The Tender Trap

The Tender Trap

Try as we may there are some plants –  which no matter what we do simply will not flourish in our garden, and how annoying is it to see the very same specimen flowering its heart out in a garden not a half mile from your house.  Some folks may tell you, no matter what I do I cant get a thing to grow in my garden, I think its because I don’t have green fingers. 

Personally I do not believe in the green finger milarky, perseverance and taking pleasure from your successes and not taking the failures too seriously will hold you in good stead.    Well whatever I am glad that gardening found me.  At times, when far too much rubbish has been going on in my head, a few hours in the garden and I forget all that was bothering me.  Gardening provides me with all the exercise which I need and in my early years of retirement has been a total boon.  Also to have a partner who is equally enthusiastic is just the ticket.

The Tender Trap

What about those plants that are just a bit too tender to grow in our cooler climate here in Aberdeen.  Well very often it does turn out to be correct, but every now and then if we push the boat we can be pleasantly surprised.

If you find a spot that is sheltered enough and fully south facing  you may well be amazed at what you can get away with.

Try Nerine, sometimes described as a little tender, fair enough I can hear some of you say, not tender at all, however we are in the North of Scotland, yet if you plant in the right spot they will flower year after year. Choose Nerine Bowdenii, hardiest of them all with umbels of lily like pink flowers which bloom from  late September through till early November. This one is also known as the Jersey Lily. Plant the bulbs in Spring with their heads just above the soil in a sunny dry spot, preferably with the protection of a wall. The RHS gave this one the prestigious award of garden merit.  These two pictures which I have posted today is of my neighbour Louis front garden where it has flowered every year since we arrived at this neighbourhood  26yrs ago. He will be highly amused to find his garden on the worldwide web.

I remember quite a number of years ago on a local television gardening show, the presenter said that trying to grow Camellias in Aberdeen was a waste of time! not at all, planted in the right spot, we get fantastic results especially with the Williamsii Camellia Donation, the one below is in our woodland garden and gives a great show April/May.

The Tender Trap

Also a famous and much respected Yorkshire gardener sadly no longer with us, Geoffrey Smith often said that the winter flowering Hamamelis  struggled to grow in his Yorkshire garden, yet here in Aberdeen where it is colder they flower their hearts out. Here is Arnolds Promise in our woodland with the branches perhaps a bit higgledy piggledy, yet nevertheless flowering profusely.


Mind you I have never had good results with Magnolia, however, I have seen them in other gardens in this city.
So if you are interested in gardening, just get out there and do it, it wont matter if you make Mistakes, this is how we all learn, and you will just love the results, well sometimes.  Below is the Magnolia Liliflora Nigra showing rather humbly that she is willing to open up in Aberdeenshire. This shot was taken on my visit to Crathes Castle in April of last year.

The Tender Trap

And here we have Stellata an undercover shot whilst I was in the West end of the city in mid April. Stellata is in fact the only Magnolia which will actually flourish in Aberdeen, even then it requires careful positioning.  The blooms as you can see were just going over by the time I got to it.


I have not seen the Abutilon x Suntese in any other garden in the Aberdeen area. In fact I have always been astonished at how well it performs in our woodland as it seems to be regarded as a plant for more southerly areas. However it has flowered profusely in our garden for the past twelve years at least. Unfortunately it had taken such a battering in the severe Winter of 2010/11 it was decimated and looked all but dead. In mid Spring the twelve foot high shrub had still no sign of leaves, I cut it back and new growth started to sprout from the stems, of course it didn’t flower but is once again looking very healthy, great hopes for this year.  Below is how the Abutilon looked in the Summer of 2010.

Although some plants may be borderline in our garden it can be surprising as to how lucky you can be with some of them which are known to be quite tender.  What about Callistemon Citrinus, well I would say beware, the garden centres are continually trying to trap us into buying this one. I have tried it on quite a number of occasions and it never comes through the Winter.

