Oh, a dainty plant is the ivy green,
That creepeth o'er ruins old!
Of right choice food are his meals I ween,
In his cell so lone and cold. . . . .
Creeping where no life is seen,
A rare old plant is the ivy green.
- Charles Dickens
I did this sketch of one of the pot plants scattered around the house, patio and garden 10 years ago. They're such easy subject matters and can provide detailed studies of light and shadow. Using a lamp, you can even move your light around, observing the different effects of the shadows.
It is said that Ivy is the goddess who carries life through the winter. Holly was her god. Ivy was in high esteem among the ancients and its leaves formed the poet's crown. It was dedicated to the Roman god Bacchus, the God of Intoxication who is often depicted wearing a wreath of ivy and grapevines. He is also depicted holding a chalice and carrying a wand which was entwined with ivy and vine leaves. Wearing a wreath of ivy leaves around the brow is supposed to prevent intoxication.
Ivy has been regarded as the emblem of fidelity and Greek priests would present a wreath of ivy to newly married persons. Women carried ivy to aid fertility and bring good luck. They also carried it to ensure fidelity and from this came the custom of brides carrying ivy.
The custom of decorating houses and churches with ivy at Christmas is sometimes seen as the Christian Church adopting pagan associations. Something I didn't know, after always having Ivy in my garden for years, is that it is actually poisonous. It contains didehydrofalcarinol, falcarinol and hederasaponins and it has caused poisoning in cattle, dogs, sheep, and humans. Symptoms of ingestion are difficulty in breathing, convulsions, vomiting, paralysis and coma.