Is it wrong to grow plants in gardens?

To sow a seed is a NOBLE deed;  PROPAGATION is CONSERVATION  (Professor Norm Deno)

As I ponder matters raised recently, I cannot but start to suspect that nowadays, whether some people consider it 'inappropriate' to grow ANY plants in gardens no matter what their origin?  I had not really been aware of such thinking.  Come to think of it, one leading horticultural figure did speak briefly to me about this many years ago but I had not appreciated that it was a main-stream issue.

Verbascums growing at Kew - perhaps originally introduced from Europe

AFTER ALL, every plant ever grown was "natural source"!  And given that in every country of the world, gardeners are most interested in growing plants from other regions or countries, are we NOT permitted gardens?  Of course, in the past "permits" did not exist or were not required to the extent they are today and are increasingly going to be in the future.  I have encountered people from a number of countries who THINK certain plants growing in their gardens come from their countries but they are often mistaken.  In the Philippines and India, many familiar garden plants are introductions - some dating back centuries (long before the famous early twentieth century plant hunters).  In the Philippines, many plants were brought by the Spanish; their National Flower, which they string into leis and corsages is known as "Sampaguita" (JASMINUM SAMBAC) but is not a native!  I regularly lecture on PLANT INTRODUCTIONS AT NATIONAL TRUST and other PROPERTIES, so probably have a better understanding about this subject than anyone else.  Early plant introductions into the large houses on private estates, which became national trust properties, were primarily from tropical climes - such as epiphytic orchids (those growing on trees), which required orchid house or "stove" houses, which were heated. At one time, every big country house would be looking to grow each new introduction of tree. It was much later that greater interest was shown in perennials which would prove hardy in borders outside or Rhododendrons around the grounds. This was they "hey-day" of plant-hunting in the Himalaya and China.

I am NOT suggesting that there should be no RULES or REGULATIONS.  Or that countries do not have the legal right to introduce such measures but it does not mean, however ADMIRABLE the objectives they should actually make an sense.  Sometimes the 'legislation' actually ends up HARMING the 'resources' it sets out to PROTECT!  Expressing concerns about them or exposing shortcomings, DOES NOT mean that I have DISREGARDED such rules during the existence of Chadwell Seeds (1984-2016) or my expeditions to the Himalaya, thinking, that some how such considerations did not apply to me. Might not anyone reading this (and having taken the trouble to read the rest of the relevant content on this web-site) conclude that in all probability, NOBODY knows more about the RULES and REGULATIONS (past and present); as some rules have only applied very recently or are in the process of entering into actual laws I am uncertain about the situation for 2016! Though as Chadwell Seeds has closed and I do not expect ever to be in a position to undertake another expedition in the Himalaya - given my present health, even a flight to Delhi would be crazy - then this is somewhat academic for me personally.

Alstromerias growing at Kew - perhaps originally introduced from South America

For example, the FULL implications of the Nagoya Protocol are only just starting to be FULLY understood.  ALL rules, laws, legislation are OPEN TO INTERPRETATION - that is where the legal profession comes in and takes time for new rules to be fully UNDERSTOOD.  Not all countries are signatories of the Nagoya Protocol. WHY?  So presumably the "rules"/"recommendations" stemming from it do not apply in those countries?  Why have all countries not signed up to it? Afghanistan has, whilst some of those with the largest economies have not.  Why?  Do the rules apply to residents of each country? I am not always sure.  IF I, am unsure how to interpret SOME of the new rules, what about most mortals who are not as familiar with plants as I am?

There is the matter of "digging up" plants, as opposed to collection of seed (elsewhere, I comment that if done properly, collection of seed does not damage wild populations).  Yes, in some circumstances, it is OK/justified. But I have never done this and actively advise against it. I always felt that live plant importation should solely be the domain of major botanic gardens, who had the necessary facilities and know-how to quarantine it.  If in a country, a road is under construction, it seems perfectly reasonable to remove and attempt to grow in a garden (within the same country) live plants that would have otherwise been destroyed.  And there have been legitimate projects to ATTEMPT TO conserve genuinely 'Rare and Endangered' plants ex-situ in botanic gardens, following removal of live material.   

A lily originally introduced from China

I have never dug up live plant material and brought it back to the UK.  Though I did on a few occasions import some bulbs - grown in the nursery/farm of P.Kohli & Co. in Kashmir - with the necessary phyto-sanitary certificate.  Prem Nath Kohli was setting an outstanding example (now almost a century ago) by growing these bulbs in nursery beds, rather than collecting from the wild - as was happening in vast quantity in Turkey at one stage to supply British nurseries and garden centres up to at least the 1970s (I think).  It was decades after Kohli set the example (and wrote about it expressing concerns about nature conservation, as he had articles published in scientific journals and was a part-time photo-journalist) that such nurseries were established in Turkey.  Kohli was known as "The Tulip Man" in India at one time.  He exported (from his nursery) tulip bulbs (legally) to Holland, which were used in their breeding programmes.  I can sometimes detect some Kashmir ancestry in displays of tulips in parks in the UK.  Biologists at the University of Kashmir were able to undertake cytological studies of native TULIPA species thanks to Kohli.

Returning to my main point.  Why would anyone consider it wrong to grow plants in gardens from seed, provided the necessary rules were abided by?  The conduct of colonial powers, whose representatives often went and "took" or "exploited" around the globe might make some worry that this is continuing. Though the plants/seeds that they paid most attention to were primarily of culinary or medicinal (drug) usage.  The Portugese first came to India centuries ago to trade in spices. And think of the "Opium Trade" in China. Opium comes primarily from the pods of OPIUM POPPY.  Cocaine comes from the leaves of a plant. Tea is a plant.  Rubber originally came a plant. Plants of ornamental merit (i.e. of possible garden value) were a minor consideration.

The order beds at Kew - originally planted to teach 'botany'/'medical' students about identifying plants belonging to the same families/genera - herbal medicine was the main health care system in the UK centuries ago - as it still is in Bhutan

So is there anything fundamentally wrong about British gardeners admiring flowers from around the world in British gardens (botanic or otherwise)?  Absolutely not.  Should this continue?  Yes. Should it be possible for British gardeners to obtain seed of Himalayan plants (and plants from other parts of the world)?  Yes.  But it is going to be increasingly difficult to do so. 

What is the harm in not having gardens, some may argue, IF, as some may WRONGLY think, it helps protect Himalayan plants in the Himalaya (or wild plants anywhere). Firstly, this would do nothing to HELP conserve such plants (I demonstrate it actually harms them elsewhere). Yes there are major threats to populations of wild Himalayan plants in the Himalaya (which I shall highlight) or plant in other regions of the world.  Sensible seed-collection is not one of them!  See: 
In fact, NOT permitting seed collection (and associated gathering of botanical specimens) will DAMAGE efforts to protect Himalayan flora! See:   

A BAN on growing PLANTS from seed from around the World, MAKES NO SENSE and does harm to those plants.....  Strange what the truth is.... But Chris Chadwell must be mistaken, after all MORE rules & regulations MUST work - that is WRONG, as I am attempting to explain on my web-site.