Today's papers reported on an RHS study
which looks at "whether the geographical origin of garden plants makes a difference to the abundance and diversity of garden invertebrates." According to the Independent:
"The idea is solidly out there that if you want native insects you should only plant native plants*. That’s been the advice for years. Initial analysis shows this is not the case,” said Mr Salisbury, though he cautioned there was much more detailed analysis to be done.
You might expect this conclusion from the RHS, who are hopelessly compromised in areas like these, and you might expect me - a seller of native plants - to get cross about it. It's difficult to comment on the paper as I wasn't invited to the meeting at which the preliminary results were leaked, despite asking to be. I'm not in any sort of position to comment on the project's methodology or whether its conclusions are right or not, which in itself is not very clever (the people who were there - like Buglife - seem dubious). I do think the way they are presented perpetuates the polarization of this argument. Why does it always have to be natives versus non-natives? Why not mix the planting up in a garden? Excuse the language, but it's utter bollocks to say "The idea is solidly out there that if you want native insects you should only plant native plants". The idea isn't solidly out there at all and, of course, isn't necessarily so, although the reverse is - if you don't want insects only plant (certain kinds of) non-native plants. And this is the danger; the way this is presented is potentially disastrous. "British wildlife... can thrive on non-native plant species" is the way the Independent has reported the story. Of course it can - some wildlife can thrive on some types of non-native species. And I don't think they're suggesting 300 year old hay meadow offers the equivalent habitat to a selection of bedding plants from B&Q. Or maybe they are? It might suit the project's authors to sensationalize its findings when they are properly released, but we'll all be the losers when they do. *Native plants are species which arrived in Britain after the last ice age without human assistance, by the way. This surprisingly includes species like Raspberry!