River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Passionate About Plants

March 2011

Paul describes the delights of Scotland for gardeners

Scotland a Gardeners Paradise

Living here in the south west of Scotland I am constantly amazed at the number of large gardens open to the public particularly when you realise just how few people live in the country areas. Sheep really do out number people!

Slowly but surely I am getting used to the idea of seeing tender plants growing outside planted in a sheltered spot out of the strong westerly winds, which brings me nicely on to plant hardiness and Scotland's climate.

Hardy: 'able to grow in the open air all year' (Concise Oxford English Dictionary).

Plant hardiness is complex, it is not only a matter of the individual plant's innate toughness or tenderness, but it is also influenced greatly by where and when it's planted and how well established it is. You could grow plants in your garden purely by checking their winter hardiness rating (H1 for tender plants and H4 for the hardiest plants) but it's not as easy as that. Many plants that are very cold hardy cannot tolerate heavy winter rain and damp cold conditions. Some may tolerate -20 but the foliage can burn with cold winds. So some trial and error is necessary and you may have to experiment with different plants until you know your garden so you can gauge what does well your garden.

Here in the south west Scotland we are lucky to be influenced by the Gulf Stream, a so-called 'oceanic conveyor belt', which brings warm air and rainfall from Mexico to north-west Europe. It is because of the Gulf Stream's warming effect that although Glasgow and Edinburgh lie at the same latitude as Labrador in Canada and parts of southern Alaska, both are much colder than Scotland.

Some scientist believe that the Gulf Stream will sink under the cold water of the melting of the ice caps, an effect of global warming, thus reducing its effect by up to 20% . If this happens we will all be growing different plants! Scientist from the Scotland and Northern Ireland Forum for Environmental Research (SNIFFER) has collated weather data from 1960 to 2004. Their finding in form us that the average growing period (last frost to first frost) has increased by 4 weeks. The average temperature has increase by more than 1 degree centigrade and the number of nights with air frosts has decreased by almost 25%. So global warming will change what we can and cannot grow if we are to believe the scientist.

Still forget all the dome and gloom that some revel in I'm looking forward to planting my garden with plants I could not grow in Norfolk. One such plant is Crinodendron hookerianum (Chilean lantern tree). It will grow up to 6m but more likely 2-3m in the UK. It requires moist but well drained acid soil and is an evergreen. Flowering in early summer it's striking pendulous, lantern like, crimson-red, bell-shaped flowers look a picture against the dark green evergreen leaves. Like all evergreens it is best sheltered against strong cold winds.

A climber that was very difficult to grow in Norfolk is Berberidopsis corallina (Coral plant). This weakly twining climber yet again comes from Chile and is an evergreen with dark green heart-shaped leaves edged with small spines. Spherical dark red flowers 1.5cm across hang down on stalks 5cm long from summer to early autumn. It is a strong grower here in south wets Scotland provided you protect its roots from frost it will climber 5m.

I am looking forward seeing Magnolia speringeri var. speringeri 'Diva' in a local garden open to the public. This magnolia can reach over 15 m high and can takeover 15 years to flower from seed. The slightly fragrant flowers appear during March and April and are a beautiful rose-pink/purple-pink. The flowers are saucer-shaped and the 12 tepals have a tendency to curl upwards and inwards at the tip showing of the inside of the flower, pale pink streaked with darker lines.

This will be a first so roll on spring!

Happy gardening where ever you are.

South West Scotland.

Paul Markwell

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