Gardening with Nature on the Edge of the Atlantic

Salt is Not Always Savoury

I am usually very alert to any weather ‘events’ in the garden, but seem to have missed a recent dry wind from the south with its usual unwelcome gift of salt. The black leaves on the hydrangea are always a hint, but this time the Rosa Rugosa seem to have suffered as well. This is disappointing as they are usually robust and the dull leaves are sad to see. This one is producing fresh new leaves at the bottom of the plant so I hope it will survive. Even worse, some of my new plants have been affected – so it is a matter of ‘wait and see’ at the moment.

These salt blackened leaves of the hydrangea are so evenly black that they almost look a natural part of the plant. Despite the morbid colouring they usually go on the flourish throughout the summer.

The Salmonberry is producing beautiful flowers but the plant itself is not as healthy as last year. Another ‘wait and see’ plant. Almost every flower is as beautiful with or without the petals and the Salmonberry (see below) is a good example of this.

The Guardian recently had an article citing research that suggested that gardeners should source wildflower seeds from within a ten-mile radius of their gardens to support regional diversity. I made the decision not to buy wild flower seeds when I created my first garden in Scotland over thirty years ago and have stuck to that rule since then. In each garden waiting to see what emerged has been a very exciting and educational pastime and the native wildflowers have never failed to perform. In this garden I have catalogued over seventy different flowers, each beautiful in their own right. I may not have the dramatic reds of poppies and other ‘outsiders’, but they are not missed.

I have many different varieties of yellow wildflowers and only remove them if they are actively interfering with a plant. In this case the Geum, Smooth Sowthistle and other yellow wildflowers are perfect bedfellows. I have also added chives and for contrast. The Geum is as good as any poppy for vibrancy.

Herb Robert is a member of the geranium family and forms a dense carpet of delicate flowers under some of the shrubs in the garden. I have not been able to find any mention of healing properties but it is nevertheless, an attractive addition to the garden.

Herb Robert en-masse. A perfect weed suppressant in a border.

I have not planted many Rhododendron as they are not as hardy as Camellia which thrive here.

Ground Ivy is a member of the mint family and is another wildflower that forms a carpet of flowers in both sun and shade. In some areas I have let it take over and just cleared around the neighbouring shrubs. I have been rewarded by observing dozens of small bumble bees feed from it. This picture does not do it justice. Apparently, it was seen as a healing herb like its relative wound-wort and was also used to flavour and preserve beer. I am unlikely to try this soon but like the concept.

This is one of the earliest geraniums to appear in the garden and is a magnet for the bumble bees. It will flower almost continuously until the Autumn and forms an attractive carpet across my pathways.

Details of my unlabelled geranium. Luckily, I don’t have to worry about naming it as it is very easy to propagate.

This Iris Siberica was totally un-affected by the recent ‘salt shower’ although it was right in its path. Sadly, much of its companion plants have taken a pasting.

I don’t have many Rhododendrons in the garden as they need more shelter than Camellia plants do. Luckily the few that I have planted are doing well. Rhododendron ‘Fastuosum Flore Pleno’ is a very attractive blossom which starts as a deep mauve colour and ends up a light lilac.

This has been the year of the snails. I have never seen so many. By chance, I have discovered that they do not like plastic. I have been using some old pieces to cut down the growth on my drive. The Hosta that have been used to weigh down the plastic are untouched. Their neighbours on the path behind the house are already in tatters. So much for organic methods for reducing pests. My only consolation is that the plastic has been reused dozens of times and will be in use for some years to come.

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