Featured

Flowers from your local flower farm

Flower and Farm bouquet with sweet peas and Iceland poppies
It’s becoming a big thing. Grow local. Whether it’s Brexit causing problems for nurseries moving plants into and out of Britain or the madness of flying cut roses half way round the world, everyone with half a brain can see that buying plants and flowers and food locally instead of from hundreds or even thousands of miles away makes sense. And don’t talk to me about sending beef to and from Australia…

Flowers From The Farm is a membership association promoting artisan growers of seasonal, sustainable British cut flowers Established only in 2011, Flowers From The Farm now has over a thousand growers and florists exchanging ideas and advice. Their Find Flowers facility is the place to start looking for local flowers whether you’d like to give a locally grown bouquet, or buy for yourself, or you need local flowers for your business.
This spring I’ve been visiting some of the Flowers From The Farm members and a couple of days ago I called in at Flower and Farmer in gentle hills of west Northamptonshire. (For North American readers: this is pretty much in the middle of England.)

Started only in 2018 by aunt and niece team of Jo de Nobriga and Milly Naden-Robinson, Flower and Farmer have one and a half acres of flowers and foliage to supply wholesale to florists and floral designers, for weddings and events, and for sale at regular the farm gate openings. They're now on their way to doubling in size.

Growing flowers for cutting is very different from growing flowers in garden borders and although bursting with horticultural experience, Jo and Milly have had to learn new ways of growing, especially under cover – and learn fast. And they have. Jo, in particular, is ruthlessly self-critical but the result is a sharp attention to detail. Consider the refreshments.

They kindly offered us tea. Ordinary or Earl Grey? How strong, first pour? Cake? Lemon drizzle or chocolate fudge? Corner slice or side slice? Getting the tea and cake right for their visitors was important and it’s the same with the flowers.

They’re delighted with what they’ve achieved – but are always looking to improve, looking for new varieties and thinking about efficient sustainable ways of growing. The autumn-sown ‘Spring Sunshine’ sweet peas in the tunnel looked excellent – with 18in/45cm stems – but right at the front was one stem that had dropped its buds. What could they do about that? There were not enough Iceland poppy plants in pastel and peachy shades and too many primary colours. They’re looking into that too. Paying thoughtful attention to the flowers is the way to maintain high standards - and the way to improve.

I can’t wait to go back… Their next farm gate sales days are Saturday, 12 June and Saturday, 17 July (11am – 2pm). You can collect pre-ordered bouquets, and flowers are sold by the individual stem so you can choose exactly what you want. PLUS there are teas and homemade cakes whose quality I can enthusiastically endorse! Corner slice or side slice?

Find out more about Flower and Farmer at https://www.flowerandfarmer.com/
Follow Flower and Farmer on Facebook
Follow Flower and Farmer on Instagram

And if you’re too far away, check the Find Flowers facility on the Flowers From The Farm website to discover your local flower grower.

 


Discovering Dahlias

Discovering Dahlias by Erin Benzakein
Having been despised as garish and – frankly - the flowers of the lower classes for decades, the rehabilitation of the dahlia began with the very definitely not-at-all working class Christopher Lloyd using them extensively in his garden at Great Dixter, in Sussex.

The dahlia has never looked back and the books have followed. There are three more recent and upcoming dahlia books that I’m going to discuss here over the coming weeks and the first is Floret Farm's Discovering Dahlias by Erin Benzakein.

I’m a big fan of Erin Benzakein. She runs Floret Farm in Washington State and has done more than most to popularise the idea of locally grown, non-industrial cut flowers. She’s gone from a one-woman enterprise to planting twenty acres in just a few years.

I really enjoyed her first book, Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden, and reviewed it here in 2017, and now comes another.

This is an inspiring book, but not without its faults. The photography, by Erin’s husband Chris, is immediately striking not just for the awe inspiring views of the cutting fields but for the delightful detail revealed in the close-ups.

The catalogue of Erin’s recommended varieties is arranged by colour and there are, for example, five pages of dahlias in peachy shades – thirty varieties in all – and all shown in huge bunches held by Erin in front of her ubiquitous blue shirt and described in detail. It’s all so tempting that wants lists soon extend to a second page of back-of-the-envelope scribble. And this where things begin to become less convenient.

