/ Home & Energy

Are gardeners in the North missing out on advice?

Frozen red berries on a tree

Does the North-South divide go further than just our economics and accents? Are we growing completely different varieties? And do we have completely different gardening calendars?

As someone who grew up in the north of Britain and then moved south, I am all too aware of the differences of gardening in different areas of the country. Longer winters and cooler summers mean different plants will thrive in different locations.

You only need to look at the huge number of apple cultivars bred to be suitable for every locality to see that plants are regionally adapted. A plant that comes into bud in April may be good in the South, but it could easily be damaged by frost in the North.

Beechgrove on the Beeb

After 35 years on Scottish screens, The Beechgrove Garden starts its run again this week and for the first time it will be aired nationwide (BBC2 Sunday 7 April 9.30am). Most of us may not be as familiar with Jim McColl, Carole Baxter, Carolyn Spray and George Anderson as we are with Monty Don, Joe Swift, Rachel de Thame and Carol Klein. But the BBC is sure that you will take them to your hearts, just as Scottish audiences have.

The BeechgroveGarden has been a long-term fixture on Scottish screens and since the programme became available to viewers south of the border via the iPlayer app, their audience figures have been steadily growing.

The programme focuses on growing in Scottish conditions and has been filmed in the same purpose-built garden near Aberdeen for 18 years, evolving alongside the gardens. The aim is to give practical advice to gardeners dealing with northern conditions, including a ‘problem corner’ where the presenters deal with viewers’ problems in their own gardens. This year the team will be joined by Chris Beardshaw, who told us recently that new viewers felt the program reflected the regional gardening conditions across the UK, not just Scotland.

Which? Gardening, whatever the weather

At Which? Gardening we recognise the different challenges faced by gardeners around the country. Our perennial plant trials are conducted at several different sites including Alnwick gardens in the North East and Greenbank in Glasgow, to see how they fare in different locations. Every year we send out thousands of packets of seeds to members all over the country, so we can be sure that the plants we recommend can be grown successfully wherever your garden is.

Although, with most gardeners in the North and South facing a particularly harsh end to winter and a bitterly cold start to the spring, I think most of us will need to be that little bit ‘hardier’.

How do you adapt your gardening to your regional conditions? If you live in the North of Britain, do you find that most gardening advice is not tailored to your needs?


I only live 15 miles from central London but feel a lot of sympathy for Northern Gardeners.

My garden is in a notorious frost hollow where the frost pocket is caused by a railway embankment that prevents the natural drainage of cold air from the Chess valley. Minimum temperatures in the pocket may be tens of degrees below the surroundings. Air frosts have been recorded in every month of the year, comparable to the Scottish Highlands. Famously on 29th August 1936 the temperature climbed from 1.1 C at dawn to 29.4 C within 9 hours, the largest daily range in temperature ever recorded in Britain.

For this reason I don’t have as much choice as I would like about what to grow and my perennials are painfully slow to get going.

I’ve had to develop what I like to think of as a Darwinian approach to my garden – survival of the fittest – and hardiest – plants. I simply don’t bother with anything slightly tender because they can be finished by a night of frost – even in June.

My garden was very overgrown when I first moved in, so I’ve also tried to take my lead from what was alive when I arrived and bought more of the same types of plants – just in the colours that I prefer…

Pat Gore says:
31 May 2013

I quite agree that too much gardening advice is geared to the southern half of the UK. I have been helped and encouraged by the column written by David Ferguson. He reminds us not to be too hasty, to be guided by soil temperature, what native wild plants are doing and that late planting can be a virtue.