Episode 13: Ivy With Angela Tandy Of Fibrex Nurseries

Angela’s Mother, Hazel Key, started the nursery on an allotment in Evesham in the late 1950s. She had discovered Pelargoniums and fell in love with them.

The eldest of her six children got the job of looking after the youngest when necessary and Hazel, along with Angela’s Father Dick Key, got to work building the business.

Ursula, Hazel & Dick’s third child, joined them at the nursery whilst their two eldest children married and left home. Then Richard the fourth one joined and Angela, number five was the last. Number six decided against nursery work and became a nurse.

The family business moved to a bigger site in the late 1960s where they were able to expand and grow everything from Roses to conservatory plants.

In 1984 they moved again and settled on growing Pelargoniums, Ivies and Ferns along with Tuberous Begonias and Southern Hemisphere plants, which came with Richards’s wife Heather when she moved her nursery.

Angela is in charge of Ferns and Ivies, Ursula Pelargoniums, Richard shows and maintenance, Heather shows and her tender plants and in Angela’s words, their long suffering staff try and keep them all in order!

In addition to being respected horticultural experts, they hold two National Collections and continually attain top accolades at flower shows such as RHS Chelsea, Hampton Court, Malvern and Gardeners World Live. 

The nursery is open to visit, but they also offer an excellent mail order service and you can order plants through their website. 

Key talking points with Angela were:

  • Growing ivy as a houseplant
  • Ideal growing conditions for ivy indoors
  • Ideal growing conditions for ivy outdoors
  • Different growth habits and the suitability of certain species for certain garden situations
  • Fast and slow growing varieties
  • Pruning
  • Benefits to wildlife
  • Unsuitable situations for ivy
  • Growing ivy in containers

If you’d like to view and shop the full range of Ivy that Fibrex Nurseries has to offer, you can visit their website:


Nursery Contact Information:

Fibrex Nursery LTD
Honeybourne Road
CV37 8XP

Telephone: 01789 720788

Email: sales@fibrex.co.uk

Opening Hours
1 Mar – 31 Aug: Mon-Fri 9am-5pm
1 Sept – 28 Feb: Mon-Fri 9am-4pm
1 Apr – 25 Jun: Sat-Sun 10.30am-4pm

Twitter @FibrexNurseries

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Fibrex-Nurseries-Ltd-217275455080317/

Instagram fibrex_nurseries


Episode Transcription


Transcription – Episode 13 of the Roots and All Podcast
Ivy with Angela Tandy of Fibrex Nurseries
Release Date 18/12/2018
Episode available to listen to at www.rootsandall.co.uk/thepodcast


{SFX: Intro music plays}

[00:01] INTRO: This is the Roots and All podcast, here to help you get growing. Join us as we explore everything plant-related both indoors and out, and provide the information you need to create your perfect green environment. Presented by Sarah Wilson.

[00:21] {SFX: Intro music starts to fade out}

[00:21] SARAH: Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the Roots and All podcast. I’ve been trying to pretend that Christmas isn’t happening and to be honest, the weather’s been so mild up until the past few days it really hasn’t felt at all festive but of course, Christmas is happening and I can’t ignore it forever so this week’s episode has as much of a festive theme as I’m prepared to indulge in. I interviewed Angela Tandy of Fibrex Nurseries a good few weeks ago because I wanted to make sure I had an episode in the bag that at least made a nod to Christmas but also because I know Angela is one of the UK’s experts on ivy. Ivy’s one of those plants we tend to take a little bit for granted but it’s a brilliant plant and I’ve always had a soft spot for it. But before the interview, I just wanted to let you know about the Roots and All Christmas opening hours. The next Budcast is due out on Christmas Day and I’m pleased to say there will be an episode that day. If you’re having horticultural withdrawal symptoms during the holiday period this episode may provide you with a little festive entertainment, so don’t forget to tune in for that. I’ll probably take a couple of weeks off at the beginning of January and will be back again mid-January. I already have three interviews in the bag so I’ll be raring to go with those and who knows, I might even release a bonus episode or two because I’m keen to get as much good content out to you as I can. So that’s the housekeeping done, now on with the interview.

[01:37] SARAH: Angela, thank you for joining me and I’m going to start by asking you questions about growing ivy indoors.

[01:42] ANGELA: OK

[01:43] SARAH: Bet you didn’t expect that one. Are there any varieties that are suited to being grown indoors?

