From the vaults – Ivy (26/09/2011)

dsc02577I’ve got this thing goin’ on but, unlike Billy Paul in the soul classic, mine isn’t with Mrs Jones; it’s with Ivy.

This ‘thing’ I refer to is a struggle for territorial supremacy; the prize for the winner being control of the garden. As things stand, I have the weapons, Ivy has the stamina, guile and resourcefulness and is battling me to a standstill. Soon the weather will drive me indoors for extended periods and hard-won gains will, meeting no resistance, be retaken. And there’s no accommodation to be had here; no reasoning with this stuff. If there were some means whereby I could concede a few larch-lap panels and maybe an expanse of wall, I’d happily sign a treaty and get on with my life. But Ivy is implacable: given the power of speech, my creeping nemesis would probably borrow a line from Star Wars: “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”
Ivy has the edge when it comes to the mind games too: we are playing by different rules. My ambitions extend no further than containment; eradication has never been part of the agenda; it knows this, senses it as weakness and exploits it. Senses too the soft spot and grudging admiration I harbour for its tenacity, the shelter it provides for newly-fledged songbirds, and its role as a late source of pollen, lingering long beyond the point where colour has drained from most of the garden; providing sustenance for hard-working bees well into the autumn.
And there’s another thing – and this is no minor consideration – there are parts of the garden where it’s the only thing keeping the fence upright. It also knows that, and indulges the knowledge in silent mockery. Information is power.
Sometimes I’ll encounter Ivy in an altogether different, less adversarial, setting. A few days back for instance, following one of those mysterious paths you seem to find in all manner of places: distinct, obviously well walked yet, paradoxically, always completely deserted. There’s a point on this particular path where you step from deep woodland cover straight into open ground, defined only by low hedges. There’s no transition, no thinning of the tree line: you’re in the woods; take two paces and you’re in the open. The one link is the ivy, winding its way from the stunted, coppiced hawthorn hedges, around the trunks and lower branches of the woodland perimeter.
The noise from the industry of thousands of bees and hoverflies is as loud in this place as I have ever heard in any setting. The proximity of the woods seems to provide a natural echo chamber, amplifying the sound and, however long you might choose to pause there, the insects seem neither distracted or concerned by your presence.
I can’t really make up my mind about Ivy.

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