Autumn 2011 Glendoick's new expanded shop is now open. Click here for details and images of our new shop.
The new roof goes 'over the top by crane'
Glendoick Cafe wins UK Best Garden Centre Catering at the Garden Retail Awards 2010 for the 3rd time. November 2010.
5 Books Kenneth Cox chooses his top 5 garden-related books. Michela Wrong interviews Kenneth Cox on thebrowser.com website Feb 2010 click here
Kenneth Cox wins Garden Reference Book of the Year 2009 at the Garden Media Guild awards for Scotland for Gardeners.
Garden Media Guild Awards 2009. Thursday 3rd December, The only UK awards for Garden Writing and Photography were made at the Annual Garden Media Guild Lunch in London on Thursday.
The Prize for Garden Reference Book of the Year 2009 was awarded to
Scotland for Gardeners, by Kenneth Cox published by Birlinn, Edinburgh May 2009.
Judges Comments: 'This book deserves a place in the glove compartment of every driver on a tour of Scotland's gardens. It's comprehensive, featuring the large and well-known gardens plus lesser-known treasures. It has enough practical detail to make finding and visiting the gardens straightforward. It is lively and enjoyable reading too.'
Click here for further details
Glendoick Garden Centre Voted 2009 U.K. Garden Centre of the Year
At a black tie award ceremony on Monday November 2nd, at the Grovensor Hotel, Park Lane, London, Glendoick Garden Centre near Perth won the award for Best Garden Centre in the UK (turnover under 3 million)
Managing director of Glendoick Kenneth Cox and garden centre manager Debbie Hodge received their trophy in front of many of the UK garden centre industry's retailers and suppliers.
Kenneth Cox said: ‘It is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of all Glendoick's staff, that we won this award. I'd like to thank Debbie and all of the Glendoick team for their role in such a proud moment for Glendoick.'
According to the Garden Retail Award judges:
"We were impressed with the heritage that gives Glendoick the plant authority that garden centre customers look for. But what's more, we liked the way Glendoick has updated itself in recent years to become a 21st century retail outlet with a fine catering offer and modern customer-friendly presentation."
Glendoick features in 50 Best Garden to visit, Daily Telegraph
Known as the Scottish Indiana Jones, Kenneth Cox loves nothing better than seeking out rhododendrons in remote areas of the world – just like his father.
'My father is in India at the moment, getting eaten by leeches,' Kenneth Cox said, as we climbed above the burn into the Glendoick garden. 'He is in his seventies, but he still goes off plant-hunting to China, Tibet or the Himalayas most years.' I am lucky to catch Cox himself. Dubbed the 'Scottish Indiana Jones' by newspapers, he too leads regular expeditions to remote Himalayan regions, taking glaciers and rickety rope bridges in his stride.
But in 1918 there was a dramatic shift in the family's focus. It happened at a Bloomsbury tea party, where Kenneth's grandfather, Euan, then a young man, was introduced to the most famous garden writer and plant hunter of the time, Reginald Farrer. 'Farrer had an eye for nice boys, and he invited Euan to come to Burma with him the following year.' It was to be Farrer's last expedition; he died out there at the age of 40. Euan was left to sort out their seed collections on his own.
Happily, he had acquired Farrer's enthusiasm for plants, in particular for the great tribe of rhododendron. And this, with its more than 500 species and countless thousands of hybrids has, in turn, gone on to inspire his son, Peter, and his grandson Kenneth. The name Cox has now become a byword in rhododendron gardening, and the family business at Glendoick, near Perth, is the best known rhododendron nursery in Europe. The Cox women have had little choice but to become rhodophiles too, Kenneth told me. Indeed, his mother, Patricia, left him at home at the age of one, to be taken botanising with his father in India. But, he added, his grandmother did draw a line in the sand and banned all mention of rhododendrons at meals in order to give herself some respite.
Kenneth's interest was sparked not at Glendoick but in Oregon. 'After university I wasn't convinced that rhodos were the career for me. But since I wanted to travel to America, I decided to get a job in a nursery there. When I got there, though, I discovered that being a Cox, everyone expected me to be a great rhodo expert. So, in the evenings I thought I had better read my father's and grandfather's books [both have been prolific authors, producing many classic reference works on rhododendrons]. I found them very interesting. The adventure side particularly appealed.'
