Here's my list of recommended plants for a range of coastal conditions in New Zealand, as discussed with Tony Murrell this morning on RadioLive Home & Garden Show.
For those with free-draining sandy soils: generally soils like this have low fertility, Many gardeners think they have to change this and try to feed everything, but in reality there are many plants that do best when they’re not overfed.
Achillea, or yarrow – these guys will flower for months, just trim off any spent flowerheads to keep more coming. Range of colours available.
Eryngium planum – not called sea holly for nothing, these plants thrive on poor soils and the violet blue stem colour intensifies in hot weather
Perovskia or Russian Sage is a really tough deciduous perennial, which thrives in free-draining soils in full sun, smothering itself in silver leaves and blue flowers in summer. Silver foliage is usually a good indicator that plants like less water and more sun.
For smaller gardens try Catananche caerulea or Cupids Dart, in blue or white, it has narrow greyish leaves and beautiful papery flowers on upright stems 30-40cm high.
There’s a few tough, hardy Salvia species that are brilliant in coastal situations. These three Salvias all have one thing in common – they all originate from the South African coast, the Cape of Good Hope. The first is S. aurea or S. africana-lutea as it was previously known. It forms a slow-growing shrub with silvery green leaves and unusually beautiful large rusty-brown flowers. It’s also one I recommend for coping with heavier soils too…as long as it’s not too wet in winter.
Salvia lanceolata is another, slightly smaller growing species, also with unusual coloured flowers, this one has rose-pink tinged warm brown flowers…sounds weird but is very beautiful in full flower. Again it has silvery green leaves.
Salvia scabra is the third tough cookie which I recommend for coastal plantings….a wiry, stiff-stemmed but bushy plant with many long-tubed lavender blue flowers all summer long.
We often think of Campanula as being only suitable for traditional perennial borders, but some of them are tougher than they look. Campanula carpatica, C. glomerata and C. rotundifolia are all good choices to try in coastal gardens.
For those gardeners that live in areas with heavier soils but want something bright or pretty, try these beauties...
Asters…you can’t go past them really. Choose tough varieties that multiply well….I grow ‘Calliope’ and 'Hi-Jinx', and A. novi-belgii hybrids in white and lavender, 'Coombe Violet', etc. They do well because they have reasonably shallow root systems that spread out slowly across the soil, so they’re not trying to break their roots through the hard clay pan in order to get nutrients.
The perennial sunflowers or Helianthus are similar. My favourite is 'Lemon Queen', but there are others like 'Golden Pyramid' and 'Table Mountain'
Rudbeckias (not to be confused with Echinacea, which have a woody tuberous root) are another favourite for heavier soils in exposed conditions, try Rudbeckia fulgida and it’s cultivar ‘Goldsturm’, or Rudbeckia laciniata for some height. Some of the annual cultivars like 'Prairie Sun', 'Irish Eyes' and the newer 'Chim Chiminee' are also great fillers for hot sunny areas.
Stokesia laevis or Stoke’s Aster, great for smaller gardens and despite many attempts I’ve failed to kill one yet….they come in white, blue and creamy yellow, form low clumps of evergreen, narrow foliage and they flower for ages.
With Tony I talked about plants for sunny gardens, but what about shade, or damp?
Try out some of these ideas in your own microclimate…
Hellebores….as long as you don’t divide them up and move them about too much they are incredibly tough and once established will do remarkably well provided they get the odd whiff of fresh water. The only thing that really kills them is prolonged dry. Let them self-sow too – they’ll pop up where they are happy.
Heuchera….not the coloured leaf hybrids but some of the original species like H. micrantha, H. americana and H. maxima perform really well in shaded areas and have the vigour that modern hybrids sometimes lack.
Bergenia – these tough plants will thrive on partly shaded banks with little or no maintenance., providing both foliage and flowers.
Clivia, providing you don’t get frosts they are fantastic under trees near the coast! I love mine and have grown some different colours from seed to extend the clumps even further.
For damper places try Persicaria (Polygonum), Lysimachia and Filipendula, these genera are reliable performers that can cope with a bit of damp and neglect.
What have I been up to? Well apart from fighting off the headcold which seems to be taking hold of almost every 2nd person in the district (possibly an exaggeration…) I have been busy sending cartons of plants off to customers all over the country. Most of them have gone to warmer areas of course, as spring still hasn’t sprung in many regions to the south….but this can change in the blink of an eye, as one of my customers brightly said the other day, “we’ve been removing layers of merino all day”. (After they had been suffering through a seemingly endless period of bitter cold and damp, while I swanned around in 18 deg and shorts and t-shirt).
Anyway, I’ve got plants taking off all over the place, so my list and website updates are happening almost weekly at the moment. They probably need to though to keep up with demand, as it seems as soon as I’ve listed some things they are snapped up by eager gardeners. It is really satisfying for me knowing that I’m supplying plants that people truly want to grow….of course it can also be quite disconcerting when I think I’ve grown plenty of something and they’re all sold out within a day. Leaves me wondering how many I should have grown instead!
This week I have potted up various new lines, which should be ready in a few weeks…punnets of Queen Anne’s Lace, Ammi majus; the infamous Red Orach aka Atriplex hortensis var. rubra which is used quite extensively overseas as a striking accent plant with deep beetroot-red foliage; some more of that exceptional Great Dixter Poppy with the amazing name Papaver dubium ssp. lecoqii var. albiflorum (and interesting to note that it’s pink, not white, even though the name suggests otherwise). I’ve put Helenium ‘Butterpat’ into individual pots, it really wowed me last summer as it had been severely neglected but put on an amazing show and was very tall but didn’t need staking at all. Also into pots this week went Aster ‘Hi-Jinx’ a must-have one for me that mixes happily with other perennials or equally as well with smaller native shrubs; Centaurea jacea, not one I’ve grown yet but I’ve become happily addicted to these plants, knapweeds as they are known. They’re not weedy at all of course but seem to produce endless amounts of cornflowers all summer which the bees and butterflies love. Echinacea purpurea ‘Mellow Yellows’ a new seed line which has all the vigour of the true species but in a beautiful range of soft to bright yellows. The seedlings have shown good strong growth so far so I’m excited to see how they perform in the garden. Lobelia x gerardii ‘Vedrariensis’ has just been potted up too. Great for those partly shaded areas where you still want some colour, I find this one is pretty tough and sends up multiple strong stems smothered with vibrant purple flowers.
I’m sure there’s others I’ve potted up….but here’s a sneak-peek of a few of the plants on next week’s update…
White honesty, Lunaria annua f. albiflorum I had a customer looking for this last year as it provides a good light colour for part shade and self-sows easily. The attractive seedpods are an added bonus. Leucanthemum (Shasta Daisy) ‘Phyllis Smith’, big white and slightly unruly looking but such a good long-flowering plant. Rudbeckia laciniata a giant for the back of the border, I’m a sucker for big daisy flowers and this is a favourite. Salvia nemorosa ‘Rose Queen’ a reliable performer in sunny, free draining soils, great for smaller gardens or even pots. There are bound to be others on the list of course….
I’ve just been on RadioLive Home & Garden Show this morning chatting to Tony Murrell about perennials that are tough enough to cope with coastal conditions in New Zealand. Tony was in fine form this morning and we had a thoroughly enjoyable talk, if you missed my list then I will post it as a separate blog, in a more condensed form!
In the meantime, it is a glorious day here but I must stay away from the nursery and do some housework instead! Enjoy your weekend…
Owner-operator of Seaflowers Nursery and serious plant addict!