What grows in England?
by Christophe Landry
I have recently moved to the UK from the US. I live in Southern England on the coast and have a lovely garden space but am wondering what I can plan that is tasteful to the eye and to the palette in this wet, cold weather. Thanks
My answer: Congratulations on your move!
First of all, try out the Plant Selector on the Royal Horticultural Society's website. (link opens a new window)
Enter the criteria that best fit your garden, such as which direction the garden faces, how well your soil drains, and so on. If you don't know, choose "any".
For hardiness in your area, enter "hardy", and for the plant type choose either "herbs - culinary" or "fruit (edible)". You should run the app twice if you want suggestions for both.
Most herbs (and many other edible plants!) do not like boggy soil, so if that's what you have, you might want to install some raised beds to improve your soil's drainage.
If you DO want a bog or pond garden, take a look at this page -- many of the plants on it are native to Britain!
Since Brighton is by the coast, if you have limited space and are trying to choose between two plants, pick the one which is the most tolerant of salt in the soil. You might not have salt soil now, but a rainstorm from the south might change that.
The UK has some interesting growing challenges that most of the US doesn't have: a low number of "heat days", a short growing season, and low light levels.
These last two are related to latitude -- Brighton is of a similar latitude with Vancouver, British Columbia. Because of ocean currents in the Atlantic which bring warm water to the UK, Brighton is of course much warmer.
However, Brighton still doesn't receive as much light or heat as other USDA zone 9a areas such as Gainesville, FL, Houston, TX, or New Orleans, LA.
(click here to get a cheat sheet on how to convert the USDA zone map to the RHS one -- link opens a new window)
This is why plants that need a minimum number of hot days in order to mature enough to bloom, set fruit, or survive the winter (such as oranges) won't grow in the UK.
On the bright side, it sounds as if you won't have the problems with drought that you might be used to in the US.
Did that answer your question? If not, please let me know by writing a comment below and we can talk about this further.
If you'd like a more in-depth consultation for your particular garden space, consider my consultation and/or garden coaching service.
If anyone else knows of a resource for Christophe or has any other suggestions please share them!