Gardening Advice Needed

Four years ago this week I moved in to - what was then - a newly-built office, shown below:

As somebody commented back then it looks like all it needs is a Ladies / Gentlemen sign above each door. They were right - it does have the look of a public convenience to it. The plan was to grow ivy up it as a form of camouflage and soon after it was built I planted ivy plants along its length.

Here's what it looks like now, four years on:

2012-05-02 07.43.39

I was expecting that, by now it would be completely covered in ivy. But it ain't. Why not?

Notice the far end (past the office door) is completely covered. Here I planted an ivy plant that was in tub left by the previous owners. As expected it's gone bonkers and achieved the desired results.

The other ivy you can see was bought from garden centres and has barely grown. Not only that but it's not sticking to the wall and I've had to hold it up with the wood you can see, which I'd rather not need to be there.

The ivy nearest to the camera I cut right back the other day, thinking it might need a fresh start. Somebody told me that only new growth sticks to the wall. Maybe the growth I was seeing was from non-sticking existing growth.

I know this is a strange request but it's becoming a bit of an obsession for me now. It's driving me nuts. How hard can it be to grow ivy?! I always thought it was a menace, that, given a chance, consumes everything in its path.

What type of ivy do I need to buy to get the "mile a minute" stuff?


  1. Why not take some cuttings from the ivy thats growing madly its very straightforward.

    It obviously likes the growing conditions you have and shouldn't take long to cover the wall. Your right it should stick to the wall, just watch it doesn't break in under the eaves.

    Might be worth trying some honeysuckle and / or vigorous clematis (http://www.taylorsclematis.co.uk/clematis-vigorous-clematis/) - to add colour and scent.

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Wed 2 May 2012 05:46 AM

      Could you give more help on taking cuttings please Mark? I did try this (cut a piece off and dangled it in a milk bottle with water in it expecting new roots to appear) but it didn't work. Do you need to take the cutting from the roots of the bonkers plant and/or plant in to soil where it will stay?

    1. It's hard to tell from that photo but it looks like you might have some variegated variety in the foreground which might not be strictly a climbing ivy.

      The Clematis suggestion is a good one. It climbs a wire trellis extremely well though will climb just about anything it can wrap around. You cut out the dead growth during winter and have pretty fresh growth every year by about mid may and flowers most of the summer.

      Dragon's suggestion of nasturtium is a good one as the flowers are edible and make a nice garnish for the fancy meals with your neighbors.

      I had started with ivy years back but had heard the same stories about damage. I've seen, though, brick chimneys of significant vintage with no discernible damage but rather complete ivy growth, though the chimney had been painted before hand so was sealed.

      Lots of other things can contribute to poor growth. At that corner, wind, if strong enough, can clip plants growth but it has to be regular and strong - something I suspect your garden never sees. The soil may not be suitable at that corner or may be contaminated or not draining as well as the other areas... too much water is as bad as too little.

      Bottom line for me is, if it's not pleasing to you, rip and replace. You can pick up an attractive wire trellis for probably the equivalent of $11 and Clematis is super easy to grow. I never need to feed or water ours and it grows up the front of the garage on a trellis. It's perennial so you don't need to do anything once it's established except cut back the dead growth sometime after the season.

      Show the rest of this thread

  2. My advice, don't let Ivy grow up your walls. It has small rootlets with which in clings to the walls however these will retain moisture which will gradually seep through the walls promoting damp and mould growth. Of course if you have properly sealed it with a watertight barrier then by all means.

    Otherwise I would suggest a different plant which does not grow in this manner and possibly use a trellis. Honeysuckle or Nasturtiums are a good choices, but in you want to try something different, try peas.

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Wed 2 May 2012 05:48 AM

      Advice registered. I wouldn't plant ivy against the house itself. I'm not overly bothered about the longevity of the garage though. If it comes to it and any problems like those you mention become unmanageable I'll just rip it all off and plant something else. Probably not peas though ;-) (I take it you mean sweet peas?)

