For The Love Of Ivy

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This particular tree has always caught my notice. It was obviously once host to some magnificent ivy that was killed by cutting a large chunk of its ‘trunk’ (it nearly is!) near the base. The fabulously snaking dead roots still cover the bark of the tree, and some fresh young ivy is now returning to follow the original path upwards. Trees and ivy are a combination that really seems to divide opinion.   Some people feel that the ivy destroys the host tree, smothering it and making it compete for light and nutrients. Others point out that a strong healthy tree should be able to cope with ivy climbing up it, that it forms a valuable shelter and food source for wildlife, and plays an important role in the development of woodland habitat. I think a good way of managing ivy is to allow it to grow up the tree trunk to a certain point, and prevent it from going into the branches. In a gardening situation, it of course depends on taste. If you have a tree with eg. distinctive bark acting as a focal point you may not want anything to detract from that. I myself have pruned ivy in the illustrated way when I was volunteering in a project to renovate some hazel coppice. The woodland under renovation had not been managed for some time, so the conservation group taking charge of the site wanted the freshly pruned hazel to get growing, and other plants, including the ivy, could come back in gradually.

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Thameside Poplars

I would like to introduce some favourite trees of mine – magnificent poplars that grow on the south side of the Thames between Hammersmith and Barnes.

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I never tire of returning to walk along this attractive stretch of the river, and I often go purposely to visit these trees. Two or three of them are simply huge, easily picked out on the horizon from Hammersmith Bridge. They are very sculptural, with ridges running down their grey bark that are as deep as the width of my hand. Close up, they look like giant elephant legs. Once I was standing looking at them and an elderly man, riding past on his bicycle laden with shopping, stopped and told me that he liked to visit them too.  “Put you in your place, don’t they?” Lovely things.