in praise of ivy

08 March 2019

I often hear clients worrying about ivy smothering trees or damaging buildings. I reassure them that this is mostly ungrounded - sound brickwork and healthy trees will happily co-exist with ivy, and of course our native trees have evolved to live in harmony with it.

And look at this detail of old ivy growth on a tree trunk - when you remember that biodiversity thrives in complexity and in the edges between ecological zones, you start to understand how amazingly rich this densely textured mini-landscape is. Many invaluable mini-beasts will be able to make their homes in the sheltered nooks and crannies, mosses, lichens and fungi will exploit the range of damp and dry environments, insects which feast on decaying organic matter will thrive where dead leaves or scraps of bark get trapped. In turn, this habitat will provide a nourishing larder for fascinating woodland birds like nuthatches, wrens, bluetits and treecreepers to pick through. And of course the smaller birds and their eggs will then feed creatures further up the food chain - birds of prey, pine martens, squirrels, depending on where you live - and when they die, their bodies break down and feed more plants and animals. It's all part of the wondrous cycle of life, and when we slow down and look closely at these things, and think about the processes, we learn a little more about how to be better gardeners as well as custodians of our world.


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