Dwarf English Ivy

"Outside the shivering ivy clings,
While on the hob the kettle sings."

-William Wilfred Campbell

Dwarf ivy cultivars lack the invasive qualities of natural Hedera helix. The variety 'Goldheart' in our garden was even slower in growth than the other dwarf ivys growing in the same harsh area.

The first photo above shows 'Goldheart' a year after it was planted, in early Autumn, having not yet spread much beyond the imbedded rocks it was rammed in between. It took a full four years before it settled in so well that it began to spread & climb up the bark of tree trunk. It is self-clinging, & not harmful to bark.

IvyIt is otherwise just as hardy as varieties that grow more swiftly, & it doubtless would've settled in a lot sooner had I not required it for a dry shade poor-soil hillside.

For our region & zone, it is my strongest recommendation never to plant invasive ivy, but that does not mean to avoid the cultivars. These little ivys do thrive even in dry shade & are among the most important choices for difficult areas too dark or too dry for other shade plants. It does just as well in bright sun, but would need more water to remain its sparkling best. Even when slow to establish, once any dwarf ivy has matured, the constant evergreen coverage is a flawless groundcover for all four seasons.

The range & variety of the dwarf English ivies is unmatched by any other genus of vines. 'Goldheart,' a 1973 recipient of the Award of Garden Merit, is just one of many diverging forms. It sports a creamy yellow center on each leaf.

IvyIt will not be a feature of every 'Goldheart,' being dependent on climate & conditions, but ours gets a striking pink hue by winter's end, when winters have been particularly cold. A February close-up of some leaves clinging to the tree trunk are shown in this pink phase.

The pink appears only in the golden center of the leaf, & with spring's arrival, the pink fades back to the usual creamy-yellow. I just love this particular behavior & too bad it can't be promised of all 'Goldheart' plantings.

'Goldheart' is often listed as two words, 'Gold Heart.' I prefer it as a single word, but really neither spelling has any precidence, since its actual cultivar name is 'Oro di Bogliasco,' though it is only rarely called by its registered name in the USA or UK. The correct name means Gold of the village of Bogliasco on the Italian Riviera. Whether or not the original sport for 'Oro di Bogliasco' really came from that village I've not been able to ascertain.

To call 'Goldheart' low-maintenance is an understatement. It requires no fertilizer. Nor does it require pruning, though it is not injured by pruning if there is reason to restrict its spread. It forms a dense enough groundcover that weeds are scarsely ever a problem.

Very rarely 'Goldheart' develops a vine that has reverted to normal green; if this happens, the plain branchings should be pruned out to preserve the cultivar's character. It should never be hard-pruned as far as the rootcrown, or it is apt to regrow without the golden hearts.

'Goldheart' often has much yellower centers than ours, as ours is cream-yellow. The depth of the color depends on growing conditions; the deeper the shade, the paler the yellow; more light enhances the goldenness. The stems on ours are quite pink year-round, but on some are a darker maroon.

If grown in bright sun, or allowed to climb to the top of a tree to find bright sunlight on its own, mature branches will go through a metamorphosis & change into Goldheart Tree Ivy. Ivy does not flower & seed except on these mature, upright, non-climbing "candalabrums." If kept out of direct sun, 'Goldheart' will not develop the tree-ivy candalabra (see the page about H. helix 'Congesta' for a complete discussion of the nature of tree ivy).

For other variegated ivies, see moonlight-tinged 'Jubilee,' snow-touched 'Ingrid,' & the curly-leafed 'Golden Curls.'


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