Gardening Around the World: Scottish Horticulture

— Written By and last updated by
en Español / em Português

El inglés es el idioma de control de esta página. En la medida en que haya algún conflicto entre la traducción al inglés y la traducción, el inglés prevalece.

Al hacer clic en el enlace de traducción se activa un servicio de traducción gratuito para convertir la página al español. Al igual que con cualquier traducción por Internet, la conversión no es sensible al contexto y puede que no traduzca el texto en su significado original. NC State Extension no garantiza la exactitud del texto traducido. Por favor, tenga en cuenta que algunas aplicaciones y/o servicios pueden no funcionar como se espera cuando se traducen.


Inglês é o idioma de controle desta página. Na medida que haja algum conflito entre o texto original em Inglês e a tradução, o Inglês prevalece.

Ao clicar no link de tradução, um serviço gratuito de tradução será ativado para converter a página para o Português. Como em qualquer tradução pela internet, a conversão não é sensivel ao contexto e pode não ocorrer a tradução para o significado orginal. O serviço de Extensão da Carolina do Norte (NC State Extension) não garante a exatidão do texto traduzido. Por favor, observe que algumas funções ou serviços podem não funcionar como esperado após a tradução.


English is the controlling language of this page. To the extent there is any conflict between the English text and the translation, English controls.

Clicking on the translation link activates a free translation service to convert the page to Spanish. As with any Internet translation, the conversion is not context-sensitive and may not translate the text to its original meaning. NC State Extension does not guarantee the accuracy of the translated text. Please note that some applications and/or services may not function as expected when translated.

Collapse ▲

My friends know that I am a bona fide plant nerd. So, even when I go on vacation, I am still keeping my eye to the garden gate to see how folks garden where they live. Scotland has an incredible history of gardening and plant exploration, and there are some elements we can appreciate even as American gardeners.

A Wee Summary of Scottish Gardening

Scotland is well-loved for its verdant glens and dramatic scenery. Its coasts are rocky and beautiful, and the open fields are covered in heathers, mosses, sheep and cows. Humans have occupied the country for thousands of years, so most of the land and buildings are neatly lined with rocks or other features to distinguish them from the next parcel. Gardens are squeezed into all available spaces and houses with a solarium are highly sought-after.

Most homes and row houses in the cities have some type of gardening area, whether it is a sliver of pavement for planters or an impossibly-angled walled garden just barely large enough for a couple shrubs and some landscape features. Sometimes they are in the front along the street, and sometimes in the back of the building, hidden in a courtyard only for other residents to see. Community gardens, or crofts, as they are called in the United Kingdom, are usually waiting-list only and can be sprawling, untidy amalgamations of rectangular plots of vegetables and flowers. Garden spaces grow larger the further you get out of the cities, and it is common that guesthouses and hotels in the countryside will have heavily-landscaped gardens on the grounds.

Plants grow even in the in-between spaces. Mosses, ferns and lichens cover the tops of walls and the sides of buildings. The British Isles are home to more species of mosses and ferns than they are threes, shrubs and other flowering plants! Unfortunately, many of the invasive species in Scotland are adept at growing in cracks and crevices, as well, and you can see shrubs of butterfly bush, Buddleia davidii, growing from the sides of buildings and sidewalk cracks.

Scotland’s Growing Climate

Everyone’s yard is different, whether it is two neighbors in North Carolina or two countries across the ocean. It is important to be able to analyze the microclimate of your growing area and understand how it will affect what types of plants you can grow.

In Scotland, they have a surprisingly mild climate, because of the Gulf Stream, and the weather across the country can change from hour to hour, coast to coast. Their frosts can come as late or later than ours in Central North Carolina. The west coast

Front Garden Roses - Photo by Amanda Wilkins

Front Garden Roses – Photo by Amanda Wilkins

is notoriously wet and verdant, and is considered a temperate rainforest climate. The east coast can be much drier, comparatively, and is moderated by winds from the Atlantic and North Sea. The sun is not always a given and on sunny days you can see Scottish folks stopping their days to bask in the glow.

All of this means that while a lot of plants can escape a harsh, snowy winter, they are also at the mercy of more cloudy than sunny days, and short winter and long summer days because of the latitude of the country. It doesn’t venture much warmer than 70 degrees in the summertime, so there is no great spurt of growth like we have in the spring as the weather warms. My experience trying to grow tomatoes while I was living there is a lesson in the effect of this dark, dank climate.

Many of our favorite Southeastern plants will not thrive in such a climate, but that is just an opportunity for a whole host of other incredible plants. Rhododendrons are a favorite of Scottish gardeners, as well as conifers and classic British staples, like roses and Hebes. There are some amazing plants from subtropical rainforests in Chile, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Northwest of North America that thrive. Most Scottish plant palettes include a healthy mixture of evergreen and deciduous trees to make something look alive even on the darkest winter day.

Scottish gardens hold all of the romantic appeal of your wildest hopes and dreams. The lush green backdrop makes the fall color of the Norway maples and European beeches pop. The long falls allow for second or third flowering for some roses and Rhododendrons. It is well-worth visiting Scotland throughout the year to see how the flowers come and go, and see the botanical wonders we cannot grow in Central North Carolina.

Why am I writing about Scottish Horticulture?

I did my Masters program at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh and the University of Edinburgh in the Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants. That is quite the mouthful, but it essentially means I gained an understanding of why there are so many different plants, where they came from, how they came to be where they are, and why and how we give them those pesky scientific names. I spent almost two years in the country and had the great pleasure of having a colleague who was also an avid gardener while I was there. As I write this, I am sitting in Edinburgh, Scotland!

Amanda Wilkins is the Horticulture Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.