Almost from the first moment we moved to Orkney (an archipelago which has been under Scottish control since 1468), there has been a big question hanging in the air. A question as yet unanswered, but one that will be resolved before the next UK general election in 2015.
It is a question with significant local ramifications, but one which is global in its reach. In fact, its roots are just about as far flung as you can be from here. And to be brutally honest, as English incomers, we wondered if it was entirely appropriate for us to be part of the debate at all.
Our Lass and I have talked it through, argued over it and changed our individual stances more than once. On wild and windy walks in Winter, on sheltered Spring saunters and, lately, on jousting July jaunts. However, in recent days, I feel that a consensus has been reached and a decision will be made soon.
Aye, in a sudden u-turn, whose g-forces would come as no surprise to many a Westminster politician, our policy of only using native plants in our garden has spun 180 degrees around the compass, as we contemplate the introduction of New Zealand Flax, Phormium tenax.
Surely you didn't think I was referring to the other big question? See here and here.
From the off, we had wanted to establish a garden that was big on native planting, so as to maximise the habitat opportunities for native wildlife and promote biodiversity. You see, the problem with non-native plants, even if they are not invasive, is that they all too easily reduce the available space for native plants. And other native wildlife has evolved to live in, on and around native plants.
So a vote for non-native plants can potentially reduce the biodiversity of the area. Tricky, eh?
OK, you may well ask, why has New Zealand Flax suddenly become so de rigueur? Put simply, it's because it can survive in the Orcadian climate (i.e. windy and wet), can provide shelter for more tender plants and other wildlife, is very architectural and can produce this effect when it flowers...
Do you get the birds with the plant?
Hi Anon, well, it's not like a special offer, where they throw the birds in for free. But chances are, if you have the plant, the birds will follow. It's a bit like the old mantra "Build it and they will comb."
Mm indeed you can't be too purist in a garden so long as the non-native does not have long term ramification for the native. I'll try to remember to check it out on our database. We've had VERY favourable comment on it now from Bumble Bee Cons Trust and Butterfly Cons.
That's good to hear, Spadge, me old mate.
Still forgot to check it! A rude reminding email next week could do the trick!
It really is as tough as old boots. I had to dig one out once (it had become very large, and was taking over the footpath) and it was a major effort - I had to get help from someone with a small truck to pull it out. It would have taken about thirty years to become that large, so you can plan your lives accordingly.
And you can, of course, use the leaves for weaving baskets and mats, if you are of a crafty disposition. If you rot the leaves in water, you will have a really tough fibre - you could make your own binder twine!
Hi Anon! Is that you or the other Anon? Interestingly enough, I met someone this morning who told me to site the plant VERY carefully. Y'know, I hadn't even thought about the fact that it was a flax and would have other uses. What a numpty I am.
I have to say I love my fuchsia and nasturtiums, two totally garden, non-natives. They're super easy to grow and, the best part, they're ready-made hummingbird feeders. I'm not all gung-ho native anymore, just as long as the non-natives aren't the escape and spread in the wild type.
Aye, invasives will still be a no-no, but we can see the benefit of a plant that will actually survive here!
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