Disastrous Environmental Threat from The Netherlands *

I tend to be a bit of a sceptic when it comes to scare stories about alien plants that are threatening to destroy our native wildlife and habitats. I willingly admit that some introduced plants are a threat and need to be controlled but in the British Isles we have a long tradition of introducing plants from all over the world to enhance our gardens and very few ‘go native’ and pose a real risk. But I was horrified to see that the Dutch have bred and are selling a hardy water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes). This plant has spread throughout the tropical regions of the world where  it is a very serious pest because the plant floats on the water surface, thanks to swollen petioles, and increases, through division, at such a rate that it blocks waterways and causes such dense shade that it shades out submerged plants.

It is often listed as a threatening plant in the UK and Ireland because of this frighteningly fast growth rate but, in fact, it is no threat at all because it needs warm water and is killed by frost. It is actually a really pretty plant with very attractive flowers and I have tried many times to grow it but it really is too cold in the UK and Ireland to get it to grow outside and it usually gets smaller and yellower until the first frost puts it out of its misery. So why have the Dutch created a super-water hyacinth to block our rivers and canals? Is it revenge for Brexit?

Well, er , no!

I have posted before about ‘those Dutch guys’ who bring over lorries of plants that they really shouldn’t be selling or sell with wrong names. And they were up to their tricks at the show this weekend. Here they are selling water hyacinths that they claim are ‘hardy till -17c’. Where the heck do they get -17c from? I assume the winking smiley face is to warn you that this is an outright lie. Of all their exaggerations and con tricks this has to be the worst.

* Relax people – it’s fake news!

One of their favourites is the ‘flowering fern’.

Now, ferns don’t flower – period! They are primitive plants that evolved before flowering plants and they reproduce by spores. This is Incarvillea delavayi, a perfectly nice herbaceous plant that is easy to grow and has divided leaves and rather spectacular flowers. It is commonly available in most garden centres as dried, tuberous roots or as growing plants and, as an example, Harts Nursery (www.hartsnursery.co.uk) sell it for £5 for 3. It usually flowers in May and June. It is NOT a hardy fern, is definitely NOT new and it will NOT flower from June to November. It is not even good value at 3 for £10. It IS hardy however, so some marks for getting that right!

But not everything they sell is wrongly named. Take these lupins…

I will let them off calling them ‘lupines’ – I wouldn’t be able to write much Dutch! And even ‘extra hardy’ does not bother me. And the price is not stupid, though hardly cheap. I have no idea if the plants in the boxes will have flowers the same colours as the photos above – I doubt it. But what does bother me is that these bare root lupins were, in most cases, completely dessicated and DEAD! Lupins should have flower buds showing right now – they should not look like firelighters!

What is sad about this is all the other nurseries that were selling great plants that they had raised themselves – a wonderful way to buy good value and unusual plants, and to get genuine advice. For instance Gerry from the Camolin Potting Shed (www.camolinpottingshed.com) – other nurseries are available.

He and the other nurseries had a great show and his customers, and most others, came away with loads of great plants – I now need to unload mine and sort them out ready for planting!

PS I didn’t buy a water hyacinth

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2 Comments on “Disastrous Environmental Threat from The Netherlands *”

  1. sueturner31
    May 9, 2017 at 8:56 am #

    It makes me cringe when I see rubbish like the lupins for sale. What do they take us ‘real gardeners’ for, surely folk weren’t buying them ? Looked at the other nursery on line …yummy….

    • thebikinggardener
      May 9, 2017 at 1:15 pm #

      I am sad to say that they did good business although I am not sure if the lupins sold, but there were plenty of other bare root plants such as delphiniums and hemerocallis that looked just as bad.

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