As the RHS bans a list of plants from its garden shows

because of the risk of Xylella, Hannah Stephenson looks at safer


Xylella fastidiosa has been branded 'the foot and mouth' of the plant

world, wiping out olive groves in southern Italy, while evidence of it

has also been found in France, Spain and Germany.

The RHS has banned Xylella-risk plants from its shows this year,

including lavender, rosemary, hebe, olive, polygala, oleander and

euphorbia - unless they have been UK-grown, while retailers including

Wyevale Garden Centres have responded by finding alternative plants to

the high-risk ones, and removing from sale some of the risky species or

stocking only UK-grown ones.

The bacteria is known to affect more than 350 different species and

reduces plants' ability to take up water, causing leaf scorch, die back

and, in some cases, plant death. The disease can be transmitted by

insects, while infected plants may show no symptoms until it's too late.

Under EU regulations, all plant importers have to prove plants have been

sourced from Xylella-free areas - but the worry is that it will somehow,

at some point, be brought in on imported plants, or a holidaymaker may

unwittingly bring an infected plant home from abroad.

The answer is to buy British where you can - the RHS website

( lists UK nurseries - and avoid susceptible plants, the

charity advises.

Garden designers have responded to the challenge by getting creative,

using Italian sage instead of lavender at the RHS Malvern Spring

Festiva,l and holm oak and pomegranate instead of olive at Chelsea.

Here, the RHS suggests inspiring planting alternatives to the high-risk

types, to help protect your garden for the future...

Instead of lavender and rosemary - use Afghan sage and rock roses

Most lavender and rosemary are propagated and grown in Britain, but for

early sales, many are imported from southern Europe. Buying larger

plants for summer or, better, autumn planting is an alternative if the

garden centre cannot assure you that their plants are British-grown, the

RHS advises.

Reduce the risk by planting a broader range of Mediterranean-type

drought resistant sun-lovers, such as Afghan sage (Perovskia 'Blue

Spire'), Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticosa) and rock roses (Cistus, such

as Cistus x purpureus).

Instead of hebe - use Caryopteris clandonensis and Abelia x grandiflora

Hebe are popular evergreen shrubs, with many smaller cultivars ideally

suited to smaller gardens and especially valuable in providing colour in

late summer. Most will be grown in Britain, but it is not always

possible to exclude those from other sources. Other late-summer

alternatives include Caryopteris clandonensis 'Heavenly Baby', Clethra

alnifolia 'Hummingbird' and Abelia x grandiflora.

One reason British gardeners embrace hebe, lavender and rosemary is the

great ease of striking them from cuttings of non-flowering 'semi-ripe'

shoots taken in late summer, and rooted in gritty compost and covered by

a plastic bag. If you have healthy plants, it is easy to raise more with

low risk to the environment.

Instead of olives - use Elaeagnus x ebbingei and Phillyrea angustifolia

Olives have been the hardest hit by Xylella in Italy. They grow so

slowly in Britain and are unreliably hardy in northern regions. Quicker

growing and hardier alternatives include Elaeagnus x ebbingei, Phillyrea

angustifolia, Rhamnus alaternus and (deciduous) Elaeagnus 'Quicksilver'.

Instead of polygala - use glory bush and glory pea

Polygala is a lovely conservatory plant, but again, it's one on the

banned list and Wyevale Garden Centres won't be stocking it next year.

Instead, try glory pea (Clianthus puniceus) with brilliant red flowers,

glory bush (Tibouchina urvilleana) carrying violet purple flowers, and

crimson threadflower (Caesalpinia gilliesii), whose yellow flowers have

long crimson thread.

Instead of oleander - use Abutilon and marguerite (Argyranthemum)

Oleander, a potentially poisonous plant, is mainly a greenhouse or

conservatory specimen, which can be put outside on the patio in summer.

Alternatives include Abutilon 'Kentish Belle' and marguerite


Instead of cherry and plum trees (Prunus ssp) - use pyracantha

Prunus or cherry family trees and shrubs are a mainstay of British

gardens but for future-proofing, some interesting and reliable

alternatives might be considered in making new plantings. Try Drimys

winteri, Osmanthus x burkwoodii and the ultra-reliable pyracantha.

Instead of Spanish broom - Moroccan broom and Cytisus x praecox


We all know Spanish broom, with its zingy yellow flowers, is a useful

plant for wilder, dry gardens. You can raise it easily from seed, so

gardeners don't need to buy it as plants. But if you don't want to sow

seed, think about alternatives such as Moroccan broom (Argyrocytisus

battandieri ), Warminster broom (Cytisus x praecox 'Warminster') and

Cytisus x praecox 'Allgold'.