Bulbs are key to garden designs, be they for your Glasgow garden or elsewhere. Spring bulbs are really useful for garden designers and landscape gardeners looking for an impactful start of the season. September onwards is bulb planting time, and time to think about what your garden is going to look like through the winter too. With some thought, you can make sure a garden is looking good throughout the year. Some simple measures includes spring bulbs, ornamental grasses, shrubs with architectural frameworks, and herbaceous plants that die back gracefully enough to hold a winter frost in an attractive fashion. Don’t be tempted to cut everything back en bloc at the end of the winter as you can be losing a lot of winter interest that way. The winters can be long and hard in Glasgow, but some careful thought now can ensure you have a nice garden to look out upon through the upcoming months.
In September I planted a load of Crocus and Muscari bulbs in my driveway in Glasgow, randomly in small groups, with the intention that come late winter and into spring I’ll get some cheerful bursts of colour. A rule of thumb for planting depth is to plant bulbs at 3 times their height deep. A word of warning about Snowdrop bulbs (Galanthus sp.) – I have very rarely known the bulbs to come up! Always better planting them ‘in the green’ (transplanting them after flowering with their leaves on). Narcissus bulbs are a great choice too, and there are far more delicate varieties available than just the communal garden daffs. Other spring bulbs to consider are Chionodoxa, Tulips and Fritllaria. All these bulbs survive well in Glasgow.
Let’s have a look at some options with regards to choosing some plants that will look good in a winter garden. The first rule here is to make sure you’re looking at plants that are hardy enough. ‘Hardy’ is a technical term meaning that a ‘Fully Hardy’ plant (hardiness rating 5) should survive to -15C. I usually opt for plants with a hardiness rating of At least 4 in Glasgow, indicating that the plant should survive to around -10C. An even safer bet is an H5+ rating. In Glasgow during a bad winter temperatures can on occasion dip below -10C. (It’s easy enough to check a plant’s hardiness rating on the internet if it is not shown on the label).
Some plants that provide interest earlier in the year can provide nice architectural shapes in the winter if you don’t cut them down after they die back. These include Astilbe chinensis, Phlomis russeliana and Dispacus fullonum (Common Teasel). Don’t be shy about tidying them up a bit if they’re looking tatty. Nice clean examples look great with a heavy coating of frost on them. Ornamental grasses are a big favourite of mine for winter interest. Years ago I worked as winter hut warden in some mountains in New Zealand – I used to spend days at a time watching Tussock grasses blowing wildly in the wind while storm-bound inside my hut! Ever since then I’ve always enjoyed having grasses in my garden that provide structure all year round and are happy to get knocked around by winter storms. Grasses I would recommend are Deschampsia cespitosa, Hakonechloa macrantha and Miscanthus sinensis.
Other plants that survive well in a winter garden in Glasgow include Cornus alba ‘Midwinter Fire’ (for bright orange stems), Hellebores (Christmas Rose), and Mahonia species (evergreen with yellow flowers in the winter). In a recent Glasgow garden design project I used a number of these plants alongside the likes of architectural Amelanchier lamarckii.
Tom Angel provides garden design, planting plans and a plant sourcing services. In addition to this, Tom sources and installs plant pots and garden furniture, as well as offering garden consultancy and offering advice over japanese knotweed removal. Tom is an award-winning garden designer, landscape gardener and chartered horticulturist based in Glasgow.
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