Blogging for 10½ years has led the garden along many paths. Many shades of green and foliage plants have given way to colour and a variety of flower shapes in the borders. Taking photographs goes hand in hand with blogging and with the flowers came pollinators and many photo opportunites.
Happy to be doing my bit in helping these polinators with the plants I was now choosing, I felt I was being a responsible wildlife gardener. I was now introducing ‘border friendly’, reasonably well behaved, wild flowers too. My garden style is now unrecognisable from what it was 10 ½ years ago.
Earlier this year I was thrilled to find young wild flower plants in a favourite, small business, nursery. I was like a child in a sweet shop choosing my final selection of 30! Back home, I admired my trayful of goodies often prior to planting. Ragged Robin is in flower now and looking great in the border :-)
However, as I wait in anticipation for the others flowering something is spoiling the good I thought I was doing for wildlife - with other plant purchases over the last few years too. Something properly took the edge of my visit to the main gardening show here in Scotland, Gardening Scotland, just 30 mins before I walked out the door.
Eagerly anticipating the plant choices available at Gardening Scotland's sales tables, from nurseries around the UK, I had a small list of plants to look out for – all with pollinators in mind. A sadness came over me when I thought about my list and all the plants that would be going home to gardens over the three days of the show.
Following a link on one of my blog comments caused this sadness I felt going to the garden show. I genuinely didn’t embrace the show in the same way when I got there. I didn’t feel like plant shopping either but did eventually succumb to two small purchases - a hardy orchid (Dactylorhiza) with two flowering spikes and a perennial Osteospermum.
It was suggested that I could reblog the issue of concern raised but with it coming up on Day 2 of this series of #30DaysWild I felt I should blog myself at some point over the month of June - my only pre planned post. Bees caught my camera eye before I made our evening meal tonight and I knew instantly what I would be blogging about.
The concern is of Neonics used by commercial growers. When we buy plants, in good faith, with labels suggesting they are perfect for pollinators they could have neonics in the soil which would be toxic to insects. How would we know?
Well, Julie at GARDENING JULES is trying to create a list of UK Nurseries and Garden Centres that don’t use neonics. It’s not going well. She has a lots of info on this issue on her blog post of June 1st, Wildlife Wednesday – A Perfect Storm. She mentions a few people of note too. I’ll also add the crowd funding appeal link to Dave Goulson. Julie's post is definitely worth a read - there are many comments.
Perhaps I’m not helping the bees and other pollinators with my plant purchases then? I’d hate to think I was adding toxins to my soil which in turn would harm wildlife. That really goes against everything I have been gardening and blogging about. Through my blog I have embraced gardening for wildlife - I thought I was doing well.
On listening to Dave Goulson’s video, it seems it takes years for the soil to recover. That being said then, the bees shown in this post shouldn’t have come to any harm tonight as these plants have been in my garden, many, many years.
What is the answer meantime? There are millions of plants for sale in the UK every day of the week. Clearly more research and legislation will be required before there are 100% guarantees that plants are clean of neonics. Perhaps, the initial study Dave Goulson is trying to raise money to do will show the problem is not as widespread as feared. Monitoring plant sales is another matter though – what about car boot sales at the other end of the spectrum?
A comment below asks if growing from seed is the answer. I can’t say, but could guess that is a possibility. However, not everyone has the space (garden size, cold frame or greenhouse) or patience (some plants take a few years to flower) to grow plants from seed. What do the pollinators like bees, that seriously need garden flowers to help their decline, do if we stop buying plants from nurseries and garden centres while debates go on? That’s not a good outcome either.
Will I continue to purchase plants from nurseries and garden centres? The answer is yes. I have no wish to return my garden to one without a new variety of flowering plants for pollinators. Paving slabs to replace winter losses is not an option either. I want to trust the nurseries I have used over the years, but now this issue does lurk at the back of my mind just as it may lurk in the pots of plants I’m about to plant over the weekend :-(
This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in June 2016.