October 21, 2013

Recognize This?

Do you recognize this plant?

I saw this compact, glossy shrub at Wave Hill Garden in New York City in early October. It was covered in subtle greenish little flowers. I was struck by its rounded, full shape and the deep green, almost black, shining leaves.

This was an eye catcher and exactly what I think I need for a spot my garden.

Do you know what it is? Does a close up of the little flowers help?

How about a close up of the leaves?

Yes. This is common English ivy, Hedera helix.

Ivy! A dense, full shrub, about three feet high and pleasingly mounded.

Immature, vining ivy leaves
Here is something interesting about ivy: when it is immature it is a vine and we all know how aggressively it climbs and how long it can get. A monster. The leaves have three pointed lobes that we all recognize.

But when an ivy vine reaches the end of its structure or the top of a tree, it has nowhere further to climb, and it then matures.

When ivy matures it changes genetically. The leaves lose their lobed points and become rounded. The vine stops being a vine and the topmost part of the plant becomes shrubby and dense.

If you take a cutting from the shrubby mature part of the ivy, it will keep its altered genetic characteristics -- you get another mature shrub form of the plant.

But if you plant the seeds from the mature flowering ivy, you get an immature vine, and you are back to having rampant vining English ivy.

Weird. I had never seen a mature ivy before, and it was pretty. That alone was worth the trip to Wave Hill, but there were many other delights that day as well.

Wave Hill is in the Bronx, but feels miles away. It's tucked into a busy neighborhood, a couple streets off Broadway, with aggressive traffic whizzing by at its edges, but all is serene inside the grounds.

It overlooks the Hudson River, across from the Palisades.

It is a mature and old garden, with beautiful tree and shrub specimens. That's not a flowering tree -- that snow white blast is the foliage on a variegated 'Wolf Eyes' kousa dogwood.

It had been a private garden originally and has beautiful walks and pergolas, a greenhouse, flowerbeds, and the original stately homes.

It's a relaxing garden, with the iconic Wave Hill chairs dotted about the lawns to encourage sitting, and many families spreading out picnics on the grounds.
The "Wave Hill" chair
I spent more time on our visit sitting around than walking through the garden areas. That's a giant bottlebrush buckeye behind me.

You can't beat a day when you learn something completely new and astonishing about a boring old plant, you get to sit in a beautiful oasis in the city, and you have a bottlebrush buckeye for a backdrop.

Doesn't get any better than that.
 

35 comments:

  1. I had no idea! How interesting! I wonder why nurseries don't sell mature ivy plants - I like that better than the monster vine I have been fighting (my own fault, I planted it). I would love to trade it in for a mature ivy! Looks like a beautiful garden, and perfect weather for enjoying it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Holley, I know, weird, isn't it, about the ivy! You can buy mature ivy online (from cuttings of a mature part) but I worry that those flowers might seed about and create more immature vines everywhere.

      Delete
  2. So interesting about the ivy - I had no idea. Thanks for teaching me something new today!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kathryn, the info about the ivy was new to me too!

      Delete
  3. It's really oasis in a big city! I love this tree with white leaves, I thought it would be pretty to have something similar in my garden. Nice chair and relaxation, Laurrie!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nadezda, Wave Hill really is a quiet oasis in the busiest city, and I could relax even though we were in such an urban area. I love going there.

      Delete
  4. Great photo of you, Laurrie! Looks like a great place to get away from the city. I certainly learned something new today--I had no idea ivy could be a shrub as well. And that Kousa dogwood--what a stunner!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rose, thanks! Every commenter is saying that the fact about ivy was news to them, so I am feeling less uninformed now, thank goodness : )

      Delete
  5. What a stupendous view...looks like a fabulous place to spend an Autumn afternoon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Scott, it really was a great place for a fall afternoon, and the weather was warm and beautiful, so it was just about perfect!

      Delete
  6. I had no idea that English Ivy did anything but twine. I have never seen such a buckeye either. Wow. What an interesting trip you had.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lisa, I love learning new things and seeing interesting plants when I visit another garden, so this day at Wave Hill was the jackpot : )

      Delete
  7. Beautiful and who knew about ivy...fascinating.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Donna, thanks so much -- the thing about ivy was really new to me, and it sounds like few other people knew about it.

