Mint Kolibri

'Mint Kolibri'
small-leaf variegated English ivy

Bent o'er the fire, her blind grandmother, sitting,
Is croaning, & moaning, & drowsily knitting:
"Eileen, achora, I hear some one tapping."
"'Tis the ivy, dear mother, against the glass flapping."

-John Francis Waller

The maenads, ivy-garlanded, toss their heads in mad ecstasy,
where with shrilling ululations they act out their ritual ceremonies,
where the Goddess's roving troukpers long have flitted peregrinant --
there is where we now must hasten with our impetuous sarabands!"

(84-54 B.C.E.)

Ivy was sacred to Dionysios/Bacchus & Cybele/Magna Mater, to whom Dionysios was servant & companion.

The maenads (or bacchants) would entwine themselves with ivy, arm themselves with thyrsi (pine staffs), & clad only in animal skins go on wild rampages through cities & forests, shrines & mountainsides, spreading terror as a religious rite.

For summer ritual it was grape-ivy that they used, & the drunkenness of maenads in honor of Dionysios who represented a break with the norms of civilization, a return to a wilder more natural state closer to the Earth Mother in her raging aspect.

For winter ritual it became evergreen ivy, symbolic of the persistence of life in a deathly time of year, for the Raging Mother had rule over both Life & Death.

The small-to-medium-sized leaf of the miniature ivy 'Mint Kolibri' has just the deathly-winter look, seemingly frosted, as it is shot through with streaks & splashes of creamy white, an attractive variegation that can brighten up a winter's afternoon, or a dry deeply shaded spot in the garden where nothing else would thrive.

The name Kolibri means "hummingbird" from an indigenous Carribean language that is no longer spoken, though the word became a borrowing for many other languages.

The cultivar was first introduced by the Frode Maegaard Nursery of Ringe, Denmark, in 1986, & by right of its vigor has become one of the standard ivies in America, very widely distributed for USDA zones six through eight. It is a common choice among florists & is even offered in supermarkets.

Used also for containers & as an indoor ivy, we love to use such tough fancy ivies for those places in the garden where few things thrive. We planted a couple starts in a decorative length of a partly rotted log, the log stuffed with some topsoil, & 'Mint Kolibri' (synonymous with 'Minty') began at once to spread gaily over the log until the log was scarcely any longer visible. It seems to establish itself quite a bit more rapidly than most fancy cultivars.

'Mint Kolibri' is highly variable. Its three lobes are of uneven proportion. In markings it can be so different leaf to leaf, year to year, or specimen to specimen, as to sometimes seem like multiple cultivars. And indeed, it has produced more or less stable branch-sports that have been developed as other named cultivars, including 'Carine.'

It will grow most quickly if watered once a week in bright shade, permitted to dry out entirely between waterings. But in less than ideal conditions it still gives a strong impression & settles in within the year, unlike many ivies that take a couple years or longer to really get established & begin to take off.

This is a striking choice to replace invasive ivies, as it's more beautiful than plain ivy & swift in its ability to cover a hillside, it is never invasive because it's a sterile cultivar, producing no seeds. It does start easily from cuttings.


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