Use easy-to-grow English ivy (Hedera helix) to make an attention-grabbing topiary for your home.
What You'll Need:
•Heavy container, such as terra-cotta or stone
•Saucer for the pot (optional)
•1 (2-quart) bag potting soil
•Handful of time-release fertilizer
•1 (6-inch) potted ivy or 2 (4-inch) potted ivies (Look for ones with long trailing stems.)
•Topiary form or wire frame
•Rafia (best because it stretches with plant and will break when ivy is too big) or string
Place a small square of window screen (or panty hose) over the pot's drainage hole, then fill halfway with potting soil.
Mix in time-release fertilizer according to package directions. Slip plant from container, center it into your decorative one, then fill with soil as needed.
Fit a topiary form into the pot with care -- here we are using an obelisk form and Bird's Foot ivy. Make sure that it is secure.
Water well, adding more soil if necessary to weigh it down. Separate trailing ivy stems so that all sides of the pot are covered.
Wrap one runner around a wire -- never force stems because they may snap. Wrap a second runner around the same wire in the opposite direction. Repeat to cover all wires.
Don't jump from one wire to the next with the same runner as you risk losing form. Tie stems to the frame with rafia.
•The prettiest topiary is one where the size of the plant's leaf is in scale with your wire form. A large-leafed ivy will fill in a delicate form quickly, but will also mask the shape of the form. Whereas, a small-leafed miniature ivy looks dense and full until you begin winding it onto a large obelisk form.
•Invest in a coated or painted wire form, they don't rust and can last for years.
•Stick with classic forms.
•Snip leaves as necessary to keep the topiary tight and compact.
•Select a weighty container. Stone or terra-cotta work best, but you can also add stones to the bottoms of other pots.
•Keep things in scale when choosing a pot, the inserted frame should be about twice the height of the container.
•Water: Potted ivy needs good drainage and should never be left in standing water. Allow the upper inch of soil to become dry to the touch before watering.
•Light: Ivy needs some sun to grow and prefers the medium to bright filtered light found at the north- and east-facing windows. Avoid direct sun.
•Food: Feed once a month with a liquid fertilizer according to package directions. Apply to soil only.
•Pests: Scale and spider mites are the most common culprits. Keep plant clean by removing dead leaves from soil surface. Place it in the shower every so often and rinse with warm water to remove dust. If insects appear, spray with insecticidal soap.
•Pruning: Keep on it. Ivy plants will become bushy and the topiary will lose its shape unless snipped and clipped. With clean, sharp pruners, clip just above where the new branch meets the stem.
By Kate Karam, Cottage Living
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