What changed was the idea of growing plants year-round in containers - and once nurseries realised that this was possible, garden centres were born.
Glendoick Garden Centre was one of Scotland’s first, opened in April 1973 by owners Peter and Patricia Cox, on the A90 Peth-Dundee Road, near the existing rhododendron nursery.
Over the last 50 years it has expanded, and expanded, adding to its amazing plant range and gardening offering, with award-winning gifts, fashion, Christmas items, food hall and café. Still family-owned and family-run, Peter and Patricia Cox’s son Ken is the MD, with his wife Jane developing the café and food hall over the last 20 years.
Patricia Cox trained in horticulture and for the first 25 years of Glendoick’s operation she was the ‘go to’ person for plants. As well as advising customers at Glendoick, she also planned and planted the Glendoick display garden, and designed and advised on hundreds of gardens in Scotland.
Peter Cox, nurseryman, plant hunter, plant breeder, and garden writer ran the rhododendron mail order nursery Glendoick Gardens, half a mile behind the garden centre which grows many of the plants sold in the garden centre. Glendoick’s nursery has sold rhododendrons and azaleas to gardeners as far away as Australia and New Zealand, as well as all over the UK and Europe.
Peter made his first crosses in the late 1950s with the aim of breeding dwarf rhododendrons suitable for smaller gardens. Peter loves birds, almost as much as rhododendrons, so he decided to name his new hybrids after birds. Some of the earliest hybrids included the yellow ‘Curlew’ and pure white ‘Ptarmigan’, both of which are still grown today. More recent introductions include the scented ‘Tinkerbird’, bringing the total now to over 35 named rhododendron ‘bird’ hybrids.
Peter Cox and Sir Peter Hutchison began their lifelong plant-hunting partnership in 1962 in Turkey, and once China reopened in 1981, they went almost every year to the mountains of China and the Himalaya in search of new plants. Peter’s son Kenneth Cox joined the team in 1992 and went on to lead many expeditions to Tibet and north east India.
The Cox expeditions introduced many new plant species for the first time, and they even discovered several new species of rhododendron on the way. Peter Cox and Sir Peter Hutchison celebrated their plant hunting adventures in their book ‘Seeds of Adventure’, and Ken in ‘Riddle of the Tsangpo Gorges’.
Peter and Kenneth worked from 1980 onwards on breeding and selecting rhododendrons with coloured foliage. Three with red foliage are 'Everred’ with dark red leaves and flowers, 'Wine and Roses’ with pink flowers and red leaf undersides, and ‘Wonderred’ with dark red flowers and red-brown young leaves. ‘Viking Silver’ has silver leaves, and ‘Red and Gold’ and ‘All Gold’ have bright yellow leaves.
Glendoick’s evergreen azaleas are bred for the Scottish climate. This time Peter decided to use mammals for names and the first of many were the white ‘Panda’, pink ‘Lemur’ and ‘Wombat’, and the red ‘Squirrel’.
Kenneth’s more recent Glendoick series of double flowered cultivars include the red ‘Glendoick Goblin’ and the amazing double pale pink ‘Glendoick Georgette’.
Glendoick deciduous azaleas are named after Scottish Mountains: ‘Ben Cruachan’ is double cream, ‘Ben Macdui’ double yellow, and ‘Ben Lawers’ is double bright pink.
Kenneth Cox has long written about, and promoted the idea that Scotland’s climate needs a particular selection of plants which is not the same as that offered in the south of England. The climate within Scotland varies greatly, depending on whether you live in Shetland or Braemar or Galloway, so you need to choose the right plants.
Kenneth persuaded the Royal Horticultural Society to change their hardiness ratings to reflect the requirements for hardiness in Scotland and further afield. Glendoick has always tried to sell only plants which thrive in Scotland.
‘Garden Plants for Scotland’ and ‘Fruit and Vegetables for Scotland’ written by Kenneth Cox with Raoul Curtis Machin and Caroline Beaton have become the bibles for gardeners in Scotland. The authors travelled all round Scotland interviewing gardeners, looking at what grew well where, and what the key timings were for sowing and planting out vegetables and fruit. The books even tell you why peaches, nectarines, and melons are not likely to give masses of ripe fruit in Scotland!
What gardeners want to know is ‘how will this plant do in my garden?’ At Glendoick, they want gardeners to succeed with the plants they buy, not be seduced by lovely flowers on a plant which will not do well. Glendoick uses giant colour signage with full details on the hardiness, and the conditions every plant needs - that way gardeners get the right plants for the right place.
Glendoick has been committed to their local community, contributing more than £40,000 to good causes over the last 10 years, and opening the gardens under Scotland's Gardens Scheme for 50 years.
As Glendoick embarks on its second half century, Kenneth and Jane Cox would like to pay tribute to all Glendoick’s customers past and present, and to all Glendoick’s amazing staff who have worked there over the last 50 years.
Glendoick always recognised the value of having gardeners and trained horticultural staff on the team. Some of the longest serving over the years include Betty Forsyth, Debbie Hodge, Jonathan Davies Coleman, Fiona Heggison, and the current team of Annie Kane, Lynn Macintosh, Suki Fleming and Caroline Leigh Smith.
Glendoick Garden Centre plans to celebrate its jubilee year with a 'Best Gardens' competition, staff reunions, local tree planting, support for young gardeners, and Glendoick woodland garden tours, forming a year-long programme of events for Glendoick’s Golden anniversary.
We wish them all the very best for their jubilee celebrations!