Hoeing the Trees

When we moved in, we saw that the line of trees forming the rear boundary were wrapped with mature ivy. This was worrying, I’m no stranger to seeing ivy completely swamp and bring down large trees as this is precisely what is happening with the line of trees seen from the back of our old garden.

Most ivy never gets to any respectable size to be a cause for concern, I even encouraged ivy to grow up our old ornamental cherry tree, but the ivy at the back of the new garden had been running unchecked for a long time. Rampant ivy is bad for trees in several ways:

  1. Growing ivy wraps around the trunk gradually forming a rigid girdle that begins to stress the host at it tries to grow
  2. Ivy leaves can grow over the top of the host’s own, depriving the host of light
  3. Ivy still has roots in the soil and can compete with the host for water and nutrients
  4. Ivy is heavy and the host endures a greater load stress as it has to supports its weight
  5. Ivy is evergreen and its leaves act as a sail in stormy winter weather, greatly increasing the risk of wind damage

Despite this, ivy provides a great natural benefit to wildlife as

  1. A late nectar source for bees and insects
  2. A source of food (as berries) for the birds
  3. Somewhere to shelter against the elements and predators, all year round

However, I wanted to do something about the ivy that was covering the trees at the bottom of the garden. We have two main types, Scots Pine and Beech, there are also one or two birches. The pines have beautiful bark that glows a warm red in the sunset and the beech among them are young trees. I didn’t want ivy covering the attractive bark of the pine, neither did I want it out-competing the young beech.

With my mind made up, it was time to start hoeing the trees. Beech has a smooth trunk so it wasn’t too difficult to ring the ivy and then use the hoe to scrape the ivy off the tree trunks. This couldn’t be done with the pines, which have a rough textured bark.

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To get higher, a ladder was used to reach more ivy and to drag really tangled stuff off the trees, a telescopic tree pruner was employed. In the picture you can see the difference in the trees on the right, which I had done, to the trees on the left.

I should point out that the whole area had to be cleared of overgrown rhododendrons first. A short tree saw helped a lot with that job. Along with stumps, one also had to be careful stepping around a mangled wire fence that was was previously used (rather unsuccessfully) to hold the rhododendrons back.

Although it was hard work, it was rather fun peeling ivy off the trees and yanking it down from the canopy. It also gave me the opportunity to nosey on the rear neighbours from the increased vantage point of a ladder – probably the only time I can legitimately do so. The ivy left behind on the trees will gradually wither, die and hopefully fall off of its own accord since ivy needs to be rooted in soil to survive.

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Once the rampant rhododendrons were cleared and the invasive ivy removed, the whole area was opened up to the morning sunshine and for the first time I was able to reach the far extremities of the garden, nearly a month after moving in! I have grand plans for a woodland garden in this area, full of lupins, foxgloves, hellebores, erythroniums, trilliums, spring bulbs and many other woodland dwellers.

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Unfortunately, it will still be a long time before the first plants go in as there is still a great deal of clearing up to do at the back of the garden, which has suffered the most with neglect. All those cut down rhododendrons and ivy have to be dealt with too, they’re currently sat in a dauntingly large pile, waiting for me to bring the borrowed shredder out on a sunny day.

Work continues with clearing the back of the garden and bringing it under control but it is already possible to see the far end of the garden from the house and that in itself is a great achievement, there have been a few more since the ivy was cleared and there will be many more to look forward to as the garden returns to a blank canvas.

6 Comments


  1. Sunil, this is exciting! All your hard work is paying off and I can’t wait to see how the new garden progresses. I understand ivy can actually ruin structures and kill trees. It took my neighbor in MD a couple weeks to tear the pest from his deck. Now have a glass of wine and enjoy the view. I’ll look forward to seeing your trilliums and foxies in bloom next year. I myself have just discovered the joys of hellebores!

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    1. Hi Lynn, ivy on old walls can damage the mortar. I’m afraid you’ll have to wait longer for the trilliums and foxgloves as I don’t expect to be able to plant in that area for a while, it’s going to need a lot more work before it’s plantable, I’m going to tackle easier areas first.

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  2. I love projects that leave you with a sense of accomplishment and promise. A woodland garden will be fabulous in that spot. 🙂 Did you see anything good in the neighbors yard? 😉

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    1. Hi Tammy, I only saw a set of goal posts and a washing line so it wasn’t as exciting as I had hoped for. I’ve currently moved from the very back of the back garden to the very front of the front as another (easier and smaller) project I’ve started.

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  3. Morning Sunil. Great job! Clearing a patch of any garden gives a great sense of satisfaction, doesn’t it?

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    1. Hi Mrs Mac, it certainly does. There are several small areas that I’m looking to clear first before I tackle larger ones. It does seem that all I’m doing at the moment is throwing out stuff, but it’s all in preparation for large new borders and planting spaces.

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