Country Corner

editorial image

A Painted lady, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock on a Buddlia flower spike.

I have chosen this picture from the summer to illustrate my reply to ‘I Spy’ of Dunbar who asks about the wisdom of using non-native plants in our gardens.

Non-natives are not the plants our native wildlife have evolved to use. I Spy has a point, of course.

Many of our invertebrates are dependant on very specific plants. A simple example would be cabbage white butterflies and cabbages.

However, as the country becomes increasingly more sterile and aggressively farmed, gardens are growing rapidly in their importance to our diminishing wildlife.

Thankfully, gardening has undergone a great rise in popularity, mainly due to television gardening programmes.

At the same time, bird feeding has become something of a national craze. Many folk like to go in for wildlife gardening by planting specifically for birds, butterflies and bumble bees.

The question is, should such a garden only contain native plants, shrubs and trees?

Personally I do not think so. Many imported ornamental plants, like buddlia, have become long-established favourites in the British garden. Some, though not all,have become favourites with our native wildlife too.

My own mantra is to judge whether a plant is good for wildlife by watching it. In garden or countryside, the wildlife value of a plant can be judged by the amount of wildlife seen to be making use of it.

Buddlia is an obvious example in the garden, as are cotoneaster, shrub roses,and any amout of exotics.

In the countryside it is the same. For instance,common ragwort and Ivy are two of our most valuable wildlife plants yet hated by so many .

Both are brilliant wildlife plants in the right setting.

Of course there is widespread national concern about alien species taking over the countryside. We must take great care with introductions from abroad,but we must also be realistic about those which are already here.