There’s no list of suppliers of dahlia tubers and/or cuttings in the book. Instead, we’re directed to the Floret Farm website where we must sign up to receive the “Discovering Dahlias Bonus Materials” by email. A great way to collect email addresses. This arrives promptly and includes descriptive details (not just a name and a link) of twenty three American dahlia specialists, seven in Canada, four in mainland Europe - but only two from the UK. Not good.

Three hundred and sixty varieties are included in the directory. I presume they’re all available from American suppliers – frankly, I just don’t have time to check. But I looked up all those peachy varieties in the latest edition of the RHS Plant Finder – which lists all the plants available from British and Irish nurseries, 81,000 of them. Eight of the peach varieties are listed with at least one supplier – twenty two are not listed at all. And if you want to check Erin’s thoughts on varieties you already have on your wants list – forget it: there’s no variety index.

The practicalities are very much based on experience in Washington State and British growers, and growers in other parts of North America, will need to adapt. She assumes you’ll root your cuttings under lights, for example.

So we end up being inspired and tempted and mad keen to add to our dahlia collection – or start one. American readers can, I assume, spark their enthusiasm into action. British and Irish enthusiasts will have quite a lot of work to do.

  • Beautiful and inspiring
  • A tempting choice of varieties revealed
  • Paper and print quality excellent
  • Extremely well priced
  • Few recommended varieties available in Britain
  • Skimpy pest and disease coverage
  • Sad absence of a variety index

“Beautiful to look at and genuinely inspiring, but it could do more to help turn inspiration into achievement.”

Floret Farm's Discovering Dahlias by Erin Benzakein is published by Chronicle Books.

Order Floret Farm's Discovering Dahlias in the UK

Order Floret Farm's Discovering Dahlias in North America

 

Discovering Dahlias by Erin Benzakein - the first peachy pages


They're all foxgloves, Digitalis - OK?

Digitalis x valinii (centre) and its parents-©GrahamRice-©T&M-©ScottZona

“The smartness and absurdity of plant names” is one of things I’m going to be discussing here on the re-launched Grahams Garden blog, as I did on its predecessor Transatlantic Gardener. We can start with an old favourite given heightened absurdity by the good people at the Royal Horticultural Society – Digiplexis.

“Oh, no!” I hear you cry… Yes, I’m sorry. And we’re going to do Mangave as well…

So. Here’s the story.

Our British native foxglove, a familiar tough biennial, is Digitalis purpurea (above left). The Canary Island foxglove is Digitalis canariensis (above right), a tender rather woody perennial. Charles Valin, then plant breeder at Thompson & Morgan, crossed the two species together and gave the resulting plant the name of Illumination Pink (above, centre). It won the Chelsea Flower Show Plant Of The Year award in 2012.

But, before the Canary Island foxglove was Digitalis canariensis, it had been Isoplexis canariensis – botanists had thought it was sufficiently different from other foxgloves to be in a genus all of its own. Closer examination proved that this was a mistake and the fact that it crossed easily with D. purpurea was one of the reasons that it was re-classified as a Digitalis. The RHS botanists gave the new hybrid the botanical name of D. x valinii, commemorating the breeder who first made the cross.

Other breeders then got in on the act and made their own crosses. And, somewhere along the way, over in the United States, someone decided that crossing two different genera together – Digitalis and Isoplexis – sounded much more impressive than crossing together two different Digitalis and the name Digiplexis® was born. This was much more a marketing exercise than it was a piece of thoughtful botanical nomenclature.

So, let’s be clear. Digiplexis® is an invalid, made up name with no standing whatsoever and which only serves to confuse gardeners. So it was especially maddening to see, just the other day, in the new plant centre at the RHS Garden at Wisley in Surrey, plants labelled Digiplexis® (below). And note the little symbol for a Registered Trade mark. This is a marketing exercise, not a plant name. Aren’t plant names confusing enough, without this sort of nonsense - and without one branch of the RHS muddling up the good sense of another?

But wait, there’s more. Pretty much the same thing has happened with Mangave®. Note that little ® again. This time we’re talking about rosette-forming succulents mainly from arid regions of the Americas – Manfreda and Agave. Nearly twenty years ago it was recognised that there was no justification for keeping these two genera separate so Manfreda was merged into Agave. All very sensible.

But then in the same way as with those foxgloves someone realised that, from a marketing point of view, crossing plants from two different genera was much more impressive than crossing two different species of the same genus. And Mangave® was born, recommended for patio planters.

