[ASC-media] Media release: blocking green invaders

JCA Media jcamedia at starclass.com.au
Wed May 18 19:11:10 EST 2005

Weeds CRC Media Release 05/19

May 18, 2005


Amateur and professional gardeners, plant nurseries and local government are being invited to join a nationwide campaign to get rid of invasive plants from our gardens and from sale.

"It's time we started to think of the wider consequence of what we grow in our gardens.  Many of the plants we once regarded as attractive have become devastators of our native bush and landscape," says Mary Trigger, CEO of Sustainable Gardens Australia (SGA).

SGA is a Victorian-based not-for-profit organisation which aims to change the way Australians think about their gardens in terms of water and chemical use and the sort of plants they choose to grow.

"We need to be aware that a garden in Australia is not like a garden in Europe, America or Asia. It has a 'footprint' that can reach well beyond the garden fence," Mary says.

"In the case of invasive plants, many once-popular garden varieties have become serious environmental weeds - and so great has been the level of new plant imports that the risk of this increasing has risen.

"Our aim is to get rid of the invaders at source - before they can become weeds."

SGA takes a regional approach to weed control. Nurseries and garden centres on the SGA program voluntarily remove from sale 10 of the worst weed invaders in their area. These have included plants such as - agapanthus, gazanias, seaside daisies, English ivy, bluebell creeper, coast wattle, myrtle-lead milkwort, sweet pittosporum, fountain grass and sweet honey myrtle.

At the same time it encourages nurseries to tag other potentially invasive plants with "SGA weed warning" labels. SGA works with local government in determining which plants are of particular concern in their local area. The garden escapees council staff are finding in bushland, parks and waterways.

"We need to recognise that even a native Australia plant, in the wrong environment, can become a serious weed and take over from local native plants," Mary says.

While SGA started in Victoria, it has plans to expand nationwide, encouraging gardeners everywhere to adopt more truly 'Australian' gardening practices, including making the right plant selections.

SGA accredits nurseries prepared to adopt sustainable gardening practices - which include not carrying plants known to be environmental weeds, and warning their customers of plants which have a tendency to become invasive.

"We're pleased to say that 26 retail nurseries have so far signed on as environmentally responsible businesses. They know that their customers, too, are looking for a greener approach to gardening and easily accessible information that will assist them to adopt gardening practices that will reduce the impact of gardening on the environment. 

SGA has a wealth of free information and advice on their website that has been designed to assist and inspire professional and home gardeners to garden sustainably. 

SGA also runs training courses for home and professional gardeners, local government and retail nurseries on a host of topics including water audit and re-use, green waste recycling and indigenous garden design.

The Chief Executive of the CRC for Australian Weed Management, Dr Rachel McFadyen, says the CRC strongly supports the responsible approach taken to preventing the spread of new weeds by SGA.

"Since European settlement, more than 28,000 plants have been introduced into Australia. Almost one in ten of these has turned out to be a weed which causes damage to food production or to the environment, poses a health or bushfire risk or inflicts major economic damage.

"Many start off harmlessly enough, as garden plants, then spread into the native environment, where they naturalise and await their opportunity to break out as a full-scale weed.  Often these create monocultures which wipe out the native vegetation and all the birds and animals it supports."

Dr McFadyen says a particular concern at the moment is the demand for overseas 'exotics' bought off the internet, and for drought-hardy introduced plants and grasses for use in 'waterwise' gardens.

"Ironically a foreign plant that tolerates drought well has a very good chance of becoming an environmental weed, because it is already well-adapted to Australian conditions. We need to be particularly careful about growing these in our gardens," she warns.

Dr McFadyen urged all Australian gardeners, amateur or professional, landscape designers and nurseries (wholesale or retail) to support efforts to keep Australia free of introduced plant pests, as advocated by Sustainable Gardening Australia.

More information:
Mary Trigger, CEO SGA, 03 9850 8165 or 0414 641 337
Dr Rachel McFadyen, Weeds CRC, 0409 263 817
Peter Martin, Weeds CRC, 0429 830 366

Images of weedy garden plants and a suitable non-weedy replacement available from:
Jackie Watts, Weeds CRC, 08-8303 6742, weedscrc.publications at adelaide.edu.au


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