When Sylvia suggested that I write a sister piece to her post on California natives in Britain, I thought it was an intriguing idea. While researching it, though, I began to see why she wrote me that in the UK gardeners are used to plants being from somewhere else. Maybe it has to do with being an island with a long history of trade and migration? So many of the plants I looked up were “naturalized” in Britain, or even more obvious imports from elsewhere. Britain has been a seafaring nation for a long time, and one of the cargoes those ships brought back was plants.
In any case, as Sylvia points out, our climates are very different. I found only two plants in my garden which could be considered English natives, with another few possibilities if you allow for a little cheating.
The first, most obvious, is foxglove, at least the Digitalis purpurea foxgloves. I knew these were native to Britain as well as northern Europe because I remembered that from researching my foxglove series. I completely adore Digitalis purpurea in all its forms, a truly magical plant. One of the great things about D. purpurea foxgloves in my garden is that they don’t demand a lot of water (though they do need some; they’re not a xeriscape plant). They also like the semi-shade that most of my garden is in. My Shirley foxglove is down to those last few blooms towering over my head:
My Sutton’s Apricot seem to be sulking for some reason, so I’ll have to use pictures from the past.
The second plant I grow that’s native to Britain is Viola odorata, the common scented violet. Although, in my opinon, there is really noting common about violets. I grow a few cultivars; one is the highly-scented deep-colored violet that blooms every year in that protected spot by my friend (and uke player extraordinaire) Dan Scanlan’s garage. I’ve had a lot of fun making music in that garage, so that may be part of why I love them so much. But the flowers themselves have incredible charm. And this year – maybe because it was cooler longer? maybe because they just felt like it? – they bloomed for months. Well, at least two.
I also grow ‘Rosina’, a rose-colored cultivar. I like it, but somehow the deeper color sends me more. I used to have a white Viola odorata, but it disappeared.
Finally we come to the cheating part. ‘Penelope’, was bred by Joseph Pemberton in 1924 – in England. Does that count?
Do my David Austin roses, ‘Sharifa Asma’
and ‘Fair Bianca’
count? (I have more David Austin roses, but you get the general idea.)You be the judge.