But there’s payback for this sleight of hand. That first Digitalis hybrid turned out to be far less hardy than was originally announced and so the name Digiplexis® has become attached to plants that fail to make it through their first winter. Something similar will probably happen with Mangave®, which in the UK need grittier compost and more winter protection than is often mentioned.

But haven’t we suffered enough? In recent years plant taxonomists have taken on board the idea that they exercise caution in their decisions about plant names and respect the needs of the wider plant community. The shoot-in-foot madness of trying to make us call chrysanthemums Dendranthema is long gone.

But then someone else comes along and confuses everyone all over again. And the very least that the RHS can do is make sure that it agrees with itself.

Digitalis x valinii on sale as Digitplexis at the RHS Plant Centre at Wisley


Radishes from Senegal!

Radishes grown in Senegal from a British supermarket
 

I bought some radishes in the supermarket the other day. Turns out that they were grown in – Senegal! Isn’t that astonishing? 250g (9oz), sixteen radishes, for 39p (56c) - that's amazing too. [UPDATE: I just found radishes from Senegal in Britain's poshest supermarket: 150g (5oz), twelve radishes for £1.12 ($1.71). Not cheap.].

There’s been snow on the ground both in Northamptonshire and in Pennsylvania this last week or two so not much chance of growing them in January wherever I happen to be. But I didn’t expect them to come the best part of 4,000 miles.

It’s not possible to grow them in Pennsylvania at this time of year unless you have a heated greenhouse and the energy that would go into heating it is probably more than is used to fly that packet of radishes from west Africa.

It’s certainly possible to grow them in winter in a cold greenhouse here in Northamptonshire, but I’ve recently lost the use of Daikon radish 'Alpine'my greenhouse so no go there.

And, to be honest, I didn’t have much luck growing them outside last year either. What, I couldn’t grow a few radishes in my fancy new trial garden? Well, actually, I grew quite a few but far fewer than I’d intended because they were attacked by a nasty little pest: flea beetle. It attacked the rocket and the turnips too.

The varieties I grew were ‘French Breakfast 3’ and mildew-resistant ‘Celesta’ – of course, mildew-resistance is not much use if the flea beetle gets them. Anyway, this year I’m going to try two variations.

Firstly, I’m going to grow them under low fleece tunnels to keep the flea beetle off. And secondly, the red-and-white ‘French Breakfast 3’ had a good tangy taste so I’ll use up the remaining seed of that and I’m also going to try ‘Celesta’ again ‘Giro’ was too mild so I’m going to try ‘Solito’ instead. It has a high resistance to cracking, which was another problem in my troubled year of radishes.

What would I grow in north east Pennsylvania? I’ll be trying the recent All-America Selection ‘Roxanne’ which is proven across a variety of climates and takes the summer heat well. And everyone in our area recommends Daikon radishes, of one sort or another, so I’ll be giving them a try. The 15cm, pure white ‘Alpine’ (above, US) and 'Mino Early' (UK) looks especially appealing.

And, until the new crop comes in, I’ll be checking the radishes in the supermarket. Morocco is the nearest source I’ve spotted so far. Sigh… So grow your own as soon as the weather allows.

Look for a good selection of radish seeds at Johnny's Selected Seeds (US - 24 varieties) and at Mr Fothergill's (UK - 21 varieties).

And, in the winter, perhaps we should just not bother eating them... From Senegal!

Award-winning radish 'Roxanne'


New Varieties in the Burpee Advent Calendar

Burpee 2017 Advent Calendar
Guest post by judywhite

Last year, as garden writers, we were treated to the Burpee seed company's wonderful Advent Calendar, a big cardboard publicity piece that was an instant hit. (Sorry to say it's not available for sale; Burpee should launch a limited edition for holiday purchase.) Instead of a manger or Santa Claus on the cover, there was a snowy image of Burpee's Seed House Barn (below), which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And instead of chocolate behind each calendar date "window" from December 1st thru Christmas Day, there was a mini-packet of a new variety of Burpee seed to grow.

Burpee is well-known in the States. Founded in 1876, the company has long been a gardening source of new seed hybrids. Their 2016 Advent Calendar (above) featured 25 new varieties, many of which some friends grew for us this summer in a Zone 6 NJ test garden. (Thanks, Dave and Jonathan!)