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  3. Re: mile-a-minute... you don't want that. Consider what you'll need to do once it has covered the area you wanted covered if it's a really vigorous grower. The South East of the US has a problem with a variety that was imported which they call Kudzu. It grows over and kills everything and is tough to eradicate, usually involving chain-saws, digging and quantities of herbicide sufficient to ensure no future offspring of your own.

      • avatar
      • Aaron Hardin
      • Wed 2 May 2012 11:23 AM

      LOL, funny you say that because I was thinking the same thing when I was reading.

      I'm in Tennessee and we have kudzu. The story is that they hung the guy that brought it here. I think his idea was that it would grow over the grass so it didn't have to be mowed, or something like that.

      I say paint the open space white and get a project for Friday night movie night for the kids :)

      Show the rest of this thread

  4. I remember your blog postings from when you moved into the office! I went out to our garden shed to see if I could do the same thing...and found it already had occupants of the non-human variety. Yuck!

    I agree with almost everything said above, but would point out that you need to "rule out" the soil contamination and/or poor drainage before you try to transplant the other ivy or another type of plant.

    It probably is just that it is a different variety of Ivy. So, since the one the previous owners left seems to like your climate and grow the way you want, taking cuttings from that will probably work well. You should cut it at a slant slightly beneath any "knob" in the stem, preferably cutting off a piece with one or two leaves still attached. No need to use a milk bottle (any residue in the bottle might have hurt more than it helped). Ivy can be stuck right into the soil and watered generously and will re-root itself. Or, if you want to encourage it a little, buy some "rooting compound" at your local garden center and follow the instructions.

    It will probably take a couple of growing seasons for the new plant to start climbing well. The first year, it will be "coming back" from the "trauma" of being snipped and transplanted.

    Another idea to make the wall appear covered more quickly woudl be to hang "window boxes" partway up the wall and ALSO plant Ivy, and maybe some flowers, in them. It will add interest while you are waiting for the ivy to grow, and since it will be growing from the bottom AND the middle, it will cover the wall in half the time.

    • avatar
    • jakes dad
    • Wed 2 May 2012 05:16 PM

    next time you come to see us (to fix our computer) take a good look at the side of 'my' garage and the effect on the brickwork that the ivy your Mom and your brother planted many years ago has had on the bricks (as Dragon has pointed out)

    if you want to brighten your dull looking garage/office up get rid of the ivy and give my 3 grandchildren some paints and a brush each.

    O and is it not possible that the reason the ivy grows best at the office end is because that's where you pop out the office for a 'pee'

    as for Russian 'mile a minute' vine can't you remember the shed at the bottom of the garden?

  5. Not being much of a horticulturalist but being a farmer's boy, the wall of that Office isn't on the North is it? That would keep the ivy down as there may not be enough light on the wall.

    If you do get it to grow your big problem is going to be when it gets to the roof line where it will work it's way under the wood and spring it so keep it trimmed back from there.

    I like the paint idea - especially recommend whitewash - it doesn't half brighten up an area. I especially like the kids and brushes idea - it's never too early to start building character. :-)

  6. Paint. It's easy to PAINT a vine-type of image... just a line or three waving from bottom to top of wall ...however many lines needed to give desired width of 'vines'. Then paint some leaves angling upwards from each vine. Perhaps add a few flowers in there. If you mess up, simply paint over it :) ...

    As mentioned in at least one of the prior comments, soil (quality of nutrients and presence/absence of moisture) will quite directly affect the ability of a plant to grow. Adding some rich composted plant material or well-composted animal manure to a planting bed will make it much more appealing to anything you wish to grow. Soil with lots of organic matter also attracts worms, which burrow about and help open the soil to drain properly. ...But I would not do this against the wall of any structure.

    Please do post pics of whatever you choose to do!

    Cheers :)

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Written by Jake Howlett on Wed 2 May 2012

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