GARDENING: A blessing and a cursefor North East gardeners

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Gardening on the North East coast can be a blessing and a curse. On one hand, the sea is warmer than the land in winter, so hard frosts won’t be as severe.

Gardening on the North East coast can be a blessing and a curse. On one hand, the sea is warmer than the land in winter, so hard frosts won’t be as severe.

On the other, salt-laden offshore breezes cool in summer, bringing sea fret. In winter, bitter easterly/north-easterly winds bring snow showers in from the North Sea.

There’s not many plants that relish a saline environment – don’t fight it – go with it. As a general rule, succulent or small greyish leaves are a decent indicator of salt tolerance.

Here’s 11 easy shrubs and perennials that will stand up to coastal conditions:

Japanese laurel (Aucuba) Golden King: large glossy leaves blotched with gold, 1.5-2.5 metres.

Purple Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea): rounded, deep reddish-purple leaves, small red-tinged pale yellow flowers followed by glossy red berries, 1-1.5m.

Red-barked dogwood (Cornus alba, C. spaethii): deciduous shrub with stems bright red in winter, variegated leaves, flowers cream in flattish clusters, berries white, 2.5-4m.

Four-stamen tamarisk (Tamarix tetrandra): deciduous shrub/small tree with arching, almost black branches, minute leaves and large plumes of light pink flowers in late spring, 2.5-4m.

Bear’s breeches (Acanthus mollis): glossy, lobed evergreen foliage and tall white/purple flower spikes, 1-1.5m.

Yarrow (Achillea filipendulina): Cloth of Gold grows to 1.8m, with large, flattened heads of bright yellow flowers.

Anenome (A. blanda var. rosea) Pink Shades: bronze-tinged lobed leaves, flowers 3cm wide have 9-14 narrow pale pink petals, 0.1-0.5m. A. nemorosa also suitable.

Sicilian chamomile (Anthemis punctata subsp. cupaniana): woody-based, evergreen perennial forming a loose mat to 30cm tall, with finely cut silvery foliage and yellow-centred white daisies.

Italian aster (Aster amellus): King George is a bushy, upright herbaceous perennial to 60cm, with yellow-centred, violet-blue daisies.

Thrift (Armeria maritima): mat-forming, with dense, needle-like leaves and flower stems to 15cm, bearing clusters of cup-shaped pink or white flowers.

Tussock bellflower (Campanula carpatica): clump-forming perennial to 30cm, with blue or white flowers.

JOBS TO DO THIS WEEKEND

Runner beans need well-prepared ground and suitable supports for the shoots to twine around and grow upwards.

Don’t forget to give greenhouse plants more space as they put on new growth. This will help to prevent disease.

Perennials such as hollyhock, delphiniums and lupins can be sown directly into drills outside. If space is limited, sow them into pots and place them in a cold frame or by the base of a sheltered wall in filtered sunlight.

Hellebore seed can be harvested once the seed heads have ripened. Sow immediately, while fresh – they need a winter’s cold season in order to break their dormancy. Seed-grown plants will differ from the parent.

Spreading and trailing plants, can become tatty – trim them back after flowering encourages fresh growth and new flowers.

Tackle bindweed when it appears in a border.

Stake tall perennials to prevent wind damage to flower spikes.

Inspect lilies for red lily beetles and crush them.

Tie in climbing and rambling roses as near to horizontal as possible. This will encourage side-shoots to grow along the length of stem, for more flowers.

In wet areas, plant container trees and shrubs. In dry districts, wait until autumn.

Mow pathways through areas of long meadow grass to allow access to other areas of the garden.

Ward off carrot fly by covering plants with a fine woven plastic mesh like Enviromesh.

Net cherries against birds, protect all soft fruit.

CONTACT DETAILS

For more on these topics, plus cook what you grow, traditional recipes, North East information, environmental news and more, log on to www.mandycanudigit.co.uk (now smartphone friendly), www.sunderlandecho.com/gardening, follow me on Twitter @MandyCanUDigIt or you can like me on Facebook at Mandycanudigit