Sunday, January 17, 2010

Boston Ivy

Hello again,

Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club (http://www.paulparent.com/) sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website (http://www.paulparent.com/) to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM.

Here is some of what Paul had to say this past week:


"Boston ivy is the ivy of the "Ivy League." The many buildings at universities and colleges that are turned to soft green buildings with foliage growing on them are covered with Boston ivy. Boston ivy will grow on any surface without training and is hardy all over the Northeast states. Next time you go to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox play baseball, look at the walls on the outside of the park--they have Boston ivy growing on them. This wonderful fast-growing vine will do wonderfully to hide a wooden stockade fence or an old stonewall. Boston ivy will quickly fill in a chain link fence to give you privacy from the neighbors during the summer when you are in the yard.

The foliage is light green during the spring, dark green during the summer and scarlet red during the fall. During the winter, the leaves fall from the plant and you can enjoy the interesting pattern the vine makes while growing on the building. The foliage keeps the building cool during the summer, as the foliage absorbs the sunshine and heat. During the winter the foliage is gone during the cold days and the heat from the sun is absorbed into the building, warming it and saving energy. The plant grows close to the structure with the short stems of leaves sticking out. The leaves are tree-pointed, looking like a small maple leaf four to eight inches wide. English Ivy does flower, although the flowers are hard to find on the plant, as they are green. The flower produces a small cluster of blue black-fruit that is seldom noticed, until the foliage falls from the plant in the fall of the year. Once berries are visible, the birds will quickly eat them before winter arrives.

The fall red color is best if the plant grows in full sun. In heavy shade, it will change to yellow. Unlike most vines that you may grow, the Boston ivy will adhere to any surface with suction cup-like devices resembling discs. The tendrils do not cling to the surface; they stick and are thus much stronger and more secure.

When planting to cover a south facing wall or structure in an area where your soils tend to dry out during the summer heat, plant it on the east or west side of the structure and train it to grow on that surface. Using this method, you will have less of a problem with the roots drying up during drought periods. Always plant in large holes filled with a lot of organic matter such as compost and peat moss. Fertilize spring and fall with an organic slow-release fertilizer for the first few years. Keep well-watered the first year that you plant, so the roots can get established faster.

Once the plant is established, do not be scared to prune it, as it will grow several feet each year. If it's growing on a building it will cover the windows if not pruned back. Small birds will make nests on mature stems and on a nice day in the spring you will be able to watch the new birds grow up and sing for you.

Plants are available at your local nursery in the spring in one or two gallon pots. Plant them three to six feet apart to cover the structure and in just 2 to 3 years, the structure will be covered with beautiful foliage. The Boston ivy will grow easily 15 to 25 feet high.

The only bug that may be a problem is the Japanese beetle and even it is nothing to worry about. "

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
January 17, 2010

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