Creating a Scottish Native Garden

I have designed gardens and borders all through my career, but never a natives garden. There has sometimes been a theme to a border or garden, but usually for decorative purposes or to suit the conditions. So to design a garden based on a specific set of plants and their habitats was quite a departure. How did we arrive at a native plant garden in the first place? Once David's new office was finished we wanted to landscape the bit of ground between it and the drive. For 13 years this has been an unsightly bit of weedy waste ground where things got dumped, worse because it's what you see when you come up the drive and draw up in front of the house. As David is a consultant ecologist, the natural thought process brought us to a garden containing native plants, which ties in nicely with the wildlife and creatures he works with, and of course Scottish ones.

The beginning, after two ton bags of sand and slates had been removed
I have been fairly well acquainted with native plants throughout my career, but not for a while so this was a very interesting exercise, reacquainting myself with those plants that occur naturally in Scotland. I needed to produce a list of what we wanted to plant in the native garden and how to plant them together in their particular habitats. Research produced six distinctive habitats we wanted to work with, which would give us a wider spectrum of plants to grow. These were woodland, hedgerow, rock, bog/wet meadow and meadow and aquatic. Then it was a case of working where each of these areas would fit into the space. The space is approx 60ft x 20ft and almost half of it is part of the original brick farmyard we uncovered earlier in the year between the office and drive. We also wanted to include a pond to give us the water habitat, to create interest and add another dimension to the front garden. How to create a woodland habitat when there is no woodland? A little bit of creativity, thinking outside the box and creating mini versions of these habitats was the answer.

After the bonfire had been burnt and lots
 of soil and weedy grass had been removed
 we uncovered some of the original brick farm yard
Ready to start digging out the pond
View of the native garden from the house

A Bracken's eye view of the pond
The woodland habitat has a Sorbus aucuparia (Rowan or Mountain Ash) planted in the centre of a 6 x 6ft square on the north corner of the garden where there was a chunk of missing brick. This will form the woodland canopy to give shade to Deschampsia, Blechnum, Athyrium, Convalaria, Luzula and Snowdrops. Most of these I had in the garden already, so by using maturer plants I've been able to make it look more established.

Woodland habitat

Along the front of the office there is a narrow border between it and the bricks, so this is where the hedgerow habitat is. With shade from the building, seedling beech trees and a narrow, shallow piece of ground the plants should be quite at home. Here I have planted, Digitalis, Cowslips, Aquelegia, Geranium, Cow Parsley and Dryopteris.

The rock area and hedgerow planting
This left the other half of the plot, part of which is now taken up with the new pond we installed in the autumn. What fun digging a 2ft hole in solid clay and stone! But the end result looks brilliant with stone used from the old farmhouse and a pebble beach blending into the gravel of the drive. At the top end of the pond is the rock habitat, where small native alpines will be at home. These include Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Cystopteris dickieana, Fragaria vesca, Dianthus deltoides and Campanula rotundifolia.


On the other side of the pond is the meadow habitat, supporting grasses, Lychnis flos cucli, Ajugas, Agrimonia, Poppys and Daucus. Eventually all these plants and more will mesh together to form an interpretation of a grassy meadow habitat.

The meadow gradually merges into the boggy meadow planted with a perforated pond liner under the soil to retain some water. Here we've planted the kind of natives you'll find enjoying damp to wet soil, along stream edges and bogs. Lythrum, Caltha, Trollius, Butomis and Eupatorium will give lots of colour through the season.

As well as looking interesting and attractive, we will be growing native plants and also very importantly creating a habitat for wild life, especially insects and amphibina.

Campanula rotundifolia

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