Gardening: Landlubbers' sea change

By Leigh Bramwell

There are many times when I curse the stream on our property, particularly when it submerges the garden. But last time this happened there was an upside.

A huge piece of driftwood, presumably liberated from someone else's garden alongside the same stream, beached itself on our bank.

I might have considered wandering upstream until I found its owner, had I not been busy wandering downstream looking for our two teak loungers and the garden shed and contents that had washed away.

So the piece of driftwood, which brought a couple of smaller pals with it, has been incorporated into a new, coastal-themed garden under construction, and we're now beachcombing with a passion to find more pieces.

When you're a garden designer on a mission, the flotsam and jetsam washed in by the tide ceases to be rubbish, becoming art instead.

The bleached skulls of unidentifiable dead things, old oars, buoys, rope, driftwood, shells and bits of boat are carted home in the car boot, along with seaweed, if there is any, to await their resurrection in the garden.

I've always been a bit disparaging about the themed gardens I've seen - and there have been many - but I have to admit that the coastal ones are fun.

And if you live on the coast you have every excuse for doing one because the sand-salt-seabreeze environment demands quite specific design and planting.

Landscape materials for coastal gardens are fairly simple - old, weathered timber, shells, corrugated iron, boardwalks and blue paint. Look out on the auctions sites, at garage sales and junk shops for buoys, fishing nets, fishing rods, cray pots, coils of rope and oars. Best not to tell friends you're collecting coastal junk or you'll have their dead waders and broken outboard motors on your doorstep.

A beach-themed garden works well with contemporary elements, so if you want to incorporate a few modern touches, buy a trendy shade sail and add a couple of retro timber and striped canvas deck chairs.

If your coast-themed garden isn't anywhere near the coast you can plant what you like, but if you are beset by salt winds and sandy soil, check out the plants that are growing well around your area.

Take particular note of any civic landscaping nearby - the council may have had access to good research and more time and money than you have to experiment.

If yours is a windy area and your soil is sandy and loose, anchor your plants until they get established.

Put stones or driftwood on top of the soil until the plants can look after themselves.

Give them shelter - a beachy corrugated iron fence hung with old nets and bits of driftwood will look cool and keep your plants out of the salt winds.

And then try some of these:

Ceanothus - a hardy shrub with bright blue flowers.

Daisies - the most popular coastal plant. They naturalise quickly, spread happily and look colourful.

Geraniums - as above, and they love hot, dry conditions.

Wormwood - it's a silver foliage shrub so it likes the dry and has great foliage.

Leucospernums - great flowers and foliage.

Lavender - they'll think they're in the Med and perform beautifully.

Gazania - brilliant ground cover, use for all year round colour breaks.

Succulents - ever seen a dead one? They survive just about anything.

Olives - if you have space for a specimen tree this is a silver-foliaged heat lover that won't mind it dry.

- Hamilton News

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