The Boston Ivy 2015

fall color boston ivy (1)
A two story high concrete block wall  of a storage rental business sits right about on the west lot line of the Detroit Garden Works property. It goes on and on, and sky high, for 120 feet. When the building went up some 15 years ago, I was unhappy about that 2400 square feet of beige concrete looming over us; that industrial glare was relentless. The front door to the shop is on the east side of the building. Our front door is on the side of the building. Quirky, yes. The history of the building determined the location of our front door. We warmed up to the prospect of a main door on the side. We had the idea that the walk down the long side of the shop to our front door would be a walk through a garden, and create anticipation for the experience to come. That giant wall was threatening to do in our idea to create a garden of our outdoor space.

fall color boston ivy (2)The friendly neighbor proved amenable to me planting Boston ivy on that wall. I knew of no other plant that would grip that wall for dear life, and grow up to cover a wall of this size.  I planted a 1 gallon pot of parthenocissus tricuspidata veitchii every 12 feet- 10 plants in all. The wall swallowed them up. But I knew if I kept them watered, and had some patience, these 10 plants would clothe that entire wall in green.

the Boston Ivy 022Some 15 years later, that wall is solidly covered with Boston ivy. We don’t always remember to put the water from the hose to the roots of those 10 plants. I have never seen them protest.  All summer long, we have 2400 square feet of lustrous green.  I would also like to point out that there has been no damage to the wall whatsoever over all of those years.  Their gripping mechanism is strong enough to support lateral branches in excess of an inch in diameter, but they have not harmed the masonry. But better than that glossy green all summer is the fall color. The fall color of Boston ivy alone is enough to warrant its inclusion in the landscape.

IMG_6255Rob took some pictures for me from the roof of our building. The vines do not color up evenly, or consistently.  The 2400 square feet in October is a tapestry ranging from green to olive, from peach to yellow, with dashes of flame red and cream. That wall is a fall garden story of astonishing size that goes on for weeks.  From start to finish, the Boston Ivy fall display spans 60 days.

IMG_6254Rob’s view from the roof tells the entire story. Though we have on occasion had a lateral branch detached in high winds, the gap fills in within a blink of an eye. Boston ivy is a more than willing grower. Willing, in our case, is a big plus. Should you grow it on a house with windows, be prepared to prune, and prune again. This giant concrete wall is a garden. How these vines have covered this wall is as delightful as it is miraculous. The most miraculous moment comes that one week in the fall when this wall is fiery gorgeous.

the Boston Ivy 027This concrete wall is spectacular right now, in a way I never really imagined.  I just took the first step. I put the plants in the ground, and watered. The ivy did the rest. This simple story is like any story waiting to be written about a landscape.  Plant some trees. Plant some shrubs. Plant some perennials, and a raft of bulbs.  Look after them. What grows will delight you.

October 29 2015 116the wall in late OctoberOctober 29 2015 115Our gloriette looks so beautiful with the Boston Ivy behind it. The fall is a favorite season of mine. There is so much color that comes courtesy of nature. How I love this late season moment.  How appropriate that the end of the gardening season is attended by so much fiery color and fan fare.

fall color boston ivy (3)The Boston ivy leaves will fade, and eventually fall. Their fruits are their brilliantly blue. The first frost will blacken these fruits.  But for now, I am enjoying all the color.  I have written about the Boston ivy every year for the 7 years I have been writing this blog.  Interested in how these vines looked in 2009?  Click on!


  1. I thought leaving ivy grow up a wall for a long time creates problems with the mortar requiring tuck pointing later. Is this not true?

  2. I love it, too! But if in a shadier, more humid location, alas, fungus may attack…..
    I’m such a bummer.

  3. This is so wonderful. This is creativity at it’s finest. Take something unattractive, take a chance, invest in the future and walah, behold the beauty! This is truly magnificent.

  4. Candice Kimmel says

    I have Virginia Creeper covering every wall of my house. It looks just like this. I wonder what the difference is. Love it!

  5. The wonders of nature…not to mention somebody with foresight and an idea! Beautiful!

  6. Rock on – you continue to light up our lives. Nancy

  7. Thanks for the awesome photos; yeah Beantown

  8. I planted (overkill?) one hundred plants on our brand-new house 16 years ago; and its tapestry makes my heart fill with joy every day! Because there are 4 sides; (and we have no winter, really), there is one starting to turn green right next to one without leaves…..and the color in the fall is like your wall!

    Boston ivy is the best! And it does no damage to stucco, either! We do, as you say, trim it away from the windows!!


  9. Silvia Weber says

    Dear Deborah,
    Your wall of Boston Ivy is indeed gorgeous! The seasonal show with color change keeps life interesting.
    Do you prune the Ivy to prevent it from growing on to your neighbor’s roof or in to his gutters?
    May see you in November, hopefully.
    XOX, Gerry and Silvia

  10. Ellen Devine says

    We live in an older neighborhood with an alley behind the house. Most of the year it is nothing to look at, However in the fall there is a blaze of Boston Ivy which lights it up like a spectacular sunset.

  11. Gorgeous. The crazy thing is, your post makes me wish for a huge concrete wall that I can cover with Boston ivy!

  12. The beauty of that wall will not let me pass this post without commenting…Here goes. GORGEOUS! Glorious! I do love Boston Ivy. I especially love your comment about “how appropriate it is that the growing season is attended by such fiery color and fan fare”.

  13. We impatient planners learn, in this way, to wait and delight.

  14. Deborah, just fabulous the way you’ve turned an eyesore into a beautiful sight! The fall colors of the Boston Ivy are so spectacular. Thanks for the inspiration!

  15. The original vertical gardener!! How ironic. xxoo.

  16. Reminds me of the old adage about ivy. “The first year it sleeps. The second year it creeps. The third year it leaps.” Anyway. Well done you. It looked great this fall. Every better than in these beautiful pictures. And that giant wall, filled with ivy, does make for a special feeling coming into the shop, any time of year.

Leave a Reply to Ellen Devine Cancel reply