He did his first expedition to Yunnan in 1992, and since then has been on more than a dozen trips, some with his father and some as group leader. 'Sometimes we've been following in the footsteps of earlier plant hunters, such as George Forrest and Frank Kingdon-Ward, and sometimes in areas never before botanised. Recently I've been concentrating on Arunachal Pradesh, a remote area of hard, steep jungle terrain in North-east India. I've been travelling with an American explorer, Ken Storm, and we've been the first foreigners ever to go into some of the villages.' Apart from the physical hazards, the team has faced other challenges, most dramatically in 1998 when Peter and Kenneth were briefly arrested in China, accused of spying – their explanation that they were looking for plants sounding rather implausible to the local police.
The garden at Glendoick, extending from rockeries and peat beds beside the house to a Himalayan woodland on the hillside behind, is peppered with the spoils of these expeditions, raised from their wild-collected seed. Euan Cox introduced the superb large shrub Rhododendron mallotum, with clusters of blood-red flowers, while Peter Cox discovered three new species on his very first trip to India, and has subsequently introduced or re-introduced many rare rhodos, including giant-leaved R sinofalconeri and yellow-flowered R lacteum. Such plants are arranged freestyle through the 10-acre garden. 'My father has no concept of garden design,' Cox smiled. 'He never sites a plant for any reason other than because he thinks it will grow well in that spot.'
The beauty of some rhodo flowers is arresting: R glischrum var. rude, for example, whose blush-pink trumpets are stained maroon-red inside. A medium-sized shrub, it is a Cox collection. And so is R ochraceum, a low dome of clear red trumpets. 'That was collected in Szechuan in 1990. We think it is one of the best new introductions of recent years.' Turn over the leaves – which all rhodo-lovers instinctively do – and you discover a beautiful suede-like underside of soft hair, called indumentum. On R bureavii this indumentum is a rich rust-brown, while on R rex it is a milky buff.
Another low-growing species the Coxes are particularly proud of is R dendrocharis, with bell-like flowers in clear pink. 'My father found it in Szechuan, and introduced it into commerce for the first time in 1989.' Such dwarf rhododendrons have particularly engaged Peter Cox, who is conscious that today's gardens cannot easily accommodate the big species that were the focus of plant hunters in the early 20th century. So, back in the 1950s, he began his own hybridising programme.
Beside the house at Glendoick, you can see the range of well-known small varieties he has raised, easily identified as Cox plants by their bird names: 'Swift', 'Snipe', 'Razorbill', 'Eider'. 'I think "Curlew" [soft yellow] and "Ptarmigan" [white] are among the best of the older ones,' Kenneth said. 'Of the newer ones "Brambling" is an excellent pink. It is a hybrid of a dwarf species my father and I collected in Yunnan in 1992.' Another breakthrough has been the introduction of fragrance into the group, by crossing the dwarf species with lily-scented R. edgeworthii. Creamy 'Tinkerbird' is one of the best results, and highly rated by Cox as a garden plant for sheltered sites and pots.
'It can take 10 to 20 years to produce a new rhodo,' he said, as we passed a group of non-descript plants. 'I can't remember what we were trying to do there but it hasn't worked.' Other programmes are producing evergreen azaleas for cool climates such as 'Panda' and 'Wombat'. 'My father was warned he might run out of bird names, so he called these after mammals.'
I asked for some practical tips. 'The small rhodos want an open position – they hate being dripped on by trees – with sun for part of the day. Clumping them together helps them keep their roots shaded and cool.' And while Glendoick, with its high rainfall and cool summers, may have ideal conditions for rhodos, what are the poor gardeners of southern England to do, now they find themselves in the Mediterranean? 'Go for the more drought-resistant species such as R yunnanense, oreotrephes, davidsonianum and augustinii, plant away from the competition of tree roots, and mulch well.'
Cox has followed family tradition in becoming an author, co-writing books with his father as well as developing the garden and nursery with him, much as Peter and Euan shared their working life. The photographs in this piece are by Ray Cox, Kenneth's brother. But it is clear that Kenneth's greatest passion is still exploration. 'There is so much out there to discover, and there are days when you see loads of plants you don't know. If you don't go up a particular valley, you can miss a whole species. And the most exciting collection is always the one that got away.'
Seeds of time Rebecca Dunbar Scotland on Sunday 28th April 2002
SOME people enjoy going to a shop to buy plants to stock their gardens, others gain greater satisfaction from growing things from seed. But only a select few fulfil their fantasies by heading into the wilds to collect seeds in their natural habitat. For the Cox family of Glendoick, near Perth, it's a way of life.
