We recently caught this Chinese praying mantis munching down on the native yellow jackets that have been feasting on our flowering specimen of Hedera rhombea ‘Cheju’. I guess this looked like a horticultural food truck to them. Evidently, they aren’t effected by the toxin in its sting. It’s truly an insect eat insect world out there!
One of the top pollinator plants in the garden this month is this clump of adult ivy. All ivies clump, instead of run, once they gone through horticultural puberty, which usually happens around age 15. English ivy, Hedera helix makes a similar, but larger shrub, that flowers in July. The clump below is our selection of Hedera rhombea, which is a much smaller plant that flowers two months later.
Our selection, Hedera rhombea ‘Cheju’ is an adult selection that I found hiking through the woods on Cheju Island, Korea in 1997. Two cuttings we sent back rooted, and 26 years later has made an incredible, unpruned garden specimen. Pollinators include honeybees, native bumblebees, and an array of wasps and yellow jackets. Our native Carolina anoles perch atop the flower stalks, just waiting for lunch to arrive. The pollinators are so numerous, the plants give off a discernable buzz. As we try to constantly educate people, the insects don’t care where the plant originated.
We get really excited about adult (mature) forms of ivy (Hedera) that are shrubs (arborescent). Juvenile (young) ivy vines, like a young child, run around the garden and get into things they shouldn’t. Like kids, ivy goes through puberty, which happens only after it crawls high (30-40′) into a tree or other tall object. It then settles down, stops running and becomes woody, with a compact, evergreen growth habit. It also begins flowering (an amazing pollinator attractant), sets attractive fruit, and we have seen no errant seedlings in our trials.
Just as adult people grow rounder with age, arborescent ivies also change shape and the leaves lose their lobed appearance and the growth becomes dense and woody. By propagating from these difficult-to-root adult parts of the plant, the adult ivy plant retains the mature characteristics and no longer feels the need to crawl around and conquer the rest of your garden.
We have offered selections of adult ivy in the past. We feel they offer a great year-round interest feature in the garden but they have not been particularly well received (maybe this is due to the stigma inherited from their younger siblings). Would adult forms of ivy be a plant you would like for us to offer again?