Scotland's gardens get seasonal 'double take'

Mild winter conditions and a lack of frost has seen gardens across Scotland bursting into bloom earlier than expected, with one garden curator saying he is "staggered" by the range of plants in flower.

Pitmuies Forfar, DSG's garden of the season. Image: Supplied
Pitmuies Forfar, DSG's garden of the season. Image: Supplied

Alasdair Hood, curator at Dundee Botanic Garden, noted: "Mild autumn and winter weather is creating a dramatic seasonal shift, which is increasingly noticeable year by year.

"While the need for grass cutting extends out into November, we can start all over again in early March because steady rainfall has provided plenty of wetness for good growth. However, incredible deluges and downpours of rain have certainly afforded us some challenges in terms of preparing the soil for spring planting, but looking at our thriving Australian and New Zealand eucalyptus trees, I am quite staggered by the diversity of plants in flower at this time of the year."

Dundee is a member of Discover Scottish Gardens, a new network of more than 130 gardens and garden related businesses across all regions of Scotland. Many other members are reporting early spring surprises due to mild winter weather.

With most garden businesses preparing for a March re-opening after a winter shut-down, the first visitors may be able to witness a unique 'double-season' effect, where spring bulbs are bursting out of the ground, while at the same time, the winter flower season is extended due to the recent spell of returning frost.

Catherine Erskine, chair of Discover Scottish Gardens, said: "We are seeing significant climatic changes in Scottish gardens this spring. Snowdrop season started much earlier this year following the mild winter we had. On the other hand, it will last much longer, as we are experiencing another cold spell of frost at the moment, and even snowfall on higher grounds. Visitors will be able to enjoy winter plants and spring bulbs at the same time."

West coast gardens such as Castle Kennedy and Glenwhan have experienced the double-take effect on plant growth. While carpets of snowdrops still have to open up into full bloom, the rhododendron species R. sichotense and R. praecox popped their heads up in early January.

Tessa Knott, DSG member and gardener at Glenwhan, commented: "These types of rhododendrons tend to be early, but were surprisingly early this year. Also flowering are our camellias and Cytisus [aka Genista] 'Porlock', adding bright splashes of colour to the last winter days. But the real star at Glenwhan is our Daphne bholua, already spreading its delicious scent. We are anticipating a fabulous season this spring, full of colour and variety."

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