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Talkback: Native versus non-native plants

I try and grow a lot of flowers for bees, and this year I have grown forget me nots and egg plant. I hate seeing front gardens that have bee...

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I try and grow a lot of flowers for bees, and this year I have grown forget me nots and egg plant. I hate seeing front gardens that have been concreted over and no plants at all, doing this doesn't help the wild life at all. We can all do our bit for the Bee, after all the Bee does so much for us.
Hi Kate our local park (nonsuch park) is managed jointly by Epsom & Ewell/Sutton councils it is left to wildlife with just the paths cut ,We also have Warren farm now owned by The woodland trust,in all about 220 acres so there is lots of wild flowers and grass,We also have lots of birds bees and butterflies not to mention bugs,There is a great mix of trees of great age as well as newly planted,There is a place for all who want to use it.
For the whole of Jubilee Week-end we are having a celebration og Bristol Flora at the Briatol University botanic garden. I have never seen the collection of Avon and Cheddar Gorge, Mendips and Quantocks plants in their purpose built habitats look so beautiful. If they don't entice people to give a home to our lovely native flora, nothing will. and what better way to celebrate her Majesty's Jubilee than to encourage the wildlife that feeds the nation.

Not sure it's a native but my ceanothus is massed with blue flowers and has a constant hum as there must be 50 bees on it at any one time. My blue scabious has the biggest bumble bees on it that I have ever seen! The aquilegias are fantastic this year as well and always being visited by the bees, and the lithodora on the rockery is covered with them as well. Are any of these plants native to us?


I started to make a list of non-native plants and realised very quicklu that it was easier to make one of native plants. Probably less than 5% (that sis a guess) of the things we grow are native to this country, Sadly it became an island before most European species managed to recolonise it after the last ice age.

Even the majority of our food crops are not native, wheat, barley, carrots, sprouts................all brought in.

Insects do not care from whence cometh the pollen, just as long as it is there. So double flowers are out if you want bees etc.

The most popular plant in our garden for Bees is a Lonicera alseuosmoides. Nothing much to look at or smell, but I counted over 500 bees on it one day last year.

Ceanothus by the way is native to California.



Wish there was an edit function on here.

Aquilegia are found all over the Northern hemisphere, but probably not Britain. Lithodora is from Spain. And even Scabious is not native, it comes from the Caucasus.

I could go on............................


If we only had native species our streets would be very different,No Chestnut trees no Acacia and on and on.

And as for spuds, runner beans, tomatoes, courgettes...
hollie hock

I just want to grow plants that are good for bees etc, as long as they do, I don't care if they are native or non native


i am with you hollie-hock.. anything for bees and wildlife.. i grew sweet rocket  htis year..they love that. i try to feed the bees, buterflies, hedgehogs and they get my slugs, and the birds.. and over the last 2 years i have managed to do it rather well.. so will keep going.



Our native columbine is Aquilegia vulgaris which grows wild in england, Scotland, and Wales.  

Insects evolved before the flowers adapted to attract them as pollinators.  Primitive flowers like magnolias are pollinated by beetles.

The best way to find out about helping the bees and butterflies in your garden is to visit a teaching garden ie a Botanic Garden and seek out the Pollination garden and the native plant section.  

There is a native scaboius in Wales.  i saw a specimen of it in the Welsh National Botanic Garden native plants section.


Yes there is a native Scabious, Scabiosa columbaria, but the one generally seen in gardens is S. caucasica.

And the Aquilegia most often seen in gardens is a cross between various species from America rather than the native A. vulgaris (quite a rare plant these days too).

I think the most danger to our insect wild life comes from the indescriminate spraying of insecticides by people who want perfect plants and gardens. We rarely spray anywhere in our garden and then it is with a Horticultural soap which is harmless to bees, but ti does control the less welcome beasties on our Apple trees (non native by the way).

If we can make our gardens a balanced place then pests do not really get out of control (except for introduced and thus non-predated ones) and I for one can put up with chewed leaves etc. Mind the snails can keep out of my frames where I keep my sales plants! Unless they want a does of salt.

hollie hock

Pleased that you've got good results from the sweet rocket, gardenfanatic. I've sown my first plants this year


hollie-hock.. yes it is a lovely plant so scented with it.. and seems to be flowering for ever if i keep dead heading it.. will deffinitely grow it again..


I grew the white variety (Hesperis matronalis var. albiflora) from seed a few years ago and it self seeded so moved a few young plant around the garden.  Lovely scent and they look after themselves, acting as short-lived perennials.  They are host to a few butterflies, including the orange-tip which I saw in my garden for the first time last week.


I agree we need to be more relaxed about what constitutes a garden. As far as butterflies are concerned we seem to forget the caterpillar stage of the lifecycle is as important as the adult stage, so they need nettles, grasses, trefoil, dock, etc...So it is a brave gardener who steps out into this new world of 'wilderness'. Last year I recorded 11 species of butterfly visiting the garden. I have to stop myself cutting down nettles, and have learnt to see them as valuable foliage plants in the background of the border ! Great blog.

@paul steer.. i agree i leave nettles coming up amoungst my plants every year.. their flowers are pretty enough to tolerate..


And thyir sting is good for arthritic bits but I have  " week old rash now from dealing with a combo of nettles, thistles and sticky bud in one bed.  Not pleasant at all in cultivated borders and we need non natives to provide nectar throughout the season and not just in spring and early summer..

I don't mind leaving a fewnettles where I don't have to go and get hurt and we have them growing on the outside of our mesh fence anyway as it's arable and pasture land.  They do make excellent garden compost.




muddy mare

hi all in the garden i tend i grow borage for the bees in the borders around the kitchen garden i grow nettles in a large patch then cut down and steep for the brassicas havent seen many bees over the past few days though too cold and wet

Laura Corin

Having a big garden is teaching me to relax.  There's no way that I can keep it pristine whilst I am still working and have children at home.  I take nettles and out of flower beds (but leave a big nettle patch in one corner) but I allow red campion to flower in them.  Creeping buttercup is only welcome in the boggy bit that I'm not going to get to, but other buttercups flower in the beds.  I was planning on taking up the turf under a winter-flowering cherry near the front door but haven't got around to it yet.  This year it has a lot of primroses starting to grow in it, as well as buttercups, so I think I'll just let the grass grow long, then lift patches to put in ox-eye daisies.  And then there's the 'orchard', where I've put in some wildflower plugs, but which has a really good dandelion crop too.