my twenty-year-old topiary

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After the last post I was asked how I have kept a topiary alive for twenty years, and the honest answer is...  I have no idea!
But, I might have a clue...

Twenty years ago you couldn't just walk into your neighborhood grocery store or Lowe's or Home Depot and buy an ivy topiary like you can today. Twenty years ago the dearly departed Smith and Hawkin had yet to even set up a storefront in Dallas. I saw topiaries in magazines and coveted them. Since I had no known sources I knew I would have to grow my own. I found the "ball" topiary form in the Smith and Hawkin catalog (remember, this was back in the day before computers;), but at $12 plus shipping it was too rich for my very frugal blood at the time! I was very happy when I found an old ball topiary form at an estate sale in Dallas, even though I thought the $5 price tag was overpriced!
I then went to the local Wolfe nursery and bought a small-leaf ivy. I haven't a clue as to what type of ivy I bought and apparently it was the wrong kind. To say it was a slow grower is an understatement... it took about two years for the first single tendril to even reach the topiary form!! I was patient, and by the fifth year the ivy finally (sparsely) covered the ball!
When we moved from Dallas the only plant I brought with me (I had tons of plants that I gave away) was this one ivy. I almost lost it in the move to New Hampshire as we moved in January, and although it had a very special spot in the car it apparently became frost bitten when carried into the hotel each night.
The first week in New Hampshire it lost all of its leaves, and I thought it was dead. I was sad, but kept watering it and within several weeks tiny little green leaves started to appear. It survived! Then, a year later in the midst of the farmhouse renovation I was distracted and didn't water it for a period of time, and again I thought I had lost it.  It revived and, thankfully, is as happy as ever.

I think the answer to its longevity "might" be that I purchased a very slow growing ivy.   My guess is that the ivies that are mass-grown are fast growing and always want/need to be re-potted.  This is purely conjecture on my part, so if there are any ivy aficionados out there, please feel free to weigh in!
I have re-potted mine maybe twice in the twenty years, and I very rarely use fertilizer.  I water it every 7 to 10 days, letting it dry out fairly well between each watering.  When I water it I water it several times- meaning, I water it and let it soak in, then water it again to ensure that the soil is completely soaked.  The dirt is covered with sheet moss to retain moisture.
Occasionally the topiary will get spider mites  (though I must say this happened more often in Texas than it does here for some reason) and when it does I use Dr. Bronner's Peppermint liquid soap.  It has to be the peppermint to work mites or aphids.  I use a mixture of 1 teaspoon of soap per quart of water, and then spray it on the plant leaves.

As you can see in the photograph I am letting several tendrils grow and they are about half way up the stem; I think they've been growing for about a year now. 
In another year they just might reach the ball!