Does the word “ivy” make you wince?
If so, it may be because you are thinking about the English ivies — Hedera helix ‘Baltica’, ‘Pittsburg’, ‘Wahington’ and ‘Star’ — or Irish ivy (Hedera hibernica). All are considered invasive and all have been placed on King County’s list of noxious weeds. English ivy is categorized as a non-regulated Class B and C noxious weed, meaning control is recommend, but not required in King County. It’s no longer for sale in nurseries or used as a landscape plant.
Of course, some homeowners have inherited an established mass of this nearly indestructible green carpet. Some of them cut it to back to the woody stems each year to keep it under control and enjoy its glossy evergreen appearance where nothing else will thrive. But most gardeners find themselves exasperated with English ivy that has taken over flower beds, grown up the trunks of trees, or covered fences and walls. Once its root system is entangled with other plants or a rockery, your only choice is a regular management regime to keep it at bay. That’s not much of a consolation for those who want it gone.
Meet the good ivies
Stigma and guilt-by-association have ruined the reputation of the entire ivy species. However, there are some ivies that can be charming accents — creeping over the edge of a pot or adding a fine-textured, ground-hugging evergreen element to an ornamental garden. These “good” varieties grow slowly and won’t get away from you.
I recommend trying the crinkly dark green leaves of Hedera helix ‘Cristata Curlilocks’ in pots where it can curl over the rim. Fine-textured Hedera helix ‘Mona Lisa’ adds a colorful evergreen mat at the base of a rock during winter. A better-mannered cousin of English ivy is the Algerian ivy Hedera algeriensis. Hedera algeriensis ‘Striata’ sports exotic-looking leaves marked with lighter green and golden-green variations. Originally native to central Algeria and Tunisia, where it grows vigorously, Algerian Ivy grows slowly and is easily contained in the climate of the Pacific Northwest. It does best in part sun with shelter from wind and freezing temperatures. Like all ivies, it likes regular water and rich soil.
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