Three generations of Cox have explored the remoter regions of the world - especially the Orient - for more than 80 years, building up an unprecedented knowledge of rhododendrons and associated plants. Over that time, they have established a renowned nursery and garden centre and a magical five-acre woodland garden.
At this time of year, the woodland garden brims with masses of colour coming from the thousands of rhododendrons, camellias, kalmias and magnolias. Underneath are Himalayan poppies Meconopsis, primulas and trilliums, many of them also collected from the wild. Much ground cover such as Brunnera macrophylla, balsam and erythroniums like ‘White Beauty' are left to naturalise, seeding and flourishing around the garden. The overall effect is that of tranquil seclusion. But walking past the smooth, long limbs of the older plants, it gives an insight into what a real rhodie forest might be like.
One of the greatest lessons from seeing plants growing in their natural habitats is understanding their growing conditions and how they co-exist. This is certainly true at Glendoick, which is much more than a good rhododendron garden thanks to the devoted efforts of three generations of superb plantsmen. How many places enjoy that sort of constancy?
"My grandfather, Euan, had a literary background," says Kenneth Cox, "but somehow found himself on an expedition to Bhutan with the famous plantsman Reginald Farrer in 1919. Sadly, it was Farrer's last trip - he died shortly afterwards - but my grandfather was left to distribute all of Farrer's seeds." As a result, he came into contact with the expedition subscribers (they'd paid money towards the expedition in return for a share of the seeds collected), botanists and plantsmen. "This really fired a lasting enthusiasm for plants, and particularly rhododendrons. He certainly must have been invited on later expeditions," says Ken, "but he chose never to go plant-hunting again."
After returning to London and establishing a shop on Charing Cross Road, Euan became editor of a magazine called New Flora and Silva, but the family jute business required his attention, and in the 1930s Euan returned to Scotland. By 1939, he was living in Glendoick, where he wrote gardening columns for The Scotsman and Country Life.
Euan's son Peter shared his father's enthusiasm for plants, and after a spell at the renowned nursery Notcutts, in East Anglia, came home to establish a nursery at Glendoick with his father. Next year marks its 50th anniversary. In 1972, Peter's wife Patricia instigated the highly successful garden centre, which now has a turnover of more than £1m, while Peter and their son Kenneth continue the literary tradition, having produced more than 15 books that are widely regarded as essential reference for rhodoholics.
Peter and Patricia are officially retired but still retain an active role in the family-run enterprise, now helmed by Kenneth. Two on-site supply nurseries - one owned by the Coxes and one run by Kenneth's cousin, Peter Milne - supply 40% of the plants sold at the centre.
The breeding programme at Glendoick has made a significant impact on the rhododendron world, producing dwarf hybrid stalwarts such as ‘Curlew' and ‘Ptarmigan', and azaleas including ‘Wombat' and ‘Panda'. More than 40 dwarf rhododendrons and azaleas have been bred in the nursery and are widely available around the world. "We're now well on the way to developing a rhododendron with deep purply-red leaves, which really is very exciting," says Ken. Roughly 600 types of rhododendron are grown commercially at the nursery and in the walled garden, along with other associated shrubs such as Kalmia, Camellia and Enkianthus.
Seed brought back from expeditions are sown at the nursery, but also distributed elsewhere to ensure the plants' survival and dispersal. Some go to organisations such as the Rhododendron Species Foundation in the USA, as well as to other specialist growers including members of the Alpine Garden Society and Scottish Rock Garden Club.
Some of the most interesting garden plants are rediscovered treasures that were introduced in to British gardens in the 19th or early 20th century, but were then lost when countries closed their borders for political and military reasons. For instance, during much of the 20th century, the Chinese countryside was closed to visitors. Only within the last 20 years have people been allowed access in order to botanise once more. Peter Cox was part of the 1986 expedition that reintroduced the striking red Himalayan poppy Meconopsis punicea, which died out in UK gardens but has now been rejuvenated through careful propagation.
Another hotspot likely to prove a treasure trove is Arunachal Pradesh, a tribal area in north east India which acts as a buffer zone with China. In 1965, Patricia and Peter Cox headed off to look at the plants there. "I was only nine months old, so I was left behind," says Kenneth wistfully. This initial visit was cut short when the Indian army blocked their access, due to sensitivity following the short-lived Chinese invasion of 1962. Although they got no further than the foothills, Patricia and Peter found no fewer than three new species of rhododendron. Only now, after years of political uncertainty and military sensitivity, have they gained permission to return.
