Don't believe the poison that's spouted about ivy
Like the appearance of the first swallow or the sound of the call of the cuckoo, springtime inevitably heralds the re-emergence of the "kill ivy" campaign with letters and news items crying out for its hasty removal.
There is no doubt that the question of controlling it or not makes for a fascinating debate as there are no easy answers.
I have always liked a plentiful cover of ivy around the farm and know that it is extremely beneficial to wildlife, but I do accept that in some cases it does need to be cut from older trees that are in danger of being smothered.
Most correspondents are genuine lovers of trees and are concerned that ivy is killing them. But one has to view the bigger picture and accept that we live in a country of mostly broadleaved trees and apart from holly and the increasingly scarce yew, ivy is about the only abundant native evergreen that provides food and shelter for wildlife in winter.
Ivy flowers late and is the last source of pollen for wild bees and other insects searching for nourishment before winter sets in. It supports many moths and butterflies and its berries provide an essential supply of food for numerous bird species.
Dense clumps of ivy also provide shelter for bats along with nesting sites for wood pigeons and owls, and even keep pheasants warm and safe on cold winter nights. The harm ivy does to trees is generally insignificant, although it will undoubtedly increase the risk of windblow, especially in older trees that carry large amounts of cover.
It is said that the English tend to cut their ivy but the Irish prefer to leave it alone. Perhaps this says something about our national character. The English countryside is undoubtedly well managed and their villages are picturesque and largely unspoilt thanks to strict planning laws. But, in general, their rural landscape can at times be a bit too manicured for my taste.
On the plus side, it has been found that ivy, above all other indoor plants, is very effective at purifying the air in modern office blocks that suffer from what is called sick building syndrome.