Cauliflower 'Depurple'Some surprises were Canna 'Cannova Rose', a dwarf type that actually did bloom from seed within a few months, and purple cauliflower 'Depurple Hybrid' which, unlike purple potatoes, actually kept its color when cooked. Of the tomatoes, the roma 'Gladiator' was most bountiful, right up to frost, firm and good sauce-making. 'Oh Happy Day' was a sweet, perfect salad tomato, and the Italian pink cherry tomato 'Maglia Rosa' was also excellent. Basil 'Pesto Party' grew well, as did mildly hot Pepper 'Dragon Roll Hybrid,' Eggplant 'Patio Baby,' and variegated Nasturtium 'Orange Troika.' There were a few disappointments: 'Prism' Kale, Pepper 'Gold Standard' and Watermelon 'Mama's Girl' didn't do so well.

This week, we were delighted to again find a Burpee promotional Advent Calendar in the mail. The 2017 cover (above) depicts Burpee's historic Fordhook Farm House decked out in wreaths, with a vintage truck out front. The 25 new varieties in this 2017 calendar include an intriguing green sunflower that's supposed to be great for cut flowers ('Sun-Fill Green'), a yellow Cosmos with white centers ('Lemonade', which did well on trial in England this year), a prolific striped green and gold-bronze small plum tomato ('Shimmer'), and a huge 7"x5" red pepper called 'Stuff Enuff.' Info about their many new varieties can be found on Burpee site.

Burpee's Fordhook Farm, located in Doylestown in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, has Open Days in summers, often thru The Garden Conservancy. The historic buildings and the test gardens are well worth a visit.

Burpee 2016 Advent Calendar


Cosmos on trial

Cosmos 'Lemonade' ©GardenPhotos.com

I grew some of the new cosmos on my trial ground this summer - with mixed results, I have to say, although some of that was my own fault.

I was especially interested in growing the two new lemony yellow varieties, ‘Xanthos’ and ‘Lemonade’ (above), side by side but also grew ‘Cupcakes’ and ‘Cupcakes White’, ‘Apollo White’ and ‘Capriola’ plus an impressive form of Cosmos atrosanguineus, Eclipse (‘Hamcoec’) which we’ll get to another time.

With ‘Capriola’, I messed up. I put the plants too close to a newly planted, dark-leaved hybrid elder that grew prodigiously, made over 2m high in its first season and bushed out to elbow the cosmos aside.

At the other extreme ‘Cupcakes White’ was superb. It was rather leafy at first, and not as early as ‘Xanthos’, ‘Lemonade’ and ‘Apollo White’, and started flowering at about 90cm with the purest white cups. Some flowers were simply cupped, some had a ring of slim, shorter petals around the golden eye. Lovely.

Cosmos 'Cupcakes White'‘Cupcakes Mixed’ turned out to be mostly white, but with a few flowers in magenta pink or palest rose and one in magenta pink with a crimson center. Not a very effective display, frankly.

‘Apollo White’, and indeed the others in the series, has made its mark in overtaking the Sonata Series as the gold standard in dwarf single cosmos. The whole Apollo Series was superb in the Royal Horticultural Society trial last year. Reaching 50-60cm, ‘Apollo White’ began flowering early but in early October started to collapse for no apparent reason. Still excellent, though.

Now we come to yellow-flowered ‘Xanthos’ and ‘Lemonade’. Basically, they’re the same. OK, British-bred ‘Lemonade’ was a little later into flower, a little leafier at first, perhaps with occasional pink tints slightly more pronounced. But, especially as summer wore on, you’d be hard pressed to say which was which without checking the labels. Both were strong yellow at first, maturing to soft yellow with a white center. Lovely. Dead headed every few days they both flowered well into October.

Next year? 'Cupcakes White' and 'Lemonade' - but I'll have to give them more space, that will be a challenge...

 


Grow, Cut, and Arrange

A spring arrangement from Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden by Erin Benzakein (with Julie Chai)
Our gardens are full of flowers and we like to have them in the house too but so many of us fail to make the best of our cut blooms. Which are the best flowers to grow for cutting at home? How should we grow them? How should we treat them to ensure they last as long as possible? How should we arrange them for the house? An inspiring new book by the owner of Washington State’s Floret Flower Farm aims to answer all these questions for gardeners on both sides of the Atlantic.

Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden by Erin Benzakein (with Julie Chai) is a lovely looking book. Organised by season, the challenge has been to adapt large scale commercial techniques to the needs of home gardeners. Few of us grow on the scale of Erin’s farm and none of us have the experience of growing so many different flowers. She wants us to do more than simply cut what we have plenty of and stick them in a jar.