I do love Agapanthus and this perennial will survive in your Aberdeen garden. However it is late in coming into flower and our Aberdeen Summers can be so cool that if planted directly in the border it will be very unlikely to bloom.  Do as I do, plant them in containers and over Winter them in the unheated greenhouse. Remove them from the greenhouse in the first week of May, this extra protection will allow the plants to bloom from late July through till September.

Pittosporum is a great evergreen shrub if you are looking for something that little bit different. We had several varieties in the garden, absolutely thriving for about eight years, looking equally good in Winter as they did in Summer.  Then along came the Winter of 2010/11, the prolonged and unusual Temperatures of minus five to minus 15 centigrade destroyed the Pittosporums. One which I was particularly fond of was  Pittosporum Irene Patterson.

Did you google tender trap only to find yourself faced with my  garden blog.  Well the link below may just be what you were looking for.

Open link  for a 1955 treat it will start to play in a few secs

Tender trap

If you happen to leave a comment I will be sure to visit your site and do the same 



© 2012 – 2017, Alistair. All rights reserved.

41 thoughts on “The Tender Trap

  1. I adore your plants especially those you have pushed beyond your hardiness zone with sheer perseverance…I am a huge Frank fan…and I love the movie Tender Trap as well as the song…thx for sharing these tender plants that can be grown successfully…inspirational! As my hardiness zone has changed a bit, I too may be looking at what plants I could push a bit to grow here…

  2. Dear Alistair, I love ‘pushing the envelope’ with plantings that aren’t supposed to survive here. As you say, when you KNOW your garden, you can identify microclimates where it is possible to grow more tender varieties. I love your neighbor’s lilies. Pamela

  3. Dear Mr Al’
    It is with great pleasure that I would like to offer you the opportunity of Head Gardener in my garden…bring all your cuttings…you start Monday…Don’t be late!

  4. I’ve never grown Nerine bowdenii. I think it was the ‘tender’ bit that put me off, but if it grows in Scotland, I think I might give it a go.
    I agree with you about the Callistemon; mine split its stems under the weight of snow last winter. It started to sprut from the base last autumn, but I don’t know if it will survive this winter yet.
    And now I know where I’ve been going wrong with my Agapanthus. I overwinter them in the greenhouse, but I’ve been taking them out too early. I’ll leave them in until May this year. Thanks for the advice.

  5. Alistair – Enjoyed getting caught up in your tender trap… I had an agapanathus clump the same size as yours. I divided it because I thought that was what you’re supposed to do to prevent overcrowding. Unfortunately only two blooms in total appeared last year. Should I have just left the clump alone ? Do they take a year or two to recover after dividing ?

  6. Great selection of plants and blooms. Surprised that even Magnolia stellata can be tricky to grow up your way. It’s true about having green fingers….

    Callistemon, even we struggle with that plant..

  7. All of your plants are lovely. It is hard to imagine that you would fall into the Tender Trap, but I know climate and conditions are the decision-makers. Sometimes I wish I could grow some of the more tender perennials in my zone 7A, but then I may not be able to enjoy the four seasons. I suppose it is a trade off…

  8. How true! I can not grow azaleas, no matter how hard I try, and everyone else can. I can’t figure out if it’s me or my garden. And so true that every garden is different, and has different microclimates. It amazes me how different areas of my garden grows plants differently, too. How nice that you’ve found the “tender traps” in your garden. And your neighbor, too!

  9. I think both you and Myra have more than your fair share of “green finger milarky” even if you don’t believe in it. 🙂 I can’t access your Tender Trap link from work. Is it as good as your tender trap?

    1. Bom, the tender trap link is Frank Sinatra’s recording of this song which of course is much better than anything I do of the same title. Disappointed to hear it doesn’t work. After opening it takes a few seconds to start, or I wonder if the link which is music coming from my computer would not open on anyone else’s pc. I would really like to know this to save me doing anything so daft again, not that I would be adding links such as this very often.