As a result, this autumn, Kenneth will get his chance, along with his father and their international team. They'll head high into the mountains to an area that has never been fully botanised and is likely to prove fascinating. Peter is especially excited, since this is one of the few rhododendron-rich sites that he has not botanised already. After waiting patiently for 37 years, his dream will finally become reality - and his garden will undoubtedly burst at the seams as a result.
Seeds of Adventure by Peter Cox & Peter Hutchison wins top award
This book was awarded Garden Media Guild Inspirational Book of the Year 2008 at a star-studded lunch in London. The judges commented:
'Even someone who couldn't care two hoots about rhododendrons would be gripped by the sheer bloody mindedness of these two as they suffered awkward locals, ticks the size of pennies, food poisoning, sodden tents and numerous travel headaches in their good-humoured quest. The anecdotes are delightful, the photographs of plants, people and views are breathtaking. What an inspiration to us all.'
This lavishly illustrated book is the story of the extensive travels made by Peter Cox and Peter Hutchison in search of plants from 1961 to 2005. Sixteen journeys - often arduous, sometimes dangerous and occasionally funny -in search of plants of the Himalaya and the high peaks of Western China, Tibet and Turkey. They explored territory where no western plant hunters had been since the great explorers such as Frank Kingdon Ward and some of the trails were so remote and rough that they had never before been botanised. They have introduced a host of plants, especially rhododendrons, new, rare or lost to cultivation, to grace the gardens of Europe and North America and, in some cases, by collecting them, they have ensured the survival of plants threatened in the wild. 448 pages, 700 colour photographs. £35 signed copies available. (postage incl for UK, £8 for foreign)
NOVEMBER 2008 Glendoick Restaurant wins UK Garden Centre Catering of the year for the 2nd time.
Best in the UK: its offical! Glendoick Restaurant
Glendoick Garden Centre Restaurant has beaten five other shortlisted cafes
(two from Scotland, three from England) to win first place in the catering categlory at the Garden Retail Awards 2008. Chairman of the Judges, Matthew Appleby said:
"The judges were very impressed with the ‘freshly-made' ethos of the restaurant. They liked the local sourcing, the atmosphere and ambience and the evident pride in the delicious homemade soup, scones and muffins that differentiates Glendoick from the competition."
Presented by comedian Fred Macaulay, himself no stranger to the delights of Glendoick, at a gala dinner in the Royal Garden Hotel in London, the annual Garden Retail Awards recognise excellence and help continually raise standards in the garden retail community.
Jane Cox, director of the Glendoick Garden Centre Restaurant, which has increased its turnover by 75% since she took over the running of the café and food hall in 2003, said:
"The Garden Retail Award is a fantastic acknowledgement of all the hard work the staff have put in to fulfil our objective of providing good simple food, freshly cooked. The judges recognised that we stay close to our purpose of providing home cooked dishes using the best seasonal, local ingredients and creating a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere for our customers."
December 2006 Flyover opens at Glendoick
At last, 25 years later than planned, we are delighted to announce that the flyover at Glendoick opened to traffic in December 2006 four months ahead of schedule.
Which makes it much easier and safer to visit Glendoick.
Rhododendron Everred goes ballastic.... November 2006
Thanks to Peter Seabrook featuring the two red leaved hybrids from Glendoick, Everred and Wine & Roses, the former is completely sold out. Glendoick's phones were red hot and all over the UK these plants dropped on people's doorsteps for Christmas.
US/UK Expedition complete the Riutala and Titapuri kora circuits, for the first time by any non-Indians in October 2005.
The 7-man expedition led by plant hunter Kenneth Cox with American explorer Ken Storm managed at the 3rd attempt to complete the buddhist koras (circular walks round a montain or mountains) in Pemako, Tibetan buddism's most sacred land which lies on the disputed Tibet-India border, with the help of momba and mishmi guides and porters. The expedition recorded a huge number of plants including a new species of Rhododendron which was discovered by Kenneth Cox in 2002 in the Yang Sang valley. They also located Rhododendron concinnoides.
A previous attempt to cross the Riutala by an Israeli team failed to complete the kora or the crossing and had to be airlifted off the mountain by the Indian Airforce. Local government officials reported that the Isreali expedition was extremely unpopular locally, as they treated the local people with disdain and refused to thank their rescuers.
One of several sacred lakes on the south side of the Riutala.
