Many of the plants in our gardens originate from around the globe, brought back by plant hunters over the centuries. Yet native plants are making a comeback, and more people are choosing to grow them alongside their often more showy cousins.
Discover 10 native wildflowers to grow.
‘Native’ plants are those that arrived in the UK without any help from humans, and have thrived here for thousands of years. As they have been here so long, they support an especially wide variety of wildlife. They are also less likely to need pampering in the form of watering, fertilising and protecting against pests, as they are ideally adapted to UK conditions.
Some native trees, such as English oak, are too big for the average garden, but other native trees and shrubs are ideal for smaller spaces. They can be grown as specimen trees, as focal points in borders, as hedging or topiary or grown for coppicing.
Here are 10 beautiful native trees and shrubs to grow.
Beech (Fagus sylvatica) is a large, vigorous deciduous tree native to southern England and south Wales. As a tree it is too large for most gardens, but it can also been grown as a fast-growing, attractive hedge that retains its coppery autumn leaves through to spring.
The spindle, Euonymus europaeus, is a large native shrub. It comes into its own in autumn, when the foliage turns red, complementing the bright orange-pink winged fruit, which remain on the tree long after the leaves have fallen, to stunning effect.
Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) makes a superb specimen tree; it can also be grown as a pleached tree. Green catkins appear in spring and winged nuts develop in autumn. It also makes an excellent hedge – find out how to prune a beech or hornbeam hedge.
The rowan or mountain ash, Sorbus aucuparia, is a robust European native. It produces bunches of bright red berries in autumn which attract birds of all kinds. It succeeds particularly well in town gardens and when planted closely as a screen or informal large hedge.
Holly (Ilex aquifolium) is a spiky evergreen that can be grown as a tree, bush or hedge. There are lots of varieties, many with variegated leaves, including Ilex aquifolium ‘Argentea Marginata’, pictured. The berries are especially popular with mistle thrushes.
Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) grows at the edges of woodland and in hedgerows in southern England. In the garden, it’s grown for its colourful red stems in winter. It looks great in the winter garden, with evergreen shrubs and with early spring flowers at its base.
Guelder rose (Viburnum opulus) is a hardy, vigorous native shrub. It bears white flowers from late spring to early summer (popular with hoverflies), and red berries that are popular with mistle thrushes and bullfinches. Its foliage is spectacular in autumn.
The strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) is a large, bushy, evergreen shrub that is native to Ireland. It has rough bark and dark green eaves. Its bell-shaped autumn flowers resemble those of lily of the valley, alongside fruits that resemble strawberries. A good choice for a small garden.
Field maple (Acer campestre) is an attractive medium-sized tree that bears fresh green leaves that turn yellow and red in autumn. It’s tolerant of pollution and is another good wildlife choice – it supports insects, bees, birds and small mammals.
The silver birch (Betula) is a fantastic addition to any garden, with its white trunk (especially stunning in winter), yellow autumn foliage and light, airy canopy. It supports a very wide range of wildlife, including hundreds of types of insect, moths and birds.