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Gardens by the Sea with Eugene Higgins

Wednesday, 28 March 2007


Every gardener should consider their climate as working with climate can determine whether the results of your gardening season will be blasé or blooming.

As pleasant as living close to the ocean can be, coastal gardens present several climate-related challenges, mainly wind, salt, and sandy soil. To be successful you need to know how you should compensate for the particular conditions of your seaside location. It's important to use plant species adapted to the environment of the coast. Eugene is here today to give his advice and top tips for coastal gardens. He will then suggest examples of plants that thrive in these conditions.
Living in Ireland means that you have a good chance of living somewhere near the coast.

Depending on how close you are to the sea and how exposed your garden is, there are several problems you will need to deal with in coastal garden. These problems are wind, salt and sandy soil.

A barrier that prevents or slows down the prevailing wind is almost essential in a coastal garden. If you have the space, growing a mixture of hardy salt and wind tolerant trees and shrubs (especially those native to the area) as frontline protection is the best long-term windbreak. Adding organic materials to the soil, using surface mulches and slow release fertilisers as well as drip irrigation, plastic or shade cloth tree guards and wetting agents if necessary will all help plants establish and grow. And many plants once established can withstand quite severe conditions.

Eugene's Top Tips
1) Planting a hedge to create a barrier from the winds is important if you can't afford wall. Giselinia/ Escallonia are a good choice. (Eugene will have in studio)
2) Hosing down plants with ordinary water during the winter when it's dry will remove some of the salt from the sea air that burns plants.
3) Every area is different so look at the gardens around your area and identify what plants are doing well and copy this!

Coastal Garden Plants
Eugene will talk us through 6 plants that are suited to a coastal garden.

1. Hebe james Stirling €10.95
This plant is a compact grower, first erects then arching, and twisted with ochre-yellow leaves to 1/8 inch long. White flowers in small racemes to 3/4 inch long in late spring and early summer. They are low to medium in height. This hebe is more attractive in the winter. They are an evergreen plant and they are suitable for coastal and rock gardens and are also good container plants. Most Hebos are very low maintenance needing little or no pruning.

2. Aucuba Japonica Variegated €8.95
Japanese Aucuba is native from the Himalayas to Japan. Many forms exist due to the variances in the seedlings. Differences include smaller leaf sizes, elongated leaves, and variegated foliage. Gold Dust Aucuba is one of the most popular variegated forms available today. Leaves are large, leathery, and dark green in color. The name Gold Dust comes from the variegation pattern, it looks as if someone sprinkled gold dust on the leaves, making a striking plant for the landscape. Aucubas have both male and female plants; the males have yellow anthers while the females have red/purple flowers followed by red berries, so if you want berries, be sure to get a female! Aucuba japonica 'Variegata' is a great choice for even the shadiest of landscapes because it is extremely shade tolerant. This plant not only does well in coastal areas but also does well in smoggy polluted areas.

3. Cordyline Australis €10.95
Origin: New Zealand
Common in gardens of Northern Ireland, especially near the coast. Fast-growing, and easy to cultivate. It can reach a height of up to 20m, often much-branched with many growing points. Evergreen trees produce sweetly scented flowers, and abundant fruit and seed. There are several cultivars available, with leaf colouration ranging from yellow- and red-veined, to deep red.

4. Feijoa Sellowiana €9.95
The grafted Feijoas should start producing within a couple of years; seedlings can take 4 to 6 years or more. The flowers come in late spring and have fleshy petals that are slightly sweet with an interesting delicate flavor. These petals can be added to salads. Drought resistant once established, but lack of water will cause fruit to drop, does not like to be kept too wet. You won't find this plant in every garden centre. It's origins are in South America.

5. New Zealand Flax (Phormium) €14.95
The Phormium likes a deep, fertile soil, rich in organic matter. The flowers of the New-Zealand Flax come in summer. They are tubular, come in large panicles, and can measure up to 15 feet tall (4.5 m). They need only little to moderate water once established. They are the soldier of the garden.

6. Grevillea €10.95 - a fab plant
Grevilleas can be seen in flower at most times of the year but winter to early spring would be the peak flowering period. Following flowering, thin-walled seed pods develop, each containing one or two seeds. The pods open when the seed is mature. Seeds often have a papery wing to allow them to be distributed by the wind but this is not a universal feature. The majority of grevilleas occur in areas where bushfires are relatively frequent. Although a few can regenerate from lignotubers or epicormic buds after a fire, most are killed by fire and rely on seed germination for their continued survival.
One of the great features of grevilleas in gardens (apart from the colourful flowers) is that many attract honey-eating birds which act as pollinators for the plants. A number of species rely on other methods of pollination, eg, beetles, moths, bees, ants, and even small marsupials.

**Most of these plants could be planted in windy or exposed sites inland also.

Good Cause Garden Makeover
The Afternoon Show gardener Eugene Higgins is searching for a plot of land to be transformed for the good of the neighbouring community.
The good cause garden makeover aims to transform a piece of unused ground into an Eden for all living in the vicinity to benefit.
It could be a piece of waste ground in an estate, or grounds beside a school, nursing home or hospital.
Eugene and his team will, over several weeks, transform waste barren land into a rural idyll. And viewers of the Afternoon Show will watch the transformation unfold, with a grand garden opening in May.

To enter:
Please send us photos of the plot of land, a detailed description of where it is, and who would benefit if it was transformed. Also include a contact name and number
We need to know the size and aspect of the plot, name and contact details of the owner of the land, and who would benefit in the local community if it were transformed.

Send entries to either email or by post:
Good Cause Garden Makeover
The Afternoon Show
Dublin 4

Please note the plot of land can be no greater that a quarter of an acre in size.
Deadline Thursday 5th April 2007