Gardening - Diarmuid Gavin... Wind cheaters
Don't let your garden be defeated by blustery conditions, there are plenty of plants that will survive a mighty wind
I was recently invited to join the 21st birthday party of a great initiative, the West Cork Garden Trail. In effect, it's the linking of 25 fine gardens from the humble to the extravagant which share a common gardening basis - a stunning surrounding natural landscape and a mild, but occasionally wild, climate.
Gardening here can be a battle. When the weather is good there's no nicer place to be and plants love to grow in the warm, wet conditions. However, the coastal winds can lay bare to even the sturdiest of plants.
Garra Fado Garden (pictured) is set in the wonderfully picturesque Eyeries, Beara, West Cork and was created by horticulturist Connie Downey. It's a one-acre garden carved out of a hollow, and surrounded by hills and filled with plants suited to life by the sea. Connie is a font of knowledge on coastal gardening. Her top tips for gardening in blustery conditions are as follows:
• Filter the wind through your garden rather than try to block it out completely as one storm can take down a windbreak and damage all behind it. Create shelter at points where you will stop and linger rather than try to shelter your whole garden. This could be by using a hedge or wall, but also consider a raised bank or a sunken area to achieve sheltered spaces.
• The only plants that can stand upright throughout extreme wind conditions are plastic. Think about garden views from behind the sheltered windows of your house. Use hard landscaping features such as inviting paths, a striking focal point like a sculpture or a beautiful pot (with a wide base), a handsome wall or a framed view to add year-round interest in a windy garden. Plants can then compliment these at other times of the year.
• Embrace the merits of a windy garden. The movement of waving grasses such as Blue oat grass (helictotrichon) or dancing Agapanthus blooms, the sounds of Giant feather grass (stipa gigantea) shaking in the wind, the striking leaf shapes of Sea holly (eryngium) and the congregation of butterflies on Sedums, all bring other dimensions of interest that are unique to a windy garden.
• Use wind-hardy plants to shelter more sensitive plants, for example Scented azaleas behind Phormiums, Smoketree (cotinus) behind Gilt Edge (elaeagnus ebbingii), Geum behind a Stipa.
• See what wind-hardy plants are doing well in the gardens in your area. Check out your local nurseries who stock plants that are acclimatised to suit the local windy conditions. There are some beauties. If they work and you like them, plant more of them. Try Sea holly (eryngium), Japanese rose (rosa rugosa) types such as Rosarie de l'Hay, African daisy (arctotis), Gazanias, Stachys, Agapanthus, Grevillea, Germander (teucrium), Cotton lavender (santolina), Sedum and the many Anthemis, which bloom all summer. There are many more plants that will thrive if you are willing to accept that you have a windy garden.
• Avoid wind chimes, they'll drive you mad!
Garden jobs of the week:
1. Regular mowing of your lawn will help to keep it weed-free. Use the cuttings either as a mulch on borders or spread in layers over your compost heap.
2. If you do have weeds in the lawn, treat them with a selective weed killer while they are actively growing and keep an eye out for moss invasions.
3. Your house plants will be getting hungry. Feed with a liquid nutritious drink such as Baby Bio.
4. The taller perennials will be pushing up in your herbaceous borders and some may need staking now to add support.
5. Prune spring flowering shrubs now. Remove dead wood and thin out congested growth. Every year take out about a quarter of old stems/growth. With shrubs such as Ribes, Forsythia (pictured), Philadelphus and Weigela, cut back growth which has flowered to strong young shoots lower down.
Gardener Vandra Dyke Costello and I will be discussing our favourite gardening reads at the Dalkey Book Festival tomorrow, June 14, at 12pm. See dalkeybook festival.org