      Delete
  8. I've heard of shrub ivy but didn't realize it was the same thing as vining ivy. It's a cool plant as a shrub. Are you going to add it to your garden?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tammy, I am trying to find out whether those abundant little flowers on the shrub ivy produce seedlings all over or get dispersed into the woods by birds -- if so, they will create a problem since I do not want immature seedling vining ivy spreading in my gardens. I'd like to add a shrub ivy, but not if it creates a maintenance problem. Need to do some research!

      Delete
  9. I saw this plant at the Plant Delights open house this fall and loved it as well. So cool, and the bees were all over the flowers. Wave Hill is one of the those "great escape" places - you can't believe it's actually New York City, much less the Bronx. I seem to recall that the Rockefellers used to live there and, in order to preserve the view, bought up all the land on the Palisades across the river in New Jersey. Is that correct?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sarah, the Rockefellers didn't live at Wave Hill, it was built for William Lewis Morris, and then subsequently wealthy publishers and captains of industry bought and resold the property. Lots of famous people like Mark Twain and Teddy Roosevelt visited there. But I don't think the Rockefellers were involved. The Rockefellers did give money along with several other financial titans of the times to create Palisade state park, and it is likely that whoever owned Wave Hill at that time wanted their views across the river to be untouched!

      Delete
  10. I love Wave Hill and don't get there often enough. And you're right about learning something new while visiting. That is just the icing on the cake.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sue, Wave Hill is a treasure and not that hard to get to from here, although the traffic is a bit of a challenge. It's worth it, and certainly was on a warm, beautiful early fall day.

      Delete
  11. Very cool information Laurrie. Ivy came to mind when I looked at the leaves and then I thought, nah. Wave Hill looks like a lovely spot for an afternoon under that bottlebrush. Maybe near the dogwood too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Patty, I know, I thought the same thing ...nah, that can't be ivy. I had to flag down a gardener there and ask about it. She was very informative, but most of what I learned I looked up later online.

      Delete
  12. Who knew? This is so interesting--nature is the coolest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heather, nature is really cool, always coming up with a new twist on things!

      Delete
  13. Your shots are gorgeous!!! What an outstanding garden! And that is just nuts about the ivy!!!!! I have never heard that before! Who would have thought that the aggressive ivy could be so...calm and pretty!!!! You learn something new everyday!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nicole, that's what I love, learning something so weird and new about a plant I thought I knew everything about.

      Delete
  14. I've wanted a shrub of mature ivy ever since I read about this in one of Christopher Lloyd's books, maybe 30 years ago. And I still don't have one. But not for not trying. The ivy on my Brooklyn garden fence is mature and blossoming. I think I'll try to root a cutting again next spring.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. James, you are the first commenter who actually knew about the changes in ivy when it matures! I am impressed that your Brooklyn vine has a mature terminus. I wonder how easily cuttings will root. Should be an interesting experiment.

      Delete
  15. I've heard that ivy matures to a shrub but I've never ever actually seen it. Would not have guessed what I was looking at there. Thanks for the education!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marguerite, I had not even heard about mature ivy, so it was all news to me. An education for all of us : )

      Delete
  16. Laurie....I grew up in Smithtown, Long Island, NY. It is a lovely town right next to St. James. I am getting a bit nostalgic as I age, so I googled Holly by Golly in St. James because I was thinking back on it and came across your blog! I remember Mrs. Meserve well. She lived on a beautiful piece of property with her holly plants. You'd pass by her estate whenever you drove to Long Beach, a popular beach on the North Shore of Long Island near St. James. My mother bought quite a few holly bushes from her back in the day. A former boyfriend of mine back in the 70s lived in one of the guest houses on her property. I didn't realize her accomplishments until I read about them just now in your blog! She was a very pleasant woman!! Thank you for the write up on her and the picture of her that you posted!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Madam Kittykat, I am glad you found my blog and enjoyed a little nostalgia tour. I thought the story of Mrs. Meserve was fascinating, and she seems to be completely unknown among all the gardeners and horticulturalists who grow all her holly plants to this day.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for responding! You couldn't see her estate from the road....it was completely surrounded by tall holly hedges, but her Holly by Golly sign was visible! Wonderful memories....I live in the South now, for 27 years, and have only been back to Long Island twice in all these years, but now I'm wanting to go back again!! When I do, I'll definitely try to get some photos of this place and post them! :)
      Thank you again!
      Karen Howard

      Delete

Sorry about requiring code verification -- I experimented with turning it off to make commenting easier, and I got too much spam. Thanks for taking the time to comment, and to type in silly codes. I appreciate hearing from you.