[01:48] ANGELA: The only problem with ivy is that it’s a hardy subject so you have to grow it in a cool condition. The best ones are the hardy foreign ivies which are the algeriensis type, which are the ones that are generally sold as houseplants.

[02:03] SARAH: Right, ok.

[02:04] ANGELA: And they do fine but again they need to be cool because the only thing that ivy really gets is red spider and they get it from being hot and dry.

[02:14] SARAH: So if you were gonna grow them indoors and you sort of had a problem with the red spider mites, what would be the best thing to do with them?

[02:2] ANGELA: Well, if they’ve got red spider mite chuck them outside cos that will kill the red spider and you’d have to spray them because if it’s warm outside you’re gonna have problems and they tend to lose all their leaves and look horrible. So cut them back, chuck away all the foliage and start again, basically.

[02:41] SARAH: Right, ok. I did actually go to a talk at a place that had a bathroom and it was one of those bathrooms with absolutely no light, it was one of those bathrooms where you opened the door and the light came on automatically and they had an ivy growing in their and it was the most stunning thing I’ve ever seen and it was trailing, I don’t know how many feet  but it was going for miles. Had they pout it in there just for the purposes of the talk or do you think it was genuinely growing in that, those conditions?

[03:04] ANGELA: Well I suppose if it got decent light because ivy does like shade so it wouldn’t want a lot of light, so if people are in and out of the bathroom during the day, it would be getting enough light. And it would have a nice sort of dampish atmosphere. So, yeah, it probably does grow alright in there. It would be worth a try.

[03:25] SARAH: So if you had a cool spot indoors that would be ideal for it.

[03:30] ANGELA: It’s the, the problem is the heat, really.

[03:33] SARAH: OK, interesting. And if you kept them indoors would you need to feed them.

[03:36] ANGELA: Oh yeah. You need to feed your ivies. They, gotta keep them looking nice and they always look best when they’ve got new growth, so keep them trimmed, it encourages new growth and then feed them we grow practically all of ours for show and stock in pots and some of them have been in pots for 50 years. They’re huge. But they are fed every fortnight through the growing season and they look lovely. But we have to keep trimming them because they grow so it encourages new growth and encourages lots of work but they do look nice,. So don’t neglect them otherwise they go all woody and horrible and you get not enough leaf to cover all the woody bits.

[04:21] SARAH: Right. And what do you feed them with?

[04:24] ANGELA: It’s just a general fertilizer something like a, perhaps a houseplant fertilizer. They don’t need a high potash one. I mean if that’s all you’ve got that’s fine, but they need a more high nitrogen. But a balanced one, you don’t want it too high nitrogen because if it’s variegated you’ll lose the variegation.

[04:42] SARAH: Right. And this might be a silly question, when you say feed them during the growing season, what is the growing season?

[04:48] ANGELA: It’s usually about April to October. They sort of slow down and you think ooh they’ll be growing all winter but they actually stop. You won’t get any growth out of them through the winter. And they don’t like cold winds either. That can scorch the foliage, cold wind, in hanging baskets and things. So if we have a change in the weather and you’ve got them in hanging baskets outside, lift them down because if they’re blown about they will dry out.

[05:18] SARAH: Right. OK. And how do you prune yours?

[05:23] ANGELA: Well, you get some scissors or secateurs and you cut ‘em back! Fairly hard. The big stock plants, they get cut back in the winter, quite hard. It’s my brother’s winter job and he moans like mad about it, it’s sort of “I’ve got a pot the ivies”. Well, get on with it? And they’re cut back hard and in the winter we repot them because they’re all in pots, if you keep potting them on for 50 years you won’t be able to lift the pots, so we cut the roots. So a l;ot of root pruning goes on.

[05:54] SARAH: OK.

[05:56] ANGELA: They’re put back into the same size pot with new compost and they sulk a bit and they drop all their leaves and then in the spring when they start to grow they look fabulous because it’s all new growth.

[06:06] SARAH: Mm. Fantastic.

[06:08] ANGELA: So you can be quite vicious and be vicious because they’re better for it.

[06:12] SARAH: Right. And also, is there a reason why the two sorts of leaves are different? So, the mature leaves are different to the juvenile leaves?

