Gardening by the sea at Cois Cuain, Co. Cork
'Bob Walsh has been married to one of Ireland's best known gardeners for years and years and years and years. Despite this, his interest in and knowledge of, things horticultural is abysmal. He is a Pharmacist by profession.'
The first thing you have to understand is that there is nothing better than gardening by the sea. Those unfortunates who garden in towns, half way up mountains, inland or in the suburbs simply do not know what they are missing. Take my day, to-day, October 3rd 2005. The summer has gone but the sea is still warm. I had a quick plunge in the Atlantic, cut some grass and admired the Senna.
This plant used to be called Cassia Corymbosa, but for some reason its name was changed. Try growing this magnificent plant in your plot half way up a mountain!. It would refuse to grow there and I do not blame it. Why should it, when it can grow here in Cois Cuain garden in West Cork, Ireland, within twenty metres of the Atlantic Ocean? Senna is just one of the plants with the right idea, it likes being within sight and sound of the sea. Plant it small, give it time to adjust to its surroundings and it will repay you by flowering from August to December. Never mind those who say it's a greenhouse plant. The one in the picture would not know a greenhouse if it saw one.
A wonderful aspect of gardening by the sea is often overlooked. When you become weary and a rest is called for, you can turn your attention to the sea itself. I take many rests during a gardening day and do just that. I am spellbound by the brazenness of the common seals, the incredible action of the diving gannets and the skill of passing yachtsmen. I marvel at the accuracy of the tides, full tide twice a day, every day, without fail. I watch the waves break, wondering how far they have traveled to finally touch the shores of Dunmanus Bay. I see the colours change on the far hills and note the reflection of the clouds and sky on the water. Sometimes I even return to work.
Around these parts they say that when God made the world He had a large amount of "Time" left over, so He left it here. This, I have learned is true. When my wife, (henceforth known as the Gardener) and myself started this venture in 1992, the three acres were covered in brambles, ferns, gorse and a very large collection of the finest weeds. I thought (not being a gardener), we would have a garden in two to three months. I began to dig holes, move rocks and cut brambles, ferns, gorse, and heather accordingly. I soon found out the truth. I willingly pass on this hard-earned knowledge: take your time, it is nature that makes a garden and all you do is help. If you cannot do it all to-day..... and you cannot..... you can do it the day after to-morrow. This simple idea has saved me a fortune, by not having to buy any more Sloan's Embrocation or Eade's Anodyne. I should add, the money saved has gone to buying plants so I have not really saved a fortune. Having gazed at the Senna for some time, I wandered around until I got to the Oxydendrum.
This is shown here, in its beautiful autumn colours. The Gardener tells me that this is a North American plant and it grows to a height of 70 feet in its native habitat. Our one is about six feet tall, but then everything over there is so much bigger. During summer it has lovely dark green leaves but I like it best at this time of year when it really shows its colours. It flowered three years ago but then got a bit too much salt spray one winter and looked sickly for a while. The Gardener, as is her wont, uttered these, all-too-familiar words, "Darling, I have to move a plant".
Naturally, I immediately began to dig a fresh hole and five days later, in went the Oxydendrum. It is now, once more, thriving. It has flowers not unlike seaweed. Which, very nicely brings me to....... seaweed. When we started here first, I spent many hours loading seaweed onto a trailer and heaping it in among the rocks and stones. Seaweed is plentiful and it is free and it is very good for your garden. You don't normally see seaweed, as you look out from your suburban garden, and you most definitely don't see it from a garden half way up a mountain, so there, straight away, is another advantage of gardening by the sea. Pile it up, let it rot down and then shovel a little around your plants. You don't have to turn your face towards the nearest town gardener, staggering home, laden with bags of expensive artificial manure, and thumb your nose. Seaside gardeners are above that kind of thing. Another of the plants I particularly like are Echiums. The ones shown in the picture at the top of this page are not in bloom at the moment, they are Spring/Summer plants.
Many of these may be seen in Tresco Abbey and in the warmer, more sheltered parts of Cornwall. If they keep carrying on as they have been doing in Cois Cuain for the last few years, this garden is soon going to be overrun with them. They, like myself, thrive beside the sea.
This little cluster of Anenomes is just fading at present, but it is a great plant to grow near the sea. I have to admit that they also may do well, half-way-up-the-mountain or in one of those smelly old town gardens. It should be noted however, in those latter locations they are not as happy as the ones near the sea......... but who is?
I include this final picture to share with you - the view from the garden and the reason why I never seem to get a day's work done around here.
I would like to thank Kate Grey for giving me the opportunity of sharing Cois Cuain garden with you. I would also beg her indulgence for putting www.aseasidegarden.net here.
© 2005 Bob Walsh