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Glendoick Garden Centre, Glencarse, Perth, PH2 7NS
Low light levels and summer dryness make dry shade one of the tougher problem areas for gardeners. It suits only a fairly select number of plants, and getting plants established under trees can be difficult, especially trees such as beech and sycamore, which are both greedy and cast a very dense shade. Physically digging between roots can be hard work, and it’s often worth creating planting pockets with good compost to replace impoverished soil. Leylandii hedges are also bad news, as they take so much moisture from the soil for up to 2m either side, or more. The north side of a leylandii hedge is a particularly poor place to garden. Most plants with coloured and variegated foliage tend towards green in deep shade. In general, planting is best done in autumn, once first rains have come. Everything should be regularly watered until roots are well established.
Lonicera pileata and L. nitida
Prunus lusitanica and P. laurocerasus
Rhododendron decorum and R. yunnanense
Rosa x alba ‘Alba Maxima’
Anemone x hybrida/japonica
Dryopteris filix-mas (fern)
Geranium macrorrhizum, G. phaeum and others
Helleborus argutifolius, H. foetidus
Glendoick Plants for moist shade
Provided the soil is not waterlogged, nor the shade too dense, moist shade can support a wide range of plants. Shade under the edges of the crowns of trees and large shrubs is deal, whereas right underneath the middle of a dense tree such as beech will be too dark and too dry for almost all plants. The north sides of walls often provide sites with moist shade.
Prunus laurocerasus and P. lusitanica
Rhododendron and Azalea (dappled or part day shade only as deep shade causes shy flowering and straggly plants. Yellow varieties of larger hybrids need very sharp drainage
Many Scottish gardeners have to contend with clay soils, especially those in flat valleys such as the Carse of Gowrie between Perth and Dundee. Clay soils are heavy, often tending to set and crack when too dry. Regular waterlogging, compaction and lack of air around the roots can kill many plants, and the easiest way to deal with clay is to garden on it, rather than in it. Many plants can be far more successfully grown in raised beds, a minimum of 30cm high, with lighter, free-draining topsoil or compost, held in by wood, rocks, cobbles and other materials. Or use containers.
Trees and shrubs (including climbers)
Aesculus hippocastanum (chestnut)
Berberis darwinii, B. stenophylla
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana cvs
Humulus lupulus aureus
Roses (but dislike being waterlogged)
Salix, including S. hastata, S. caprea, S. matsudana, S. chyrsocoma
Viburnum opulus, V. bodnantense
Aster novae-angliae, A. novi-belgii
Astilbe & Aruncus
Ferns, including Osmunda regalis, Polystichum setiferum
Houttuynia cordata ‘Chamaeleon’
Iris laevigata (Flag Iris)
Primula florindae, P. japonica
Plants may need extra help to establish in very exposed sites: use artificial materials such as fencing or woven plastic. Trees should be securely staked when newly planted.
A. pseudoplatanus cultivars
Alnus glutinosa, A. incana
Juniperus horizontalis, J. squamata
Sorbus aucuparia, S. aria
Cytisus (except C. battandieri)
Pinus mugo ‘Mops’
Rhododendron ‘Cunningham’s White’, ‘Fastuosum Flore Pleno’ etc
Rosa pimpinellifolia, R. rugosa
Salix alba (and others)
Perennials and bulbs
Autumn colour: the most reliable plants for Scotland
Best autumn colour is achieved in dry crisp autumns. Mild wet ones are less impressive. Most of the plants listed below will colour well every year.
Acer, including A. palmatum ‘Ösakazuki’ (probably the best of all)
Euonymus alatus, E. europaeus ‘Red Cascade’
Rhododendron (Azalea) luteum and other deciduous azaleas
Amongst others, Amelanchier, Liquidambar, Liriodendron, Parrotia, and Quercus rubra can be good or disappointing, depending on the year.
Berries and hips are both ornamental and in most cases beneficial to birds and animals in winter. The best berry set is usually after hot summers such as that of 2006. Some berries are eaten by birds as soon as they are ripe, while others, less tasty to wildlife, hang on well into winter.
Trees and Shrubs
Cotoneaster horizontalis, C. hybrida pendula, etc.
Euonymus hamiltonianus and europaeus
Gaultheria (Pernettya) mucronata (male needed)
Ilex (female forms only (male needed near by)
Malus (crab apple) (most need pollinators)
Rosa species but not hybrids
Sorbus aucuparia and Chinese species S. hupehensis, S. cashmeriana, etc.
Skimmia reevesiana and S. japonica (male needed)
Viburnum opulus, V. davidii (needs male)
Many plants have scented flowers. Many of the best are winter flowering and some remarkably small flowers can produce very strong fragrances. Scent is often best at dusk and on warm and still days.
Hamamelis mollis (witchhazel)
Lonicera periclymenum (honeysuckle)
Primula veris (cowslip)
Rhododendron ‘Loderi’, R. decorum, Tinkerbird, R. edgeworthii
Azaleas: R. luteum, R. arborescens
Rosa (many) (rose)
Sarcococca (winter box)
Viburnum (winter flowering)
Plants to attract butterflies, moths, bees
Helleborus (flowers before most plants, providing vital food)
Scabious and Knautia
North-facing walls usually get little or no sun, so few climbers will flower well until they reach the top of the wall. It is therefore better to concentrate on growing foliage plants. This list contains the best performers.
Cotoneaster horizontalis (will climb against a wall)
Pyracantha self supporting, flowers and berries.
Parthenocissus (Boston Ivy and Virginia Creeper)
Hydrangea petiolaris (climbing Hydrangea)
Lonicera japonica Halliana (foliage plant)