Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Holly and the Ivy

Or to give them their proper names - The Ilex and the Hedera - doesn't quite have the same ring to it does it?  No need for the 3 minute warning either, I'm not about to burst into verse.  Being tone deaf I would not wish me singing a verse or two on my worse enemy!!  I know my limits!!

There are probably umpteen thousand websites/blogs out there, which reference these British Garden stalwarts and for that reason I'm not going to go into detail except to profile what grows in my garden.

However, should curiosity get the better of you, more information can be gleaned from British Woodland Trust or RSPB.  Alternatively a google search of either Holly or Ivy will glean you more information than you could probably handle in one browsing session.

The Holly.....

Ilex aquifolium 'J C Van Tol' (AGM) grows in my garden as a rather useful evergreen hedge. Planted by previous owners many years before I took over.  Up until this earlier this year it received a twice yearly 'tidy up' - however, having finally put a name to the face - it was given a gently shear in springtime.  Pruning group of this shrub is Pruning Group 1 (little or no pruning).  Extremely hardy and would quite happily reach a height of around 6m if left to it's own devices - it's eventual spread being half of it's height.

Kooki, as a kitten, honing his climbing skills 
Presently kept to a height of around 1.8m (6ft in old money) primarily for pruning purposes, this height also reflects the height of the fencing which surrounds the remainder of the garden.  As well as this green variety Van Tol Hollies also come in variegated forms with gold and silver leaf margins.  This hedge also provides cover/protection for the many birds which visit the garden.  At one time Robins used to nest in it's depths, this is sadly, no longer the case.  My 3 cats used the hedge for climbing practice when they were kittens, this I'm sad to say caused them up nest and leave! 

Unlike most other holly the leaves of J C Van Tol are oval
to elliptical shaped and almost spineless.  A great big plus as 
far as I'm concerned!  These glossy leaves certainly do not have the 'ouch' factor!  Being evergreen these trees/shrubs does not lose its leaves in winter but will, like other evergreens, drop leaves throughout the year.  For those who like making up Christmas Wreaths - the spineless leaves make it a great choice.       
Shade toterant and considered one of the best hollies for growing as a 'standard'.


Flowering time for this plant is spring and summer - it produces tiny 4 petal white flowers, which I supposed is considered as insignificant in plant terms.  J C Van Tol  is self fertile, therefore removes the need of planting both male and female plants in order that berries are produced.
These berries are abundant in Autumn and Winter, it should be noted that these berries, if eaten, will cause stomach discomfort if ingested.  That being said, it should also be noted that they are an extremely important food source for birds and wildlife at the time of the year other food is scare.  The dark green leaves and the bright red foliage extend the season of interest in the garden - making it an all year round worthwhile plant!!

Next comes the Ivy.......

Hedera helix (Common/Englis Ivy) is often considered a thug in many gardens, indeed, considered an invasive species in many areas.  I have a vast expanse of new fencing to cover in my garden, along with Camellia and Pyracantha I have planted 2 ivies this year.   It is my opinion that no garden (depending on planting schemes) can really be without Ivy.  I'm hoping that with pruning they should not become a problem. Oh, and I'm not afraid of a bit of hard work should pruning alone not suffice!!
Ivy is considered extremely important for wildlife.  This woody evergreen climber will clamber up trees, walls and fences.  It also has the ability of being able to grow as ground cover - prefers shade and important to note that only shoots receiving sun will flower.  Many insects and birds will use this for shelter and protection.  The nectar from its flowers provides nourishment for many bees, hoverflies, butterflies and other late-flying insects just before hiberation time.  

As yet, my Ivies are very small and insignificant but thought this would be a useful place to log their quite different leaves

Hedera helix 'Goldheart' - I don't think that name needs any explaination!!  Slow to get established apparently.  As I want it to grow up and cover a fence, I have provided it with support in the way of a clematis net and a few strategically placed garden canes until it it able to support itself.
Ivy is self clinging and uses ariel rootlets to attach itself to its host.
The contrast in the leaf colour is a deep green with a bright yellow centre.  It will take on a tinge of pink in colder weather (as seen here).  Beautiful red stems add further to the colour provided by this plant.  As it matures - it's leaves will become larger and make much more of a statement.  Currently growing in part shade where 2 previously planted clematis failed - I'm hoping that it will receive just enough sun to produce it's very nectar rich flowers.  