[06:19] ANGELA: Well, yes, because the juvenile leaf is their climbing leaf so they’re small and they produce lots of leaves and they’re climbing. When they change to their adult form they’re turning into a shrub, not a climbing shrub, they go to an ordinary shrub. So that’s when they change. So they’re not going to produce climbing foliage then.

[06:41] SARAH: Right. So if I have them in the garden, what sort of conditions do they prefer there?

[06:46] ANGELA: They like it shady-ish, not too wet, they don’t like a soggy place, they prefer it drier. And that’s about all you need really.

[06:58] SARAH: OK. Do they all have the same growth habit?

[07:00] ANGELA: No. Some of them have got little tiny leaves and so you’ll get a bushy habit. Some of them have got a vine-y habit, so you’ve got more stem than leaf in effect, so the leaves don’t cover the stems. Some of them are more trailers, they don’t like to cling very well. Well, there are a few that are upright and don’t cling to anything. Yeah, you sort of have to know your subject a bit, to choose right one, because some of them if you plant it, it will never cover the wall. In a hundred years it will never cover, because it’s too slow. Some of them do actually stop at a certain height and some of them will go on for ever.

[07:42] SARAH: Yeah, that’s really interesting isn’t it?

[07:46] ANGELA: And there are some of them, especially the foreign ivies, don’t cling very well so you put them against your wall and they will never climb. they need a hand. They produce lots of growth, they just don’t want to cling, they’re more sort of ramblers or scramblers.

[08:03] SARAH: Yeah, because I’ve got the upright one in my flower border and it’s beautifully behaved and it’s a really good plant.

[08:08] ANGELA: Yeah, and you can use it for topiary and you know like you would for a box, as an edging plant.

[08:15] SARAH: That’s interesting, yeah. Cos obviously they don’t mind being clipped.

[08:19] ANGELA: No, no. There is one called ‘Very Merry’ which actually looks like box and grows like box.

[08:28] SARAH: Interesting. And is that fairly slow-growing?

[08:30] ANGELA: It is.

[08:31] SARAH: OK. Are there any varieties that I should avoid if I’ve got a small garden?

[08:53] ANGELA: Er, yeah. I would avoid any of the hibernicas, because they’re too vigorous. Colchica and algeriensis, all the big-leaved stuff are really vigorous. Unless you want a wall covered, you know, quickly but you really do have to think about what you’re planting and anything that says recommended for covering a wall or something, don’t have it because it’s going to cause a lot of work, basically.

[09:03] SARAH: OK, so that brings us on to the million dollar question, do they destroy walls?

[09:08] ANGELA: If you’ve got soft brick, where I come from it’s soft Cotswold stone and I wouldn’t put an ivy up that, because it’s porous and their little clinging roots can really hang on and it’s limey, which they love, limey soils. So they really like it and they cling hard so I wouldn’t plant it. But, you know, proper bricks, it won’t destroy it.

[09:37] SARAH: Right. If you let it grow up into trees, does that cause a problem?

[09:41] ANGELA: The only thing that it does is, you know when ivy turns to adulthood and it starts to fruit and flower, it gets top-heavy and so the weight of it can pull over a weak, dead tree. And that’s generally what happens and perhaps it is a way of clearing a wood, isn’t it? You know, the ivy will actually pull the tree down and it can move onto another one, in effect, when it’s fallen. But it’s only because of the weight, they don’t actually kill it, it’s just the weight of it will pull over a weak, dead tree.

[10:16] SARAH: Could you plant one as a ground cover, in a border?

[10:21] ANGELA: Yeah. It would have to be a nice little neat one. There’s one called ‘Anita’ which is a little, bird’s foot shaped leaf, it’s so pretty and when it’s grown as ground cover it looks like moss. It’s absolutely gorgeous and it’s well behaved and you can clip it. It’s a good topiary one or slow ground cover. And the one called ‘Spetchley’ is one of the slowest growing but it’s gorgeous. I saw it at Whichford Pottery, which is near us, and they had it planted over, they’ve got like a sculpture of a body lying on the ground and they’ve covered it in ‘Spetchley’.

[10:58] SARAH: Wow. So it doesn’t choke out your plants, if you pick the right one?

[11:03] ANGELA: If you pick the right one and just don’t let it run away. You know, you’ve got to garden ivy, you can’t just plant it and leave it otherwise it will take over. I mean, you’re not going to turn your back and it’s going to be running away, you’ve just got to once a year check the ivy and deal with it. Just don’t leave it alone.

