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.

10 comments:

Heather said...

I love ivy too Pat and we have quite a lot dotted around the garden. Some plants are 'presents' from the birds and have to be pulled out, but where space allows I let it climb the wall or fence and provide nesting sites as well as food for the birds.
I would love to see a flock of lapwings again - they seem to have become scarce down here.

Pondside said...

Ivy grows all around Pondside and I am so happy for it. Before we had the deer fence there was never a scrap, but now it climbs over the walls along the drive and gives everything a very settled and 'dressed' look....and the birds love it.

Mary said...

Ivy is loved here in the garden - although we did allow it too take over the trees rather profusely and had to remove some. Later the trees had to come down anyway - but not because of the ivy - their roots were undermining and raising our driveway, and I wish I'd let the ivy go for longer!

I must say I've never seen berries on my ivy - I wonder why? I do notice squirrels taking some to their nests up in the oak trees in the back garden - sometimes it ends up on the ground after a strong wind.

I'm off to refill my feeders and suet holders. We have so many beautiful birds even in Winter, including large red-headed woodpeckers who love suet, a pair of bluebirds are back, tiny chickadees, pairs of cardinals (so easy to tell male from female as the males are SO red at this time of year), house finches, towhees, a few black birds, early American robins - much larger/taller than your sweet round ones - and my favorite tiny Carolina wrens.

Happy weekend - hope it's going to warm up a bit until the AGA gets going again!

Hugs - Mary

Toffeeapple said...

Ivy is a very important food plant for insects as well as birds.

Dartford Warbler said...

We have ivy in trees and hedges here and it is such a precious source of food for wintering birds, as well as a late source of nectar for the last insects of summer.

MorningAJ said...

I've got loads of ivy in the garden. But I mustn't bring it indoors. (There might be another folklore post coming on that one!)

Tom Stephenson said...

The wood-pigeon are eating tons of it in this cold weather, around my parts (not that ivy grows around my parts, you understand... ). If you eat pigeon this time of year, it has a bitter but interesting taste from all the ivy berries.

Well, as the old adage goes, 'Where ivy grows, witches cannot do whatever they are supposed to do, like.'

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thank you for adding bits of information - I am putting them on today's blog.

BilboWaggins said...

I too love ivy and we allowed it to grow all over the walls of our previous home. There were a couple of blackbird nests in it but also hundreds of snails . . .

When we created the nursery area here I was able to save two huge mature plants which are growing up dead tree trunks and they are now full of fruit.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

My mother's garden, which I tend for her, has a fence that is completely covered in ivy; to such an extent that I'm not sure if it's pulling the fence down or holding it up! People don't always realise that the Blackbirds may also be migrants from Europe, indeed cosidering the harsh cold on the continent at present many probably are.