Continuing from James’ ProLandscaper; Futurescape event in November where the hot topic of discussion was the use of native plants. There are many native plants that excellent characteristics that can be utilised in our designs.
A native plant is one that is growing, thriving, living, and reproducing naturally in a specific country.
Often native plants are forgotten about when designing a garden and subsequent planting plans as they don’t always have the right flowers or aren’t interesting enough and using imported plants is the answer. However, I believe that there are quite a few native plant alternatives to your favourite imported plants.
Native trees are a massive part of our landscape, they have been used as focal points back when the likes of Capability Brown, Colen Campell and William Kent were major garden celebrities to now in our designs. Not that I am comparing us to those names at all! I love using native trees throughout my designs because of their structural characteristics, shadows, and their sustainability factors. Prunus avium, Betula pendula and Quercus ilex of course, are staples in the native tree planting palette.
Specifying a mixed or singular native hedge is a brilliant way of attracting wildlife into the garden as well as providing security and screening. There are many different combinations that you can choose from to suite your style of garden or location.
On the topic of hedging and shrubs. There are some brilliant native shrubs that can be used throughout your landscape. Providing texture, colour during all seasons as well as fruit producing. Cornus sanguinea, I believe has one of the best winter features. Providing us with a stunning red colour when all its foliage has fallen off. It creates a fantastic focal point during the winter months. Historically, Taxus baccata, has been used throughout of landscape for years due to its versatility, textures, and fruits. Taxus can be used as a standalone shrub, tree or as a very good alternative to Buxus sempervirens. Flowering during late spring and early summer and known for attracting bees and other wildlife, the Viburnum opulus is a stunning native plant to use throughout your planting palette.
Unlike shrubs and trees, the UK native perennials list is few and far between. Achillea millefolium, commonly found in grassland in the wild, looks brilliant in the summer sun with its feature white flat heads. When planted in full sun, this native plant will thrive and will play its part in a cottage or wildlife garden. Flowering for all the summer and into autumn, Astrantia major is fantastic for growing under trees or in a moist border. With its neat, white flowers they form a show piece in your border. An evergreen perennial, which is of course native to the UK is Luzula nivea. This clump-forming plant flowers white during the early summer months and creates a fantastic focal plant.
The different, vibrant greens of our native ferns cover the grounds of our woodlands and shaded spaces. Bronze fronds protruding from its semi-evergreen, green foliage, the Dryopteris wallichiana ‘Jurassic Gold’ is a perfect native plant. If you are adding texture, colour and something a little different to your planting plans then this Dryopteris is perfect. One of the most common ferns that you will find is the Asplenium scolopendrium and its rosette of arching fronds which can grow up to 75cm! Osmunda regalis is a brilliant giant fern. During the spring months it produces huge bright green fronds before turning a beautiful bronze then dying back in the autumnal months. This deciduous fern has a natural form and looks even better when planted near water.
Imported grasses are and can be a fantastic addition to the garden, especially in the right planting combinations. Just ask Piet Oudolf. However, native grasses are brilliant. Lagurus ovatus, or Bunny’s Tail Grass to use its common name, can grow up to half a meter and produces attractive flower panicles and will flower all summer long! As well as being a native specimen, Deschampsia cespitosa is also an evergreen grass, with dark green leaves and feathery panicles of silver/purple stems during the summer months. If you are looking for a native grass that is one the most photogenic plants, then the Briza media is the one that you want. The short-lived perennial, which is best grown in large groups for maximum impact possess flat grey/green leaves with branching heads of “quaking” green/yellow flowers which can often become tinged with purple.