Growing local plants and flowers in your garden plays a vital role in maintaining the British ecosystem. Here, Guest Blogger Nicky Roeber, Online Horticultural Expert from Wyevale Garden Centres, explains which native plants will fare best in your garden, so you can do your bit for the natural environment in your local area.
Many of the diverse plant species that call the UK home today did not originate here. In the past, humans who ventured to foreign lands would often come back with strange and exotic flora, but introducing non-native plants to our ecosystem can sometimes cause serious damage. Most of us are aware by now that populations of bees are rapidly declining, but the same goes for other pollinators, like butterflies, as well. This is largely due to insecticides, but non-native plants also play a role. Some pollinators can only take pollen and nectar from a small range of plants, and these plants are usually ones that have been native to the UK for many centuries. The same goes for birds, who need native trees that they’ve evolved alongside as a nesting place and food source. Non-native plants can also outcompete their native neighbours for space and nutrients, and there is even an increase in the number of diseases being brought over from other countries. That means that having a wide variety of native species in your garden is actually better for the rest of your plants by reducing the risk of foreign disease. But, before you start digging, it’s important that you consider the conditions available in your garden, as this will determine which native plants you can grow.
Honeysuckle fares better in sunny conditions, but can tolerate partial sun, partial shade quite well, too. They can fill your garden with a sweet scent which is great for attracting pollinators. It’s commonly found in hedgerows, so can provide great shelter for insects and birds. Shrubs like hawthorn can grow some rather attractive flowers and berries and should be grown in full sun to get the most out of them. They can support a wide range of insects, from caterpillars and moths to bees and butterflies, as well as providing a valuable food source and nesting-place for birds.
Lily of the valley are particularly pretty with their small, delicate white flowers. In the wild, they usually grow in woodlands, so won’t be phased by gardens with lots of shade. Bees are attracted to their sweet-smelling nectar, so they’re a great choice for supporting local pollinators. I would advise that you always supervise animals and children around this plant, though, as they can be extremely toxic when ingested.
Golden shield ferns are relatively hardy and are also commonly found in woodland, so prefer shaded areas. They’re perfect for giving shelter to ground foraging birds, as well as insects and even frogs. They’re also great for filling any empty spaces that you might have in your garden.
If your garden can get particularly damp, plants such as meadowsweet can look lovely with their small yellow flowers. They even give off a lovely sweet scent similar to honey! They’re perfect for attracting pollinators like bees and hoverflies, so they’re ideal for supporting your local wildlife.
Snake’s-head fritillaries have bright pink and purple chequered flowers and can grow very well in wet grasses. They’re usually found in British meadows, which are sadly declining in number, so growing them in your garden can help keep their populations up.
Teasels can fare pretty well in dry soil, and their tall stems, prickly heads and purple flowers can make for an interesting addition to your garden. Birds like goldfinches are particularly attracted to teasels because they can easily peck out any dried-up seeds from between the spikes at the head of the plant. Most ivy plants are well suited to badly lit areas, so English ivy can handle dry, shaded gardens very well. It looks great trailing up walls and fences, but can work well as a ground cover, too, to create a shelter
for insects and small mammals. They also grow berries, which are a great food source for birds, and their flowers can attract bees, butterflies and even rare insects like the golden hoverfly.
Growing native plants and flowers in our garden can be hugely beneficial to our ecosystem. By following this handy guide, your garden can help to support our local wildlife populations, while looking and smelling great, too!