Flowering Plants that Thrive at the Coast

Happy new year to you all, and I hope your wishes come true during 2014. I am writing this article at the beach and so today I want to write about good performing plants for coastal gardens.

There are many plants that thrive at the beach, where the weather elements can at various times of the year be quite brutal – especially driving salt winds and little moisture over the summer months. My wife and mother in law are in the garden this morning picking an array of flowers to put in an oasis wreath to brighten the table. Amongst the collection they are picking beautiful blooms of:

HIBISCUS HYBRIDS – both Fijian and Hawaiian types. The Fijian varieties are generally more free flowering and are able to withstand our winters a little bit easier. They certainly make magnificent flowering hedges. If you have a coastal property then I thoroughly recommend planting a hibiscus hedge, it will give you continuous flowering for a lot of the year. Give the plants a light prune at the end of each winter and feed 2x per year with citrus fertiliser. This will encourage lots of flowers and keep the foliage lush green because hibiscus are fond of extra iron and magnesium, as are citrus trees. If you have a nice sheltered spot, try a Hawaiian type. The flowers are very impressive and come in an array of tropical colours.

PELARGONIUMS and GERANIUMS – these two families of plants are both reliable performers in coastal garden, and certainly don't mind a bit of dryness, sandy soils and neglect. They will flower for most of the year, but recommend you give them a good prune each spring. This will encourage new foliage and more branching, which will keep your plants in good shape for another 12 months. The pelargonium and geraniums come in a huge range of flower colours and make outstanding features in pots. If you are wanting to decorate a hanging basket then try ivy geraniums. They have a more prostrate hanging habit and also make fabulous climbers for a small trellis next to the patio. My favourite is a variety called Tom cat – it's a real deep maroon colour, like the colour of Shiraz wine.

CANNAS – we have a beautiful display of cannas in the garden at the moment. These are certainly easy care perennials and will provide full on colour all summer. The modern hybrids tend to be a lot smaller growing than the older hybrids and come in a stunning array of colours in flowers and foliage.

Two on my favourites are varieties called "tropicanna" which has multi-coloured stripe foliage and bright orange flowers. "Tropicanna black" has a really attractive blackish leaf and deep apricot tonings in the flower. Both varieties are certainly tropical looking!

The only maintenance for cannas is to cut them off at ground level each winter. They will reshoot and give you a heck a lot of pleasure over the following summer.

BOUGAINVILLEAS – when we were driving up the coast from Thames yesterday, the plant that really stood out the most was the bougainvillea "Scarlet Ohara." It's the most popular of all the varieties and it's not hard to see why. With its super scaler flowers on mass, most plants we saw had so many flowers you couldn't see any foliage. These plants thrive on very poor, dry, sandy soils and certainly don't mind salt winds lashing around their ears. Perfect for growing on a trellis, or along the front of the verandah. If you don't have much room, grow one in a pot and make an easy bamboo frame by tieing 3x bamboo canes together like a tepee. The bougainvilleas will flower beautifully when they get little nitrogen and so a general fertiliser is not ideal, because it will super charge the plant into a lot of growth and less flower. The fertiliser you use on your tomatoes, which is high in potash, will do the job perfectly.

I hope you all have time over the coming months for a bit of relaxation and if you are near the coast, look out for the plants I have talked about today. There are many fine specimens showing themselves off at the moment!

Happy Gardening

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Graeme Burton - Landscaper - Rukuhia Homestead, RD2, Ohaupo 3882
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