  10. Hi Alistair, many times i have pushed things further too. I don’t believe in green thumbs, as long as we know the plants, we all have green fingers, not only thumbs! haha!We have totally different kinds of plants, but people really like those uncommon to them. Even if i know agapanthus likes some cold because they grow in our highlands with colder temperatures, i still tried planting them in our hot lowlands. It grows for sometime and then died, of course! But i really love it, tried the 2nd time, dead again! I don’t know if i really love it or i am strongly hard-headed.

  11. I agree on pushing the envelope. Many do not realize that they may actually have microclimates that can support tender varieties. I have grown zone 8 Glads for years, long before we were even a 6b zone. It has to do with the abundance of masonry in my garden, above and below the ground. Below is drainage trenches of #1 and #2 stone. This really helps keep corms and bulb toasty and dry in winter, fooling them about planting zones. Also, hedges keep the wind down all year. Your garden in similar and I see how you could support plants like your neighbor. Being so close to the driveway, it is likely he has a good gravel base near too.

  12. Alistair – I am making my shopping list for spring: nerine bowdenii, agapanthus and hamamelis. Wow!! Your photos were so inspiring! My forsythia looks so spectacular in late April that I forget about some of the other wonderful “yellow” shrubs. I adore the more dainty, almost wild look of the hamamelis. I’m sure I can find a space for it. Thanks for the inspiration.

  13. Alistair… another great post that I just got to as we’ve been off on a bit of a trip. I also love the agapanthus and have seen them grown very well as potted specimens here, but I’ve never done well with that… perhaps the variety makes a difference. Take care, Larry

  14. Sir, I do like a fonder aboot Aiberdein, looking at yer bonnie blooms. I notice most agapanthus spotted up here which flower are in pots, now I understand.

    For the grand move ‘sooth’ we are contemplating moray or Aberdeenshire, I’m taking lots of notes.

    Fondest regards to the family, excuse the lack of stalking by blog, I’ve been a bit poorly.

    Best regards


    1. Hope you are feeling a lot better Fay. Thinking of moving! Sometimes hard to make the right choice. Handy being near a reasonably large city, however as you are probably aware, Moray although further north, is milder than Aberdeen is in the Summer.

  15. I love reading your blog just for statements like this: “Personally I do not believe in the green finger milarky, perseverance and taking pleasure from your successes and not taking the failures too seriously will hold you in good stead.” First of all in the States we call it a green thumb. But I don’t believe in it either. Gardening is a process, and it is not about control because you can’t control nature. Successes and failures are an equal part.

  16. I’ve given up on pushing the boundaries………..I’ve lost so much over our 2010/11 year and having these whole holes in the borders that will take years to fill in. Nerines will not grow here for me but a 10 min walk away they do. Witchhazel thrive here for me though Pallida suffered really badly in those winters and I’ve only 1 flower yet again this year. Donation is the hardiest camelia that I know of and the only one I suggest for cold gardens but even it suffered badly in 2010/11 and is a few twigs now but at least still alive……… used to look as magnificent as yours Alistair. I’ll just have to be patient as it regrows again.

    1. Hi Janet, I have given up on the Callistemon, I am surprised that I have never got round to trying it as a pot grown plant which I could over winter in the unheated greenhouse.

  17. Thanks for your recent comment. The garden centers in Seattle also offer plants that are too tender for our climate. As many of the plants that do well here are raised in California nurseries, I suppose it’s easy to sneak those that should never cross the state line, onto a truck. Some local growers also offer plants to gardeners who are in ‘zonal denial.’ For some, global warming is a trend that can’t move fast enough. I’ve been paying little attention to the garden blogs as I prepare for a trip to Portugal & Galicia in March. I’m all about travel research & learning Portuguese. Luckily, I had Spanish in high school.

  18. Wow! These is a great pictures of these beautiful flowers… I can’t help myself but to get envious with your garden. The flowers are lovely… Thank you for sharing…

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