The other Ivy I have planted in the ground is an unknown variety.  Bought in mid 2011 to be used as part of an autumn/winter display container but had began to look rather shabby by the time summer 2012 came around as I had kind of neglected it.  It has thrived since it got it's feet in the ground and is currently using a carefully place Silver Birch log to scramble over then up onto the very tall closed board fence panel that had to be put in as part of my planning application to have my kitchen extended.This area I suppose could be considered as semi-woodland, still in it's infancy with a couple of decideous shrubs (Acer and Magnolia) surrounded by ferns, hostas, epimedium, primula and a rather special little Dicentra.  Plain green with silver veining - it should provide an ideal foil for it's neighbours.  

The other Ivies growing in the garden are currently being utilised in containers providing a bit of colour on the steps outside the back door.  Whether or not these make it into the garden, only time will tell.  

Sold as part of a 'bedding tray' whether this is hardy or not only time will tell.  It seems happy enough for now with companions of Cypressus Goldcrest, heuchera, galtheria and dwarf bulbs.

This dark green, almost grey Ivy, presently tumbling over another winter container.  Choisya Sundance is it's chosen foil - together with Galtheria, Skimmia and dwarf bulbs should make a stunning display come springtime.

As I strive to make my garden more wildlife friendly and provide as many different habitats to encourage more visitors - both these plant will be invaluable and dependable in my quest and I'm pleased you could join me on my journey!               


  1. Angie this is an excellent and interesting blog.

    We had to get rid of our holly of 20yrs as the trunk finally split.

    Not its my clematis haven area and hellabores and trilliums

  2. Thanks ever so much Kath - shame about your tree, bet it was missed by the birds!!
    Your Clematis haven sounds lovely - I don't have any trilliums - but I often admire them. Are they easy?

  3. Yes Angie well they seem to grow well in my garden along with the hellabores.

    They are expensive but now much prefer to buy the plants.

    A couple of yrs ago I visited Cluny gardens well worth a visit ,

    They were selling trillium seeds which I duly bought.

    And they still have not germinated.

    1. Shame to have to wait so long for your seeds to germinate Kath.
      Had a look on Binnys website - he as around 4 different Trilliums for sale. I may have a wee look at flowering time and give them a go. My hellebores are not looking good at all - all were reasonable size last year but most only have a couple of leaves and nothing else!!

  4. The berries and flowers on the Ilex are some of the nicest I've seen. Not a big fan of Hedera helix, here it is very hard to control.

    1. gardeninacity - thank you, it was nice to see it's flowers this year! Ivy can be very hard to control here too - but as other things I've tried have failed - I kind of decided that being pretty near indistructible the Ivy should do well!!

  5. I love hollies, and especially love that they are not hard to grow. I also grow ivy, which I find charming. Mine, however, is delegated to one small area, because I do see it overgrown sometimes. That 'goldheart' looks quite beautiful.

  6. Thank you HolleyGarden - I intend to keep them 'in check'too! Goldheart is a beauty and I'm hoping it will bring 'life' to he fence it covers :)

  7. You have a brilliant hedge of JC Van Tol. I planted this one in a friends garden a few years ago after hearing that it is one which is most likely to produce masses of berries. It certainly does, have to be careful not to prune at the wrong time of year though.

  8. I agree Alistair pruning time is paramount if berries are to be enjoyed! Being the first year (since I've been here) it's produced more than a handful of berries, I intend to keep it that way! The blackbirds were getting stuck into them this afternoon!!

  9. I've one holly in the garden - and it sprouted from a seed that was probably in a bird dropping. So far I've just left it growing where it found a home but it's not really in a suitable place so maybe next year I'll need to move it. Thanks for dropping by my blog Angie - good to have another Scottish blog to visit now.

    1. Rosie - thanks for visiting. I never get anything exciting sprouting from a seed the birds have dropped!

  10. You see the hedera and the ilex are interesting! Lots of great stuff on here.....

    1. Orkneyflowers - I suppose you could say all plants are interesting!
      Thanks for stopping by :)

  11. A clever play on words for the holiday season. I believe that ivy doesn't flower until it reaches it's mature stage by going up. Very invasive in my part of the US.

    1. Carolyn - thanks for letting me know about the ivy flowering until it's mature. I didn't know that.
      Yes, I have read that it's considered invasive in many places. I no doubt will probably be cursing it in a few years time :)

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