Thursday 14 December 2017

In bloom this week: Salty Whites

Discovering a pretty plant that thrives on the Wild Atlantic Way

Shells cafe, Co Sligo

Leonie Cornelius

Over a year ago, I was asked to design an outdoor space for Shells Surf Café (inset) in Strandhill, Co. Sligo. The cafe and shop has a seafront location in a very exposed part of the North West Atlantic coast, and designing an area of green at the front was indeed a challenge.

I decided to create a series of raised walls around the sea-facing patio area. This prettily timber-clad wall in pale blue also incorporates 20m of removable planters to be filled with seasonal flowers.

Choosing plants for the scheme was the most challenging part of the design. The salt-laden winds - which create the famous surfing waves - are far from ideal for creating a successful garden. I soon learned that there are not many plants that do well in this particular location. Some plants that in theory would do well in salty, windy climates, such as hebes, were not so suited to the narrow planters. Others needed a soil with more moisture than the planters can offer.

A year on, it has been fascinating to see what does well here. We managed to successfully plant up masses of soft yellow tulips and dusty pink primroses last spring. Autumn/winter interest was provided by heathers and pebbles, with some golden grasses creating a very earthy and calm view towards the sea.

This week, I saw that some plants from last summer that had been stored out the back of the cafe had recovered wonderfully. The Dianthus 'Haytor White', (pictured main) which I sourced in Homeland, Sligo, is once again covered in buds, making it an ideal backbone for the summer makeover.

This fabulous plant is ideal in this location for many reasons. The delicate, sweet scent is great for the seating area and the double, papery flowers are perfect to underline the vintage feel of the cafe.

The plant thrives in the well-drained soil of the planters and though they are said to flower from June to September, they already had plenty to offer in early May. Best of all, I can rely on this plant returning here year after year.

Leonie loves…

Herbal and natural remedies are a fascinating field and it's amazing how many flowers and plants have medicinal uses. The Iona brand and specialist nursery is run by herbalists and naturopaths Marina Kesso and Ross Hennessy. The pair host some great courses from their nursery in Sligo, teaching the public about herbal medicine, nutrition and growing herbs for natural remedies;

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