saturday I was approached by the (relatively new) local priest who asked if I’d be interested in producing a Management Plan for the church yard. He suggested mown paths through wild flower areas and access to some of the more recent graves, based on a mix of twice yearly maintenance input from contractors, along with periodic voluntary effort like the session on Saturday. I was pleased to hear of his ideas and obvious commitment to keeping the place in good shape and so I agreed to help.

So, watch this space as this new project unfolds and I get to research and develop planting ideas around wild flower meadows (and maybe a couple of areas of self -reliant shrubs and perennials?).

I’d be pleased to hear from anyone with experience or knowledge on this subject – especially with regards to church yards!

Old School Gardener

clematis ground coverAn interesting question this week, from a Trevor Arzan of Nether Wallop:

‘Some of the stems on my Clematis have fallen down and are growing along the ground, where they seem to be doing quite well. Can this or any other climber be used as ground cover?’

Clematis make very good ground cover plants as do the yellow-veined honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica ‘Aureo -reticulata’) and the climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris). Many roses, especially ramblers, can also be used in this way.

So turn what you might use as climbers into creepers!

And climbers are also useful for covering ugly tree stumps. The less vigourous ivies are ideal for this job. Choose one of the varieties of common ivy (Hedera helix) with prettily marked leaves, such as ‘Glacier’ in grey and white, ‘Buttercup’ with young leaves entirely yellow, or ‘Adam’ with white-margined green leaves. I’ve used this approach ona tallish Cherry Tree stump in Old School Garden and the ivies can even look attractive climbing up living tree trunks. And I’ve also used ivy as ground cover with mixed results- if ground elder is present it’s a devil to get this out without completely destroying the ivy, still Ivy is pretty tough and will re-establish.

It’s also worth trying ‘Dutchman’s Pipe’ (Aristolochia macrophylla), with enormous leaves and yellow and purple pipe-shaped flowers. Schizophragma hydrangeoides, with it hydrangea-like  flowers in creamy white, does very well on old stumps and is self clinging.

ivy cherry tree

Ivy growing up from ground cover to girdle the trunk of a cherry tree in Old School Garden

Old School Gardener

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Waddesdon Manor was built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in 1874 to display his outstanding collection of art treasures and to entertain the fashionable world.The 45 rooms on view combine the highest quality French furniture and decorative arts from the 18th century with superb English portraits and Dutch Old Masters. The Victorian garden is considered one of the finest in Britain with its parterre, seasonal displays, fountains and statuary. At its heart lies the aviary, stocked with species once part of Baron Ferdinand’s collection.’

Source and further information:

National Trust Website


Waddesdon Manor Website

Old School Gardener


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