Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today


NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.


NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.


New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.


Plant Profiles

Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: 'Sulphur Heart' Ivy

By April, the garden's hardy plants show the jagged history of the Winter just past. Broken tree limbs? Yup, there was a mean and heavy blizzard or two. Brown or drooping leaves that, after a milder Winter, would be proudly evergreen? Yes, temperatures plunged—and when there was little snow cover to help insulate the soil from yet another sharp freeze.


This enormous specimen of 'Sulphur Heart' ivy looks like it should have been walloped: It has unusually large evergreen leaves, and its location is so exposed—up a trunk right at the front fence, with the street just feet away—it functions as the prow of this property's entire ship.





But it is barely touched. Unscathed and, seemingly, not even granting that scathing was ever a possibility. Spring teaches all adventurous gardeners to be grateful that any at all of their garden's experimental plants have survived. And it also gives a gold star for every advantage, no matter how small, that each such trial plant can be given.


I had, in fact, stacked the deck toward success with this ivy. Many years ago, when I planted a single pot of it at the base of the tree, I took all the stems off the stake and laid them horizontally around the trunk. I buried them shallowly, with just the leaves and a couple of stem tips exposed. New stems promptly sprouted all along these horizontal ones and, as is their particular talent, affixed themselves more tightly to the trunk than I could have ever done by trying to tie or fasten the original stems vertically.


These self-clinging stems, then, are snuggled as close as possible to their supporting structure—the trunk, in this case—making it a sheltering structure, as well.




I also sited the potted ivy's root ball at the back of the trunk. This old tree (a weeping cherry whose crown had long since died) is only six feet in front of the house itself. With the picket fence feathering the wind that strikes from the street, the house blocking outright wind that arises from behind, and the trunk itself providing its own bit of blockage, the young ivy plant was hunkered down out of direct strikes from the worst weather.


Young plants are nearly always less hardy than more mature ones, so its comparatively benign siting allowed this Hedera colchica 'Sulphur Heart' to increase in size for several years before any stems had climbed high enough up the trunk to become fully exposed. And even if their tips were killed back, the ever-increasing bulk of ivy plant around the base of the tree would, eventually, reach a large and high-enough critical mass that new growth could creep still higher and yet still survive.




Yet another factor is that the ivy is self-protecting. Growth is twiggy as well as densely leafy. Outer leaves might be killed back, but persist in place through the Winter to muffle the wind (and hence reduce the wind-chill) experienced by leaves and stems deeper within the canopy.


The result is the thriving colony of variegated Persian ivy you see here. The cherry trunk is entirely wound in thick ropy ivy "trunks" that are heavily clothed in foliage. There is now so much mass and density to the growth overall, that even the most exposed outer leaves are rarely scarred by freezing weather that began in November and might continued to pay nightly visits into early May.


Happily and together, this ivy and me, we've created a monster.


Here's how to grow Persian ivy that's variegated with white and slate-green instead of yellow. It is as hardy as 'Sulphur Heart', and enjoys the same handling.

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