Garden designers and landscape gardeners often choose plants by thinking about how many seasons of interest they give. As a garden designer and landscape gardener based in Glasgow, I often choose the likes of Malus ‘Evereste’, a crab apple, as it gives three seasons of interest - spring flowers, leaves in the summer, and yellow foliage (and orange fruits!) in the autumn.
Have you ever wondered why trees produce such beautiful autumn colours? What mechanisms are actually behind the wonderful fiery displays that we are being treated with across the strath right now? Ultimately, the triggering factors are the reduced amount of light the trees are receiving during shorter days, and lower temperatures. As these environmental changes occur, leaves produce less food and the green pigment chlorophyll disappears, revealing the oranges and yellows that we would be seeing anyway if it wasn’t for the presence of the chlorophyll. Other chemical changes add to these colours, creating the really vibrant autumn colours. Warm summers and mild autumns add to the vibrancy of the colours, though the stresses that our dry summer will have caused the trees this year may mean an abrupt end to the autumn colours, so enjoy them while they last!
We can see the same changes in leaf colour in some of the shrubs and plants in our gardens – be that as autumn leaves, or brightly coloured new foliage in the spring. The most obvious characteristic of plants that creates garden interest for a garden designer is of course flowers, but if you look beyond flowers you can create a garden that provides interest every day of the year. Garden designers and landscape gardeners choose plants that have got bright foliage such as Pieris japonica ‘Christmas Cheer’, which is hardy enough for Scotland, and produces light pink foliage over winter and spring. Other plants produce interest with their fruits or seeds. A species I mentioned earlier, I planted a Crabapple tree, Malus ‘Evereste’, in my Glasgow garden a couple of winters ago, and each autumn I have been rewarded with a bounty of beautiful and dramatic little crabs.
Fragrance is another characteristic that can add interest and so is key to many garden designs. Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’ produces a wonderful scent, and the Jonquil variety of daffodils are grown for their fragrance too. Coming into the winter months it can be difficult to find plants to create interest, but if you make sure that you include some attractively shaped plants you can easily overcome this. Garden designers and landscape gardeners love ornamental grasses such as Deschampsia cespitosa 'Goldtau' look great being blown about in the wind. There are even some plants that flower in the winter such as Daphne mezereum. All of these plants can survive winters in Glasgow, hardy to -20C and colder.
Keep these ideas in mind when choosing plants and creating a garden design, be that in Glasgow or elsewhere. Make sure you are mixing in grasses and shapely evergreens with your herbaceous perennials, and you’ll soon be on your way to creating a year-round Glasgow garden design.
Tom Angel is a Chartered Horticulturist, soft landscaping specialist, and fully-qualified and award-winning garden designer. Based in Glasgow, Tom offers everything from planting plans & garden design to landscape gardening and tree & hedge planting. Tom offers these services in and around the Glasgow area.
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