“Grasses and Perennials: Sustainable planting for shared spaces”

Earlier this year, several comments on the Garden Rant website drew my attention to the Conservation Sense and Nonsense blog. The well informed scientific based comments of the Conservation Sense webmaster resonated with me – our gardening should be built on fact and best practice, not dogma or belief. I garden in England, the United Kingdom – and here we just don’t have the same intensity of debate surrounding native plants and restoration projects. Instead, we have a rich diversity of plants, drawn from all over the world; and our gardens are based on the principles of freedom of expression and individual design.

There is an emerging movement here, advocating the use of sustainable plant communities, taking design to the next level by creating functional ecological plantings – for nature, not just human enjoyment. This is a natural progression, utilising suitable plants from anywhere in the world, already growing in the equitable English climate. That said, our weather has been more challenging over the last few years, with increasing volatility and unpredictability; which makes appropriate plant selection even more important.

To encourage the use of a wide range of well-chosen plants, I decided to share my knowledge and experience in a short book, called “Grasses and Perennials – Sustainable Planting for Shared Spaces,” available from Amazon in print and digital download. The book is the culmination of fifteen years professional landscaping, working to establish plant communities that hold a person’s interest, if only for a few moments – the difference between the forgettable, and the noteworthy. My passion is planting spaces that the public see and work at every day; but the principles in the book apply equally well to domestic gardens, as do all the plants I’ve listed. The book also brings science and reason to the debate around the use of native plants, and gives practical hints and tips for managing successful, sustainable plantings.

Here is a taster quote from Chapter 3 – Functional Space:
“Rather than relying on plants considered native to the British Isles, I will use any plant with potential, from anywhere, provided it will establish within a community of compatible plants. There is currently a mistaken assumption that native plants (as opposed to non-native plants, often labelled as exotics), are ideally suited to geographic region of origin and pollinators, without question. In reality, native plants may succumb to freshly introduced pathogens and react poorly to a swiftly altering climate.

“The insistence by some designer’s on using solely native plants, is effectively a determination that a given moment in time (usually in the past), is somehow ecologically superior – and overlooks the positive and scientific arguments for planting non-natives. There is little point constructing plantings based solely on region of origin, rather than usefulness and resilience. Plant communities alter all the time and nature is never static; and the definition of native plants is also somewhat subjective – we cannot know for certain how plants were moved and used by early humans. Can we safely assume that a plant is native to a given environment simply because a plant hunter happened to discover it there – probably quite recently in terms of our evolution?”

Kelly Baldry, United Kingdom

7 thoughts on ““Grasses and Perennials: Sustainable planting for shared spaces””

  1. Really, this as much a reflection of colonialism and latent attitudes of supremacy as anything else. It’s American Indian boarding schools for flora; it’s laughable that this is for the good of nature or anything other than the gardener’s fancy. A healthy Ecology is the past insofar as it is grounded in evolutionary history.

    1. You say, “A healthy Ecology is the past insofar as it is grounded in evolutionary history.”
      Actually a healthy ecology is the present insofar as it is grounded in present climate and environmental conditions. The five biggest extinction events in the evolutionary history of the Earth inform us that when the climate changes, the vegetation changes. We are now facing the sixth great extinction event, caused by climate change. Those who insist on replicating the botanical past are dooming themselves to a barren landscape. As Darwin famously said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

      The English garden is a tribute to the plants of the world, not a theft of those plants which remain where they were found by British explorers. Your analogy to American Indian boarding schools is not relevant to the English Garden.

      1. You keep telling that as your local biota are extirpated or go functionally extinct. “The English garden is a tribute”–my ass.

        1. No, our local biota is not being extirpated or going functionally extinct. There have been few documented plant extinctions in California and those that have been documented are not attributed to the existence of non-native plants. Here is a report on the scientific studies of plant extinctions in California: https://milliontrees.me/2021/02/15/fact-vs-fiction-the-real-threats-to-native-plants-in-california/

          Your ass is misinforming you. Consider the source. I do not publish threatening or abusive comments.

    2. Evolution is not just history, it is a current event. As the climate alters, planting strategies must also necessarily change.

      1. That’s a facile statement. If we ignore which species have co-evolved and how, that future is going to be a hot mess. Of course planting strategies should change, and not continuing to introduce species that simplify local ecosystems to satisfy our fancy is one way it absolutely must change.

        1. Indeed, the future is definitely a “hot mess” and what plants will be capable of surviving that “hot mess” will change, whether you like it or not. It’s called reality and the principle is demonstrated everywhere that nativists try to turn back the botanical clock. The fact is, that when the climate changes, the vegetation changes.

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