Floret Farm's Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest, and Arrange Stunning Seasonal Blooms by Erin Benzakein and Julie Chai is published by Chronicle Books at $29.95/£21.99.Which are the best? Erin does not say “grow this” or “grow that”, she simply covers a huge variety of flowers and leaves it up to you, from roses and sweet peas to flowering carrots and hellebores. However, I was very surprised to find that calendulas, annual asters and Shasta daisies are left out entirely. I’ve been enjoying one or the other – and sometimes all three – in a jug on my kitchen table for months.

How to grow them? The climate in Washington State is closer to the climate of the UK than it is to the climate in much of the rest of North America so although her cultural advice is excellent, growers in many parts of the US will have to adapt to their own conditions. I’d never heard the surprising advice to leave dahlia tubers in the ground for the winter but to divide them every year because otherwise they'll become too heavy to lift! Not in Britain!

How to make them last? There’s excellent advice on caring for cut flowers and for every flower covered there’s an invaluable Vase Life Tricks section which is perhaps the most universally valuable part of the book. This is the part I’ve used the most.

How to arrange them? Each seasonal section includes very useful step-by-step illustrated guides on how to create a series of arrangements in a variety of styles. Oddly, the individual pictures are quite small while a great deal of page-space remains empty. Seems a waste...

This is an elegant and very useful book, full of valuable advice presented attractively. But the fact remains that there’s no one book that provides all guidance we need. And no asters?!

Floret Farm's Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest, and Arrange Stunning Seasonal Blooms by Erin Benzakein and Julie Chai is published by Chronicle Books at $29.95/£21.99. 

 

                                     


Roadside apples

Apple 'Christmas Pippin'. Image ©Pomona Fruits

In one of my very first posts here on my Transatlantic Gardener blog – ten years and 861 posts ago – I commented on the number of apple trees growing by the roadside. Since then there seem to be more and more, as passengers throw apple cores out of their car windows although, unfortunately, some of the best British examples have been destroyed by road widening.

Now, having not really paid attention (I have to say), I find that an apple found by a roadside in 2003 was introduced in 2010. I spotted the story in the latest catalogue from Pomona Fruits, one of Britain’s finest fruit nurseries. The apple is called ‘Christmas Pippin’ and it’s an easy-to-grow version of Britain’s all time favourite apple, ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’.

“The eating quality is exceptional,” say the good people at Pomona Fruits, “characterised by a sweet and aromatic flavour, lovely perfume and a very pleasant honey after-taste. The fruits are crisp and juicy with a melt in the mouth texture that makes each bite increasingly more pleasurable.” They also say that it’s “very easy to grow and produces reliable, heavy crops countrywide.” Sounds like the perfect apple and the Royal Horticultural Society thought it so good that they gave it their Award of Garden Merit in 2014.

‘Christmas Pippin’ was spotted by the side of the M5 motorway in Somerset in western England, assessed at Britain’s National Fruit Collection and at the country’s largest commercial grower of apple trees and introduced in 2010. It was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit in 2014. You can read the full story here.

In this case it turns out that ‘Christmas Pippin’ is probably a seedling from a lost tree that once grew in an orchard nearby. It's available in Britain from Pomona Fruits but unfortunately it doesn’t yet seem to be available in North America.

But wherever you’re stuck in traffic, just look out of the window and see what you can see…


First thoughts on trialling Shasta daisies

Leucanthemum- 'Real Galaxy'. Image © GardenPhotos.com

Shasta daisies have come a long way in recent years, with developments on both sides of the Atlantic, and this year I’ve been looking at some of the recent introductions in my new trial garden.

The great American plant breeder Luther Burbank is said to have created the Shasta daisy using some creative, though now discredited, hybridisations between leucanthemums and related genera. He made pollinations between various species and genera but it seems certain that the resulting seedlings were not actually hybrids: pollination but no fertilisation.

The first double-flowered variety was spotted from a train passing through Norfolk in eastern England, growing wild, by Horace Read. On his return journey he’s said to have pulled the emergency cord, jumped out, dug up the plant and quickly got back on the train. That was in the 1920s.

These days, one of the leading breeders is North American, Terra Nova Nurseries, the other British, RealFlor, with other breeders in North America, Britain and Holland also making improvements.

This year I grew almost all the recent Shasta daisy introductions. I can’t make definitive judgements in their first season, the plants went in at different times and varied in size enormously, but a few things are clear.

