Saturday, 11 February 2012
In Praise of Ivy.
Poor old ivy tends to get a bad press. Gardeners chop it down from their garden trees and the farmer tends to pull it out of the hedge. Well, can I make a plea for everyone to let it be, to let it flourish where it wishes and only to cut it back when the weight of it becomes too much for its host plant to bear.
It is a lovely plant if you look at it closely. It is one of the few patches of real green at this time of the year. And - more importantly - it still has berries. This has not been all that good a year for berries here in the Dales. Once the redwings and fieldfares came in from Scandinavia the berries were soon gone and the birds moved on in their search for food. Now some of them are back and food is scarce.
But the berries on the ivy are just beginning to ripen and will provide a good food source. Although I put oats, suet and sultanas out daily in the hope of encouraging fieldfares and redwings, we only get blackbirds (thirty of them this morning). Strangely enough, when I lived in a town in the Midlands, fieldfares and redwings were regular visitors to our bird table.
The farmer has plastered our fields with slurry this week and now they are absolutely full of birds, which leads me to believe that there is something either in the slurry itself, of maybe coming up from the ground (worms?). I counted twenty cock pheasant in our paddock yesterday; today it is lapwings - a whole flock of them, searching the grass.
These are lean times for the birds. We put out huge quantities of food for them and we are rewarded with the sight of them every day. But please leave that ivy if you have any. It is not a parasite; it has its own root system and only uses the tree/wall/bush as a support.