[11:23] SARAH: And just out of interest, if we did want to have something that absolutely romped away and wanted to cover something quickly, what would you choose?

[11:30] ANGELA: I would, it depends, if you want a pretty leaf or if you want a traditional ivy. Traditionally, hibernica. It is vigorous. It’ll take wet conditions. It’s known as the Irish ivy, it didn’t originate in Ireland, it should really be known as the Atlantic ivy because it’s all along the Atlantic seaboards, you know, in Europe. And it’s everywhere and it doesn’t mind it wet and it grows like mad.

[12:03] SARAH: So, I think, again, pruning, same outdoors as indoors, same sort of time?

[12:05] ANGELA: Yep.

[12:06] SARAH: And is there anything you need to be careful of with your timing of the pruning.

[12:10] ANGELA: No. Just do it.

[12:13] SARAH: Because I’ve seen people say they’re good for late bees…

[12:15] ANGELA: Well, yes. If you don’t want to cut the flowers off, until after they’ve flowered, I mean when you’re walking about you can smell the ivy, it’s really strong and the bees really love it. I keep bees. Have you ever tried ivy honey? It is foul! It tastes like it smells, which I always think is a bit strong, it’s a bit of a weird small. It’s horrible! And it sets rock hard and it’s not awfully useful for bees because it sets in the cone so they can’t actually use it. So you have to be careful that they don’t have too much of it.

[12:52] SARAH: Right, that’s fascinating. So is it just the honey bees that visit it at this time of year?

[12:55] ANGELA: No, everything. Wasps, flies, hoverflies, everything is on it.

[13:01] SARAH: So it’s good for wildlife then, presumably?

[13:02] ANGELA: Oh, yes. And then if you leave the flowers to fruit they don’t ripen up until quite late, so it is a good crop for the birds in February and March.

[13:15] SARAH: OK, so if you were gonna leave the flowers and the fruit for the birds, then you could chop it after that?

[13:22] ANGELA: Be really hard because it will come back and that’s the problem you get with ivy, people don’t cut the flowering stuff off because they think it won’t come back, but it will. Because ivy will fruit and flower when it hasn’t got anywhere it can go, so it gets to the top of the wall or the thin branches of the tree, where it can’t climb or it’s a bit more light for it, and so it changes form and it’ll flower and fruit. But it is a damn nuisance when it is really thick on the top of a wall, so you need to cut it back, right back to the wall and it’ll do the same again next year. It’s not going to be just one job you have to do. Sadly, you won’t kill it. Most people think, well most husbands think “Oh no, I can’t kill this stuff!”.

[14:11] SARAH: If you did want to, kill it, if I do want to remove it quickly from somewhere it’s really unwanted, I will just snip it at the base.

[14:23] ANGELA: Yeah that’s what you need to do, just snip it at the base and if you can, you’ve got to make sure that there’s a gap between the ground and the stem because ivy doesn’t actually feed with the roots that it’s clinging to the wall with or the tree. So you need to let it dry. If it’s been there a long time and it’s thick, woody stems, your best bet is to leave it for a few months and then you can pull it off without damaging the wall too much, but if you try and pull it off while it’s green, that’s when you do the damage.

[14:56] SARAH: Right, OK. And you did mention about growing it in containers. If you had some pots and things, what would be the best ones to grow?

[15:03] ANGELA: Again, it’s really what you like and depending on what you want it to do. I mean, people come to me and they ask “I want to plant ivy in a container and grow up a wall”. Well, you can’t really, because it needs a root run and they will run out of steam in a pot. We tap ours out and repot them with fresh compost. Well, when it’s attached to a wall, you can’t do that and that’s what you need to do to keep it growing, is to keep rejuvenating the soil. So growing ivy in a container up a wall isn’t really feasible and if it runs out of steam it’ll die, or it’ll just get to a certain height and stop. And it’ll look horrible because it doesn’t produce the leaves, and then you get all woody stems and it looks horrible.

[15:51] SARAH: Yeah. So presumably, trailers are better for containers?