The range of flower forms is impressive with neat doubles and tightly anemone-centred forms and, while we still have no pink-flowered forms, the yellow-flowered varieties are becoming increasingly impressive.

As I write in early October, most still feature a few flowers except for 'Shapcott Gossamer' and 'Shapcott Ruffles' which have been over for many weeks, in spite of regular deadheading.

Both ‘Real Galaxy’ (above, in summer) and ‘Goldfinch’ are still opening new buds, as is ‘Victoria’s Secret’ but its stems are so thin that they’re collapsing under the weight of the flowers. ‘Lacrosse’ had a break but this morning I see that it's producing new buds. ‘Real Charmer’ has no buds coming but the open flowers still look good.

Next season will be a much better test as all will be starting from established plants. I’m looking forward to it, and all thanks to Luther Burbank and Horace Read.


Ivy: Friend or Foe?

Hedera colchica 'Dentata Variegata'

Ivy is a plant that divides opinions. Attractive foliage, good for wildlife, cools buildings… Invasive, ruins walls, harbours pests…. Research and opinion on all these issues has been in the news increasingly in recent years and now the most comprehensive book on ivies ever produced has been published by The Royal Horticultural Society.

Hedera: The Complete Guide by Hugh McAllister and Rosalyn Marshall is exactly that – the complete guide. With more than four hundred pages, and impressively illustrated in colour throughout, this is the second in the RHS Horticultural Monograph series which began with last year’s excellent book on kniphofias.

This is an attractively designed book – far more appealing than most gardeners expect from a serious plant monograph even though the predominant colour of ivies is, well, green. All the species are described in detail, but not in torrents of baffling technical language; two hundred cultivars are illustrated and described, and the fat descriptive checklist covers all the other names that have ever been used, over two thousand of them.

One very useful feature of the book is its use of the Pierot system of classification. This was created by Suzanne Pierot, the first President of the American Ivy Society, in the 1970s and divides ivies into nine convenient groups based on easily-seen features of the foliage. Brits are largely unfamiliar with this approach so its use in this book should help it stick.

HederaBookCover9781907057731But what does the book have to say about those pros and cons?
Attractive foliage? Obviously.
Good for wildlife? Yes. “Ivy berries are eaten by at least 17 species of bird in Britain indicating the importance of this plant group for the support of vertebrate wildlife…. They have a high energy, though low protein, content and form a large part of the diet of several species at this time of year (winter).” “The autumn flowering of ivy provides nectar for a wide range of invertebrates at a lean time of year.” Not to mention ivy as a valuable nest site.
Cools buildings in summer, warms buildings in winter? Yes. “Measurements on ivy-covered stone walls across several historic sites in England… showed that an ivy covering resulted in cooler walls in summer and warmer walls in winter.” “Recent research on the climate of southeast UK… suggests that a 21-37% reduction in winter heating could be achieved.”

Invasive? Sometimes. While most ivies can develop vigorous growth in their native habitats, it is almost always H. hibernica that causes problems as a non-native plant. “All ivies need not be banned in climates where invasive ivies are a problem. There are enough dwarf, miniature and slow-growing cultivars of H. helix to provide a good range of safe and attractive plants for indoor and outdoor use.” In my Pennsylvania garden, as soon as an ivy shoot penetrates the deer fence the deer eat it.

Damages walls? Sometimes. “Any increase in relative humidity due to wall plant cover is offset by lack of rain reaching the building.” But: “ivy can root into weakened historic walls or buildings, and can lift blocks of stone off walls” and also damage walls built and pointed using soft mortar.

Harbours pests? Sometimes. Ivy is attacked by viburnum scale which also attacks Viburnum tinus. “In pots, by far the most serious pest of ivy is vine weevil” – which attacks a wider range of other plants. I’d be interested to know if outdoor ivy has a role as a reservoir of vine weevil infestation.

This is an impressive book by one of our most seasoned horticultural taxonomists and a relatively young recruit to the RHS botany team. The RHS has more in the series on the way, I look forward to the series building into an invaluable resource.

Hedera: The Complete Guide by Hugh McAllister and Rosalyn Marshall is published by the Royal Horticultural Society at £40.00/$53.45.

You can read more about ivies in gardens and in the wild in these Transatlantic Gardener posts.
Ivy is not always a menace
Ivy reveals how nature is nuanced
Ivy goes green