BRUNS plant of the month – January

English Ivy – Hedera helix ‘Arborescens' and Hedera helix 'Arbori Compact'

Evergreen and ever so lovely

Hedera helix, which is widespread in Europe, is one of the most well-known ivy plants. Its long, flexible shoots climb up trees, shrubs and walls and reach heights of over 20 m. Wherever the ivy finds no hold for climbing, it grows easily as a ground covering plant.

A closer look at the pant reveals two different types of leaves in ivy. The foliage of young, climbing ivy plants (adolescence) is lobed, usually 3-lobed, often 5-lobed. When the ivy becomes an ‘adult’, that is when it begins to blossom and bear fruit (adult phase), it forms a different leaf shape, the so-called age shape. The leaves are not lobed and have a diamond or heart shape.

Gardeners have taken advantage of the age shape to cultivate compact and upright, non-climbing varieties. From these types arose roundish, dense bushy shrubs with decorative evergreen foliage and beautiful flowers and fruits. In order to retain the growth properties of the age shape, the plants are propogated vegetatively by cutting or grafting. The following varieties of shrub ivy are offered in speciality shops: Hedera helix 'Arborescens' reaches a height and width of 1.5 to 2 m and has a long pointed, slightly curled leaf. Hedera helix 'Arbori Compact', the dwarf form of the shrub ivy, only reaches a height of 1 to 1.2 m and the shape of the leaves is somewhat rounded.

Both varieties are a lovely addition to garden design thanks to their shiny evergreen foliage. The bright green adds a beautiful splash of colour especially in winter. In addition, ivy is one of the latest blossoming plants in autumn. The greenish-yellow, spherical umbels appear in September and October, and produce lots of nectar which is welcomed by bees, beetles, flies and other insects. The pea-sized, reddish-purple fruits make for beautiful winter decorations. They mature in the following spring and then take on a blue-black colour.

The shrub ivy is vital, robust and healthy. It looks lovely in small groups or planted over an area in the garden area. In perennial beds it sets evergreen accents and is a true highlight with its late bloom. Leaves, flowers and fruits can be used well for floral arrangements. Finally, the small, dense shrubs are also attractive year-round potted plants.