[15:55] ANGELA: Yes. Lovely trailers and you can just swap them about. The trouble with British gardeners is they won’t throw them away. “Oh, I’ve got to keep that ivy for a hundred years!” But you’re better off growing it trailing in a container. You might get three years out of it but then think, I’m going to get some new ones, because they look lovely when they’re young. So just take some cuttings and start again. Throw the old one away once you’ve got your plants growing and just rejuvenate it.

[16:27] SARAH: Are there any new ones coming out that you’re quite excited about?

[16:29] ANGELA: I haven’t seen any, it’s really weird, I used to get all my new varieties from supermarkets and the garden centres, because they would come in from Holland and Belgium. I haven’t picked up a new ivy for probably, 8 or 10 years. And I collect quite a few from my own, my 400 hundred varieties, they sport and produce new growth which you can take as a cutting and grow it on and see how it looks. We haven’t had anything for years. I don’t know what it is with ivy, it has stopped sporting and I haven’t seen  a new one for years. I really don’t know why, whether or not it’s environmental, I really don’t know what it is. But I’ve got a lot that I’ve produced from my own. But I haven’t had one for ages. And I’m thinking I’d quite like to name one after my granddaughter, well I haven’t had one, so she can’t have one.

[17:21] SARAH: Oh, no! So can you grow them from seed as well?

[17:26] ANGELA: You can but they do generally go back helix, go back to specie, from seed, because they’re a sport you see. It’s like a vegetative cutting, they don’t cross very well. I mean, you do get hybrids in the wild but you look and you think, it looks pretty boring, most of them are so…

[17:50] SARAH: And what’s your favourite one?

[17:51] ANGELA: I think ‘Anita’ and ‘Spetchley’, the little well-behaved ones, because I know the work that they can create! It is hard work with them. I’ve got all the ivies, I’m looking at them at the moment. My brother came to me, he said “When are you doing the ivy cuttings?”. I said “Oh, well I’ve got to do all the ferns first so it’s going to be not until the end of November”. *Sighs* “Uh’” he says “I shall have to keep watering them and looking after them until then.” Because I won’t let him cut them back until I’ve had the cuttings off them. Because he’s done that before, I’ve got them to take cuttings from so I take them off our big plants in the collection.

[18:30] SARAH: Are they easy to grow from cuttings?

[18:31] ANGELA: Oh, dead easy. So you get a nice long trail, you can just snip up the stem just a couple of joints. The traditional way they come in from Holland, you get a plant with about five cuttings in and they just grow them under mist units and you get a nice little cluster of cuttings. So you could start off quite easily with a new variety and I just divide them up and grow them on. So you just do the same, a little pot of compost, shove a few cuttings in and put them in a polythene bag, a nice steamy atmosphere for three weeks and they’re rooted. Dead easy.

[19:10] SARAH: Brilliant. So ivies for all your friends.

[18:31] ANGELA: Yeah. Whether or not they want them. But it’s a good thing for if you’ve got a garden sale or something, you can take a few ivy cuttings. It’s nice and easy.

[19:25] SARAH: And it rejuvenates, as you say, if you’ve got an old one, just make new ones off it and away you go.

[19:29] ANGELA: Yes, just start again. Because they do look scruffy after a few years. It’s easy to start again. It’s just keeping them looking nice when you’ve got them that’s more hard work.

[19:44] SARAH: Well, I don’t think that hard work is something Angela is afraid of after we had a chat about her nursery and how she runs it. It is a brilliant nursery, you can shop online and I urge you to go on there and have a look at the collection of ivies but not only that, they do some other fantastic ranges as well. The website is www.fibrex.co.uk. It is worth a look but be prepared to possibly put more in your shopping basket than you bargained for. So thank you to Angela and thank you for listening and I will catch you next Tuesday.

[24:09] OUTRO: You can download or listen to the podcast direct from the website www.rootsandall.co.uk where you’ll also find my blog and a sign-up form for the newsletter which gives you a weekly round-up of content, plus the inside scoop on things like upcoming guests. Or you can subscribe wherever you normally get your podcasts. Email me with comments and feedback at podcast@rootsandall.co.uk follow me on twitter: rootsandall, facebook: rootsandalluk and instagram: rootsandallpod. But please also check out my Patreon where you can make a one-off donation or take out a monthly subscription to help support my work because if you like what I do, please help me to continue doing it, even if you make a one-off donation of a pound, trust me, it all helps and I will be immensely grateful. So please go to Patreon and search for Roots and All.

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