From St Andrews University:
Dr Peter Cox
The internationally renowned Scottish horticulturalist and botanist, Peter Cox received an honorary Doctor of Science degree on 22nd June 2005. Born into a Tayside family in 1934, Mr Cox is a world-rated plantsman, horticulturalist and gardener who established Glendoick Gardens rhododendron nursery and eventually the Glendoick Garden Centre.
Regarded as probably the world's greatest authority on rhododendrons, he is the author of 12 books on the species, as well as on other plants.
He has received many honours during his lifetime of service to horticulture, most notably the prestigious Victoria Medal of Honour in 1992, as well as the Scottish Horticultural Medal, the Gold Medal of the American Rhododendron Society, and a Lifetime Achievement Award as a nurseryman.
In her graduation address, Professor Pat Willmer, of the School of Biology and Dean of the Faculty, said, "Peter Cox has created and sustained one of the most beautiful gardens in Scotland, and he has introduced to it, and to the world at large, some of the most wonderful plants available in cultivation anywhere.
"He is, simply, the world's greatest authority on rhododendrons and their relatives, and his name is known globally."
Writer Bill Bryson was also honoured at the same ceremony.
We are proud to announce that the Glendoick restaurant was awarded the top prize at the Nurseryman and Garden Centre Awards 2005, with the award for best restaurant/coffee shop in a UK garden centre.
Jane & Ken Cox were presented with their prize by Sandi Toksvig at a top London Hotel. [photo c. Nick Dawson, Smile Photography]
07/09/2004 ‘NEW' RHODODENDRON SPECIES ‘DISCOVERED' IN SCOTTISH GARDEN
A new species of rhododendron, thought never to have been introduced from the wild, has been ‘discovered' in a Scottish garden over 60 years after it was named in Southern Tibet.
About 20 years ago, Peter Cox, rhododendron expert and nurseryman from Glendoick in Scotland obtained an unnamed but curious plant from Muncaster Castle in Cumbria which had been collected by plant-hunters Frank Ludlow and Geordie Sherriff. It turned out to have bright yellow flowers in early Spring. Peter planted it against a wall at his garden at Glendoick, referring to it as Rhododendron sulfureum aff. (Aff. Means affinity, which is used for a plant which looks a bit like but does not match another known species.)
2 years ago Peter Cox decided to see if he could find out once and for all what it should be called. After carefully checking numerous reference books, he realised that here was the missing R. dekatanum growing for 60 years, without anyone knowing what it was. Research revealed that Ludlow and Sherriff had collected this plant in 1936 in southern Tibet, near the Bhutan border. It was only known from a pressed specimen at the herbarium in the British museum, marked ‘not in cultivation'.
This hidden gem is now available for sale exclusively from Glendoick Gardens Ltd, Perth, Scotland, a mail order nursery, world famous for its Rhododendrons. Its bright yellow flowers will brighten any corner in early Spring, and the plant is compact and slow-growing, best suited to a sheltered site to protect its delightful flowers.
NEW AND RECENT INTRODUCTIONS FROM GLENDOICK GARDENS
RED-PURPLE LEAVED HYBRIDS We are very excited to announce a new breakthrough in rhododendron breeding. For the last 20 years at Glendoick we have been breeding dwarf hybrids with red or purple young foliage on upper and/or lower leaf surfaces. We think that these new hybrids should revolutionise the use of rhododendrons in the landscape.
Red-leaved rhododendrons: Everred and Wine and Roses
Wine and Roses [‘pinkros'] pink flowers in May and features pink fading to red on the underside of its leaves.
Everred [851C] reddish-purple leaves on both upper and lower surface and flowers in April with dark red flowers.
Both plants are semi-dwarf and compact, suitable for small gardens as a border or in containers and should flourish anywhere in the UK.
EVER RED [85/1C] 60cm. H4. (EU plant variety rights apply; propagation for sale without a licence is illegal) Dark red-purple flowers (seldom) in April-May. The first of our red-leaved hybrids to be named, this slow-growing dwarf has stunning leaves the colour of Cotinus ‘Royal Purple' on both upper and lower surface. The new growth is particularly striking.
WINE AND ROSES [pinkros] 1m H4. (EU plant variety rights apply. Propagation for sale without a license is illegal) Bright pink flowers very freely produced in compact trusses in April-May. Leaves, bronzy when young, have a deep red underside which is visible from a distance as the leaves are held pointing upright. An amazing foliage plants and sure to become an instant best-seller.