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Using more British "Native" Plants?

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Question from Debbie Dean

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Do you feel that Garden Designers and Gardeners should be making a conscious effort to include more native planting in gardens - not only in wild or wildlife gardens? I know the RHS's entemologists are now undertaking to test wildlife preferences between natives and non- natives as this is one of the many arguments for using natives. What about sustainability issues?

Also, why is it not so easy to find 'native' plants in garden centres and nurseries - other than as small 'wildflower' plugs from nurseries specialising in 'wildflowers' or from other nurseries some miles away for trees, hedging and other plants? Finally, where can someone look at the rules and regs regarding nurseries claiming local provenance &/or origin? I've been told a plant can be started and raised elsewhere but so long as it has spent a particular - short - period of time being brought on by a nearby nursery they can then claim it is of local provenance?? Is this right?

  • Views: 1020
  • Replies: 6
  • Posted: Wed. 6th May 2009 00:13

using native plants

Reply from David Sewell

Hi Debbie,

I'd love to hear Georgie's take on this although I'm sure I know what her answer would be! Personally I do think more use could be made of our native flora but then I would because wildlife is a lifelong passion of mine.

However I don't think people should be made to feel guilty if they choose not to. I think an awareness of wildlife is a natural progression for gardeners as they seek to educate themselves so I think simply encouraging people to garden is as important as anything to start off with.

I think your second point is down to simple supply and demand. More people want non-native plants therefore more non-natives are sold in garden centres. Why do more people want cultivated varieties? Well I guess you could argue that they have been cultivated to last longer and flower brighter than their native origins so to the non-wildlife orientated gardener they probably appear to be 'better' garden plants. (or maybe it's even as basic as people subconsciously thinking that 'wild flowers belong in the wild' and 'garden plants belong in gardens' in some minds....who knows!)

For information about local provenance and the rules and regs associated with this try the HTA (Horticultural Trades Association - http://www.the-hta.org.uk/) they cover garden centres and nurseries and would be able to give you bang up to date legislation.

All best wishes,
David
http://www.the-gardenmakers.co.uk
http://www.landscaper.org.uk

  • Posted: Wed. 6th May 2009 18:30

using native plants

Reply from Georgie

As an amateur gardener with a passion or organnic/wildlife gardening I have to agree that I'd like to see garden designers and gardeners in general using more native plants. But as David points out 'an awareness of wildlife is a natural progression for gardeners' and 'encouraging people to garden is as important as anything to start off with'. For my part I couldn't be without some of my herbs like Lavender and Rosemary - hardly native but very insect friendly!

Georgie

  • Posted: Wed. 6th May 2009 19:48

Designing native plants into a garden

Reply from Mark Pumphrey

I believe garden designers should always be prepared use plants that respond to the clients brief and imaginative use of plants can be part of the response. Whilst I can see you are very interested in this subject I can see few situations other than forming a wildflower meadow or natural wild life garden that wild flowers could be introduced into a scheme mixing native plants within the cultivated plants. The main reason for my reservation is the wild flowers are likely to either take over or be lost against the cultivated plant forms. If they take over they would become a maintenance issue making it difficult for the client to control. Secondly most wildflowers would be lost within a planting scheme unless they were planted on mass.

The reason most garden centres do not stock wild flowers will be based upon demand or the lack of it. If they were requested for such plants I am sure they would respond to this business opportunity. As I am not in the retail industry I would suggest you would be best addressing comments about this to the Horticultural Trades Association who are better placed to comment. Likewise they will be able to provide clarification on provenance claims which is always a hot potato not only in this industry but also in the production of food. Terms such as local are always open to interpretation and as such are often used to describe plants that may have travelled some distance.

Mark Pumphrey
www.broadviewgardendesign.co.uk

  • Posted: Wed. 6th May 2009 18:50

Re. Including more native plants within garden designs

Reply from Debbie Dean

Mark

Thanks for replying. I was referring to native planting in general and not wild flowers as such - many of which aren't native anyway. Natives include common forms of Rowans, Hornbeam, Hazel, Box, Beech, Hawthorn, Yew, Viburnum, Dogwood, Honeysuckle, Burnet, Geranium, Thyme and loads else, circa 1400 plants... There are natives for most situations and/or purposes, not just wild or wildlife gardens - much of our hedging is native. Clients often give an idea of what they want but aren't necessarily specific on the planting, they often look to us designers for guidance on this and perhaps as designers we should become more aware of ecological issues (some of which may be red herrings).

I am interested as I am about to do a presentation on 'natives' & using them as well as looking into things deeper for a dissertation for my FdSc. I am planning to address companies within the industry as well as the HTA and various plant, floral and wildlife organisations.. was just interested in the Garden Designer's and Gardener's view on it.

Thanks again :-)

Debbie

  • Posted: Wed. 6th May 2009 19:22

response to native question

Reply from Mark Pumphrey

I think you will find many native plants are used by designers and will respond to the clients brief by using plants that convey the look the client is after. we have planted hornbeam hedges and are always very keen to encourage using mixed hedges where this will be appropriate. Many native plants have been developed to form new varieties and these are often used in preference to the straight form as they will often have better flowers, colour and form. I hope this clarifies the point and sorry for focusing on wild flowers!

  • Posted: Wed. 6th May 2009 22:28

Including more native plants within garden designs

Reply from David Sewell

Hi Debbie,

Ditto Marks comments - I rather jumped on the 'wildlife gardening' theme without fully considering the brevity of your comment, which addresses far bigger and more profound issues about sustainability and the wider landscape than just attracting butterflies.

Bearing this in mind I would profoundly agree that as many natives as possible should be planted. Certainly when we are asked to get involved in planting schemes I always design in native trees - not only because of their wildlife value and their suitability for the local conditions but also because I think they can match their cultivated counterparts for aesthetic value as well.

However an important point is that the designer needs to have a good knowledge of the habitat they are creating (because essentially by planting natives that is what they are doing) along with local conditions. For example where I live in Warwickshire the climax species is oak (we're on heavy clay) which has an understory of hazel, hawthorn, blackthorn and spindle (amongst others) If a scheme was designed for, say, a planting in Stratford on Avon and it consisted of Beech or Hornbeam trees then it would be wrong and probably of limited value to the local area.

As far as my business is concerned, we build gardens for designers - we don't design ourselves - so we have little opportunity to influence their thinking. Perhaps we should be trying to do a little more though....

I don't suppose you have that list of 1400 readily available do you? I'm quite interested in having a closer look at it!

All best,
David
David Sewell NCH, NDH
http://www.the-gardenmakers.co.uk
http://www.landscaper.org.uk

  • Posted: Thu. 7th May 2009 07:59