Midwinter at Driftwood Garden

A coastal garden in January can be quite a bleak place to work. Here at Driftwood by the sea, we have been ravaged by strong winds in recent weeks and there has been much plant damage with the salt. We haven’t had any snow yet, but there have been a couple of frosts, which give the garden a magical feel. There is a lot of rusted metal throughout, primarily introduced to give height to the garden, and it looks magnificent with its winter frosting.

frost on a metal poppy
Image: Geoff Stonebanks

That said, it has also been incredibly mild and some old favourites are blooming in the beach garden at the front of the house this month, a large specimen of Helleborus argutifolius, which I was given a few years ago, is magnificent, almost luminescent, its pale yellow flowers make a great outlook from the front porch! Another beauty is the stunning Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca or scorpion vetch, which is looking wonderful in the beach too! In the back garden the incredible camellias were blooming on Christmas day and continue to do so. Camellia ‘William Bartlett’ is looking particularly stunning. At the back, the Leucojum – spring snowflakes – were flowering before Christmas too as it has been so mild.

Camellia William Bartlett
Camellia ‘Wiliam Bartlett’ in flower. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Flower Power

Later this month I take delivery of my first supply of Flower Power. I am really looking forward to using it this season, as it comes highly recommended. Postings I have made on social media sites saying that I will be using it have been acknowledged by some very positive comments from current users, so, I have very high expectations the results will be better than my previous plant food.

Feeding regime

Visitors to the garden are always amazed how healthy my plants look and I always tell them it’s really due the feeding and watering regime I apply each year. With over 600 different plants and shrubs at Driftwood, it is a time consuming job. I feed every plant individually from a watering can from late April/early May through until late September. This task can take me up to 5 hours if done all in one go.  It is worth the effort though. Each month I’ll update you on how plants are doing after I start my feeding regime. The watering of the garden is equally time consuming. Although I have a watering system in the back, every year I put additional pressure on it with additional lines so that it has lost some of its effectiveness. The result being last year I did most of the watering by hand with a hosepipe and watering cans. It can be quite therapeutic if you are in the right frame of mind.


recycled metal gates
Recycled metal gates find a home in Geoff’s garden. Image: Geoff Stonebanks.

A friend recently offered me some old metal gates, which I quickly found a home for in the garden. They were cut down to remove a large metal skirt and side piece to leave these stunning railings which I’ve placed in front of a sea buckthorn hedge. Objects such as these play a key part in helping me create the illusion of a garden of many rooms, which in turn, makes a small garden look much bigger. Other treasured props are a pair of grey vintage French window shutters, which look amazing on the corner of raised beds. It’s not only objects that achieve this illusion, the garden has several low hedges of key seaside shrubs to create a number of interconnecting garden rooms. The shrubs that work well for me are Griselinia littoralis and Olearia haastii ‘Tweedledum’. I’ve kept them to about 1 metre and maintain them quite thin and then display rusted ornaments or even china teacups and saucers mounted on stakes on the top. Each season I try and position the props in different locations around the garden as so many of the visitors return each year and it is nice for them to see something a little bit different, so, January is a good time for me to think about where I shall place items once they come back out of the summer house over the next few months. Read more about the garden at www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk.

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