||Patios and containers
If your coastal garden has views of the sea, you owe it to yourself to, wherever possible, create a patio area where you can relax and take in these views. But even if your garden is more enclosed, an area to entertain and to sit and read or relax with a drink is just as important.
Equally important, however, is the use of plants on and around the patio. Just imagine how intensely boring a patio would be if it had no plants at all on it. You would be missing out on the colour, the form and in many cases the scents of plants, and you would be surrounded by stark paving and walling. It would be like (we imagine) a prison courtyard!
With a patio made of flagstones, concrete or some other such hard surface, it is not easy to find or create suitable pockets of soil into which plants can be set. Therefore, in most cases, you will find that a patio becomes a hard surface for containers – tubs, troughs, planters, urns, vases – and do not forget hanging baskets and window boxes set on the walls for good measure.
Strategic use of containers
When composing a group of containers, it usually pays to put the most dramatic plants in the most strategic position. This could be at the end of a run (as seen in the picture, right, where coastal-tolerant exotic and succulent plants have been lined up); in a more symmetrical grouping, the most strategic place is likely to be near the centre.
If you are building a display with a ‘crescendo’ towards the centre, it is often a good idea to exaggerate the height of the centrepiece plant, by raising it on blocks, bricks and so on. These will often be hidden by smaller containers in the front or by trailing stems and foliage. Or, you can create an effective display by putting the largest plant at the back – preferably an evergreen so that you do not have to keep changing it as its appearance alters – then range the remaining pots down in size, making a tiered arrangement. Of course, the main benefit of having containers in a garden is so they can be quickly planted, or moved into a better position, when they are filled with seasonal colour.
Plan: Container garden
The design for this garden (which was actually set on a clifftop) involved a long lawn and a deck at the far end, which was the part of the garden that receives most sunlight. Mixed containers form a major part of the plantings on the left and right of the garden as you look down it, and of course the entertainment area on the deck would be enhanced with container plantings also.
C Croquet lawn
D Deck area
E Table and chairs
G Low screening plants
K Mixed containers
L Mixed containers
M Bamboos in containers
P Existing hedge
Madeira Botanical Gardens
Container and bedding plants have become something of a feature at the island of Madeira’s most treasured and certainly most famous tourist attraction. Within the Botanical Gardens – an area of 95,500 sq yd (80,000m2) – one encounters a fascinating collection of more than 2,500 plant species (see page 188 for details). With its location in the impressive amphitheatre of Funchal, Madeira’s capital, the Botanical Gardens provides its visitors with panoramic views over the mountainous backdrop, the city below and its bay with the deep blue waters of the Atlantic.
Two hundred years ago there were already those who dreamed of establishing a botanical garden. The wonderful climate and the island’s fertile soils were excellent reasons for pioneers such as J.R. Theodore Vogel in 1841, Frederico Weltwitsch in 1852 and the naturalist Baron Castello de Paiva in 1855, to pave the way for the gardens seen today.
In 1881 the Reid family (well known for their distinguished Reid’s Hotel in Funchal) constructed the Quinta do Bom Sucesso. In the past century it was acquired by the Regional Government, and the Botanical Gardens were created on its grounds and opened to the public in 1960.
Plants to see at the Madeira Botanical Gardens
Arboretum: This contains an assortment of species, including ginkgos, magnolias, cedars, palms, snowball trees, pines, jacarandas, oaks, Ficus, stinkwoods, laurels, dragon trees, Eucalyptus, cassias and acacias.
Succulents: Within the gardens one will find cacti, aloes, agaves, yuccas, euphorbias, sempervivums, crassulas, and so on. These plants are native to the arid or semi-desert regions of Asia, Africa and North, South and Central America, but they also thrive in this warm yet maritime environment.
Medicinal and aromatic plants: Because of its geographical isolation in the Atlantic Ocean, Madeira is a centre of medicinal plant diversity, with a richness of endemic flora.
The authorized medicinal flora of Madeira is composed of 259 species, and all of them are good candidates for coastal gardens within the same temperature range. Noteworthy plants include: Acanthus mollis, Aeonium glandulosum, Aeonium glutinosum, Bidens pilosa, Borago officinalis, Chamaemelum nobile var. discoideum, Echium nervosum, Euphorbia platiphylla, Helichrysum melaleucum, Helichrysum obconicum, Hypericum glandulosum, Rubus bollei, Rumex maderensis, Sambucus lanceolata, Scilla maderensis, Sedum farinosum, Teucrium betonicum, Thymus caespititius, Trifolium squamosum and Vaccinium padifolium.
Olive trees (Olea europaeus) have been cultivated for centuries. Both their fruits and their timber have been vital to the survival of whole communities over the years. And, being native to hot countries, the trees provide shade to people and animals that has been no less important.
Olives grow very well in coastal regions, as long as they are sheltered from the strongest winds and are given plenty of direct sunlight. Evergreen, the beautiful tiny, grey-green leaves seem to shimmer in the sunlight. Old trees develop a venerable, gnarled appearance; plants can live for many hundreds of years, and they seem to remain productive for all of their lives.
These trees have become very popular in the cooler, temperate gardens – and streets – in northern European countries, where they are grown for their appearance rather than for their fruits. However, some street trees in central London are regularly ‘harvested’ by passers-by – although the fruits are usually completely unpalatable!