Author: Mike Clough

Date Posted: Wednesday 13th October 2021

There have been numerous articles recently suggesting that certain plants should never be used in gardens and that they will invade and dominate any location in which they are planted.

Alan Titchmarsh even had a flurry of complaints from people suggesting that his use of Gunnera tinctoria would result in hundreds of thousands of invading Giant rhubarb plants covering the country.

If there is one thing I hate – its people criticising and complaining ABOUT SUBJECTS THEY KNOW NOTHING ABOUT….and let’s be honest… Alan knows his plants. Alan Titchmarsh was actually one of the first tv gardeners to flag up the problems caused by Japanese knotweed – so for people with little experience to be criticising his choice of plants is a little bit out of order.

Using Buddlejia to attract butterflies will always happen – it’s called the ‘butterfly bush’ by many and will always be on the list of plants to attract insects. Yes – it can be problematic on railways and brownfield sites – but – we’re never going to stop people using it in their gardens.

Montbretia is colourful, hardy and a reliable garden staple – people will continue to use it because it’s a long flowering easy to grow plant. Many would call it ‘invasive’ – and yes it will spread easily but to try and eradicate it from the UK will never happen. It’s not going to undermine your building foundations or damage your hard surfaces and it’s unlikely to spread along river courses or railways unless very badly managed.

Goldenrod – another one that gardeners have used in the past – now recognised as invasive – my mother has it in her garden but it’s never really caused an issue as she regularly hacks into it and burns the resulting pile of debris.

There are plants which should never be planted. There are plants which can cause issues if left unchecked and unmonitored …BUT…in most cases plants will not aggressively spread so quickly that they cannot be managed.

You are NOT, for example, going to wake up one morning and find Gunnera has taken over your garden overnight.

Bamboo will NOT leap into your garden from next door whilst you’re in Marbella – you’re not going to arrive back from holiday with your stuffed donkey and go … ‘Bloody hell, Mabel …look at the f’ing Arundinarea blocking ‘t front door…’…

Not going to happen.

What will happen is a …gradual… spreading of certain species.

This is where you need to keep an eye out. Certain plants will dominate and spread quicker than others. Certain plants have invasive root systems and will send out rhizome growth in all directions and this can be problematic.

However, unless you are a complete gardening fool – then this is manageable and can be contained.

To suggest never planting a species that will spread – would limit your choice of species to a mere handful of plants. Growth and spread are a sign of health and vigor, plants that only survive to remain static are often prone to sickness and stress related conditions.

The world as it seems is dominated by people who have a knee jerk reaction to species of plants that are prone to spreading – part of this problem is caused by people who have jumped onto the Japanese knotweed ‘bandwagon’ who have zero plant knowledge other than knowing what Knotweed looks like.

People set themselves up as a ‘Japanese knotweed expert’ – yet they have absolutely no idea about any other plant. They know nothing about plant associations, nothing about native species, nothing about soil, nothing about the environment.

Hence when asked for a comment about Bamboo or Montbretia or Gunnera or Cotoneaster – they go with …

Kill it….

Sorry folks – plants and plant life is a little more complex than that…. ask an expert….

YES, I AGREE …. plants mentioned in this blog CAN BE A PROBLEM…but not always. What I’m suggesting here is a more balanced approach to invasive plants.

Let’s look at the situation (and obviously the legislation) then make a decision.

Let me leave you with a question?

If you have a brownfield contaminated site that will never be developed – the soil is heavy in toxic waste – and nothing is growing on the site other than Japanese knotweed. The site is self-contained and is not bordered by housing or industrial land and is not adjacent to watercourse or railway.

Would you still go in and chemically eradicate the Knotweed?

Please think about your answer before responding.


Mike C

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Mike Clough

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