Climbing the walls


THERE isn’t much that proclaims ‘country cottage’ more clearly than a foliage-covered frontage. Here are a few pictures I took around our village last week.

This is common or garden ivy (Hedera helix):

This is Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia):

This is wisteria, though I don’t know which of several forms it is:

And this is the piece de resistance, a Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) clothing three houses and making a start on the fourth:

I couldn’t find the source without looking as if I was casing the joint for a burglary, but as far as I could tell it is a single plant at the side of the left-hand house.

Climbing plants are not always an unalloyed blessing. Wisteria is not much of a problem because it twines its tendrils round supports, so it can be contained in a specified area and it does not damage walls. The two parthenocissus species attach themselves to masonry by means of adhesive pads on the end of tendrils, and if they are ripped off the pads can tear out mortar. If you need to get rid of one, it should be severed at the roots and allowed to die, at which point the adhesive pads cease to stick. They are vigorous and will enter any gap they find, so you may end up with an indoor plant as well as an outdoor one.

The real villain is ivy, which supports itself by adhesive pads and aerial roots. The latter find their way into cracks and crevices and widen them. While modern buildings are unlikely to be damaged, it is a different story with an old house. While the ivy is in place everything will seem fine but it if is removed all the holes and cracks are exposed to the elements and the rain gets in. I know whereof I speak: you have been warned. There is also the matter of keeping it under control, and I took this picture a few days ago of a workman precariously balanced on a roof while he wielded a trimmer. I presume he was insured.

It has been known for householders to take their liking for creepers to excess. The owner of this property in Rugeley, Staffordshire, was fined £1,000 for failing to comply with a council order to tidy it up.

This one in Blackheath, south east London, sold for more than half a million pounds. It doesn’t look much of a bargain to me.


This bruiser is a Texel ram. I passed his field the other day and paused at the gate. He stomped across from the other side to inspect me, with an air of ‘What do YOU want?’ about him. A friend who is a sheep farmer’s wife says this is a fairly slender specimen but I was glad there was a stout gate between us.

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