Back in the 1950s, we girls used to daydream of having a little white cottage covered in vines, enclosed within a white picket fence. Of course, we’d marry somebody tall, dark, and handsome, and cook meals right out of Good Housekeeping.
Only in Nantucket. I did marry my tall, dark, handsome guy and moved into a concrete block house with no vines or fence, only a pair of oak trees in front and a tall hedge around three sides. We cultivated four orange trees still bearing fruit — sweet Valencia oranges yielding the best juice we had ever tasted in Florida.
In the mid-1970s, my husband’s job sent us across the country to a house with wood shingle siding. We painted the exterior a light grey, with white trim. We parked a white Luytens bench on the front porch and planted roses and herbs. I added young English ivy starts and fretted over the first year of “sleep” before the second or third year of “creep.” Finally, the ivy vines began to “leap” and climb the house wall and the back fence, helping to transform the lot into an English garden styled after a Gertrude Jekyll design.
An ivy covered wall or fence can provide a grace note for a garden if it is kept trimmed within bounds and not allowed to run rampant.
Forty years on, I did allow it to run rampant. Health issues slowed me down to the point I couldn’t keep up. The garden became a hodge-podge of overgrown herbs and perennials and invading grass as well as untamed ivy. Last week we hired a lovely yard man who is busy at work cutting and pulling down the overgrowth. Trails where the vines left their mark streak bare walls. Trunks have to be sawn down without damaging the wood. It’s ugly. But not for long.
A fall paint job is the impetus for clearing the walls. The color we’ve chosen is a Cape Cod grey to replace the long-faded dingy color. And, of course, the once white trim work will be refreshed, too, something like this, but with our recessed ranch-style front porch . . .
Now, about those ivy roots. The vines will sleep a year or more, then begin to creep again. Someone else in the future can deal with the leaping stage.