Tag Archives: Kerry

Rock and Gravel Garden Feature

Sloping seaside gardens provide the opportunity to include a rock and gravel garden feature.   This cottage garden by the sea in Ventry, Kerry, Ireland, includes species plants which are close cousins to those that occur naturally.   The rocks are mainly local sandstone with a few with white quartz.

Slope for Rock and Gravel Garden

The previous garden had an irregular sloping lawn. The garden was re-landscaped to have a gently sloping lawn and a steeper but even slope for the rock and gravel garden feature.   We took care to arrange the rocks in a natural way and use them to retain pea shingle.   Moisture retention is crucial with drying salt winds and sandy soil . The pea shingle is therefore laid over geotextile to provide a mulch and weed barrier for low maintenance.

Rock and Gravel Garden

Local rocks arranged with pea shingle and marine plants

Plants for Seaside Rock and Gravel Garden

We chose Eryngium planum (tall blue sea-holly), silene schafta ( pink sea campion), armeria maritima ( sea thrift), different thymes, lavender and stipa tenuissima as the main plants.   It gives a lively and natural feel to the rock and gravel feature. They are all salt tolerant and low maintenance.

Lavender, grasses and sea holly

Lavender sets off the rock garden below.

Spring Flower Jewels

Spring is coming and some of the loveliest early spring flower surprises are the little flower jewels that we had forgotten from last year.  They appear unexpectedly in bright and striking colours.

Iris reticulata

Iris reticulata 'J.S. Dijt' lovely jewel colurs

The jewel colours of Iris ‘J. S. Dijt’

These are so gorgeous. Two I love are : Iris reticulata ‘J.S.Dijt’ –rich purple with a central yellow/orange mark surrounded by indigo and white dashes on each fall  and Iris reticulata ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ – the palest blue with dark blue dashes and yellow markings. Find a sunny, well drained spot in your garden for half a dozen of these flower jewels. They are only 10-15 cm tall.

Iris 'Katharine Hodkin'- delicate blue flowers in early Febrary

Iris ‘Katharine Hodgkin’- delicate blue

Eranthis hyemalis (Winter Aconite)

Eranthis hyemalis and Galanthus nivalis

Bright yellow winter aconites and snowdrops

A bright yellow flower jewel on a frilly green collar provides a welcome ray of sunshine. These do well in a dry, sunny area under deciduous trees and associate well with tiny snowdrops.  These are very short, about 7.5cm tall.




Helleborus foetidus

There lots of hellebores that associate well with spring bulbs but the unique appearance of Helleborus foetidus is of special merit.  It has narrow dark evergreen foliage and a profusion of small pale green bells with narrow purple rims that last from mid winter to mid spring. It grows to about 70cm tall.  Hellebores prefer dappled shade and a rich soil.  Plant clusters of bright flower jewels between them to create a lovely effect.

Pale green bells with red rims

Pale green bells hang prettily on Helleborus foetidus

Erica x darleyensis ‘Furzey’

Erica x darleyensis 'Furzey' winter heather by the sea in Kerry, Ireland.

‘Furzey’ winter heather by the sea in Kerry, Ireland.

Here in Kerry, Ireland this winter flowering heather adds such a note of cheer when all else has died back. ‘Furzey’ is a jewel with lilac pink flowers which deepen to mauve pink.  It associates well with junipers and low growing mountain pines. It’s a wonderful plant for a country garden or a rocky area.

Marine Border – Planting Design

Marine Border – Planting Design


Grasses, Achillea, Loosestrife and Bees Balm in the long border

Grasses, Achillea, Loosestrife and Bees Balm in the long marine border

The planting design for this 20 metre long marine border in Kerry has arcs of different species of plants separated by bands of upright Karl Foerster grass which provides structure from spring to late winter.  Provided there is shelter from prevailing winds, many herbaceous perennials are suitable for seaside locations. 

The planting is interspersed with Euphorbia characias subspecies wulfenii and Euphorbia martinii. The marine border has lots of sun and good drainage as it is on a sloping bank between the lawn and driveway. The plants are loved by bees and butterflies which buzz and flutter through adding their own colour and interest.


Two species of Achillea are grown here – Achillea millefolium ( ‘a thousand leaves’ ) and Achillea filipendulina ( ‘like meadowsweet’).  Both yarrow and meadowsweet grow prolifically in this Kerry location so these garden equivalents are good bets.

Several deep pink colours of Achillea millefolium 'Cerise Queen'

Several deep pink colours of Achillea millefolium ‘Cerise Queen’

The ‘Cerise Queen’ was grown from seed 9 months ago and has produced several different pink coloured heads which look gorgeous together. The foliage is very soft and feathery.





Achillea filipendulina 'Gold Plate'  contrasts with grasses and pink loosestrife.

Achillea filipendulina ‘Gold Plate’


‘Gold Plate’ provides eye catching bright yellow plates of flowers and contrasts with the tall grasses and pink loosestrife. Its foliage is deeply cut and a bright green.



Monarda / Bergamot

Purple Monarda  'Prairienacht' -  Bees Balm

Purple Monarda ‘Prairienacht’ – Bees Balm

Monarda ‘Prairenacht’ has rich violet- purple whorls of flower up its stem,  smells delightfully of bergamot ( as used in Earl Grey tea) and is a haven for bees justifying its common name of ‘Bees Balm’.

It is also in  the picture below with the loosestrife and crocosmia.



Lythrum / Loosestrife

Lythrum salicaria 'Robert' - pink loosestrife with Crocosmia 'Canary Bird'

Lythrum salicaria ‘Robert’ – pink loosestrife with Crocosmia ‘Canary Bird’

Pink spires of Lythum salicaria ‘Robert’ look attractive through the summer. It is a cousin of the native purple loosestrife which grows abundantly with the native orange Crocosmia or montbretia.  Here it is planted with a pale tangerine Crocosmia ‘Canary Bird’ as a natural companion.




Salvia vertillicata

Salvia verticillata 'Purple Rain'

Whorls of flowers on the dark stems of Salvia verticillata ‘Purple Rain’


This ‘Purple Rain’ variety of Salvia verticillata has a long flowering season to display its red-purple stems with its whorls (hence ‘verticillata’ which means whorl) of purple flowers.




Catanche caerulea

The prettiest blue flowers of Catanche caerulea

The prettiest blue flowers of Catanche caerulea

Delightful pale lavender-blue flower heads with dark blue centres (hence ‘caerulea’ which means dark blue) on grey-green wiry stems catch the sea breeze and are a very pretty companion for grasses.   Papery buds and seedheads are attractive too, but their heads are cut as they die to prolong the flowering for as long as possible. The bluer patch of the border is introduced by junipers and heathers and spring colour is provided by narcissi, tulips and alliums throughout.


The planting of this marine border was started in September 2012 and is looking good less than a year on.  It is planted through weed control fabric mulched with gravel which also retains moisture, deters slugs and provides protection from drying winds.