Save the endangered nature with your urban garden


Are you also saddened by the extinction of various species of plants?  Turn over your urban garden into a paradise for rare plants, says Harro de Jong.

Recently in a small, flourishing shady garden in Arnhem the Boswalstro grows a plant that in the Netherlands has been officially extinct for decades in the wild. The plant is from a bag of forest-seed mixture, ordered through the internet for €5.50.  .
Around the Boswalstro there are other very rare forest plants such as Avens, protected Tongue Fern as well as Soft and Rigid Needle Boating, species of the category 'very rare' on the Red List of plants that have vanished in the Netherlands. These plants come from the nursery, where you - if you search - can just buy almost all endangered species in the Netherlands.  

The endangered plants from this garden are spreading across the city. Scattered here and there the Avens shoot up between the paving stones. The moist, calcareous joints in brick walls are excellent locations for the ferns.

There is hope for people who do not live in the fearful anticipation of seeing the extinction of many species and who expect little from the government in this field. You can save the endangered plant(s) with your own urban garden.

With its extremely varied, man-made conditions, with extreme microclimates, wet and dry patches, artificial rock formations, vast landscapes and small hedges the city offers numerous very attractive living conditions, (conditions which are rare now outside the city) for these finicky plants.


Rare plants are not really mobile and therefore move less easily than animals like the fox, the hawk and the peregrine falcon that are rapidly conquering the town on their own, following the earlier urbanized blackbird, heron and homebody. It is especially with the introduction of those plants into the undiscovered habitats that the ecotope "the city" has to offer which will greatly help your gardening.  The conquest of city landscapes by nature can be unexpectedly spectacular as at the Military Base at Soesterberg teaches us which was in the news last year. From the surrounding forests the bladder fern settled in the shade of hundreds of redundant military vehicles that were waiting to be sold. The number of ferns ran at up to 10,000 - 95% of the entire Dutch fern population! This hindered the movement and then sale of the vehicles. This was only possible after a €22,000 euro rescue plan was initiated to move 300 of these rare ferns elsewhere. For the same amount you simply could have ordered ten thousand ferns at the grower.


The spread of rare species is an annoyance to many people. They think it’s not "natural" and that it is simply gardening. In their eyes something natural excuses human involvement – but that word, natural area, is precisely the heart of this often fiercely heated discussion. One speaks of nature in terms of species, the other looks at the numbers of pristine areas. But what is pristine?  

The balance of plant and animal species that serves as a standard against which the decrease or increase of species is viewed is indeed the result of centuries: the small gardening in the agricultural sense of the old farms which have made our cultural landscape. This type of farm is gone, so now the nature organisations are gardening instead of the bygone crofters to keep the species in an equal balance.  .

If these rare species have to be planted anyway, why not plant them in your garden? Millions of homeowners are, in this case, the potential conservationists who together invest billions of hours and dollars in pampering their cherished types of plants and the removal of overly intrusive species.


The funny thing is: while nature organizations are pulling out exotic trees because they consider them weeds, we often do the exact opposite in our gardens and parks! Native plants (nature) are systematically exterminated as "weeds" in favour of the exotic and purebred plants from the garden center or DIY store. We seem to have forgotten what we can do with our own native plants, while these 'forgotten' regional plants naturally do beautifully here, by themselves, perfectly adapted to our climate and seasons. And they can capture the city, with special manmade ecotope that has barely been explored.


We often have difficulty with nature liking us. This is certainly suspicious. That would be considered sick. Were we not the bad guys? But flowers love people, so if you open up your gardens, balconies, roofs and gardens for the region bound-forgotten plants, the miraculous multiplication that took place at Soesterberg, Arnhem and also in your area can not be excluded. If so then the Red List could be soon abolished...