Today, only a small minority of the plants sold by commercial nurseries are wild-type native species. For example, one 2017 survey of 14 garden centers in the mid-Atlantic region of the US found that just 5.75% of the plants they sold were of this kind. The vast majority are horticultural ones, such as those selectively bred for food or ornamental purposes. You need several months for a native plant to grow, which can discourage owners from planting them. Donald MacIntyre, for instance, owns a nursery that grows native plants based in the English city of Bath. “A lot of gardeners give up after a few years because it is really hard. Knowledge and control of the production are difficult,” he says.
MacIntyre started his production of native plants in 1980 after studying for a diploma in plant genetics. “At this time, the decline of native plants was not so great, but the decline of the environment and biodiversity was already here,” he says. He only collects seeds from wild spaces like nature reserves, which have not been exploited by human activity for decades. Samples are collected using a strict protocol – only limited collection of these wild plant populations is allowed.
When MacIntyre started his activity, the demand was not there. “Now needs are growing gradually,” he says. MacIntyre’s clients are mostly farmers, infrastructure managers, conservatories, and nature reserves. Very few private gardeners are buying his products. “There are not many of us. I know of four other nursery owners like me in the UK,” he says.
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