Some Shrubs and Trees for the Moray Coast

MFC Paper 11 by DB & C Ainley 1976

The experience of two novices establishing a clifftop garden at Hopeman - the first decade!

The garden has fences on the east and west sides but only low ones on the north and south - that on the north had to be low so as not to obstruct the view, but some additional protection is provided by the whins outside. The soil is poor and much had to be imported, but the main "enemies" are wind and salt. The garden is exposed to the prevailing south-west winds and also, except by the side fences, to those from the north-west and north-east. The last two years have, of course, been exceptional in their heat and drought; previously the worst "killers" were the winds in the Gab of May which seared tender new growth.

We now feel that only novices would have tried; few in the older part of the village had done so, and, if they had, they had given up. More are now gardening with varying success. Trees generally have not been successful. Impatience demanded some semi-standards but, except for a Laburnum anagyroides against the fence, these were unsuccessful and had to be moved or forsaken. The planting of numerous Mountain pine, Scots pine and a few Sitka spruce on the south side of the garden has now given an established appearance; these were 15" x 18" high when planted about 2.5 feet apart; They are now up to 6 feet and have already been "thinned"; how much further they will go in future we hardly dare to think! But, with this increased shelter, other trees are now growing - birch, willow, lilac, a sycamore and even a Prunus cerasifera. We doubt if they will ever be more than large shrubs in appearance. Cupressocyparis leylandii has only grown to 7 feet sheltered by other trees and our greatest surprise and  disappointment has been to fail to get two rowan trees above fence height. Shrubs have been far more successful, and our awards, in order of merit (for growth but not necessarily beauty), would go to Eleagnus ebbingei, Senecio greyi and Buddleia vitchiana, The Olearias have done well - O. macrodonta, haastii and albida - but macrodonta will never be "major" and solandri, the most attractive of them all, failed after two or three years, even when facing south in front of our garage wall. Escallonias have been as successful as we had expected - E. x ingramii and E. C F Ball take all that the elements can give and, though they "burn" a little, come green again and flower profusely each summer. Griselinia littoralis survived; Santolina chamae-cyparissus thrives.

The shrubs we have mentioned so far grow with little or no protection. With the protection of a fence we have managed to establish the following :-

  • Broom (Cytisus scoparious -liable to burn, and C. praecox)
  • Potentilla spp.
  • Tamarix gallica (only just)
  • Cotoneaster (dielsianus and horizontalis)
  • Forsythia spp (but winds hardly ever allow it to flower)
  • Veronica (Hebe Margorie; H. salicifolia failed)
  • Fuchsia Spp.
  • Willow, woolly (Salix lanata)
  • Hydrangea spp.

Shrub roses have also proved most successful - a hedge of wild R. rugosa and, in cultivated form, Roseraie de l‘Hay, Fruhlingsgold, Schneezwerg and Heidelberg, So also have heathers once we forgot all advice about peat. As novices we gave them plenty and they blew about. We then read a book (and unfortunately the author's name is forgotten) which advised us to firm them in like roses and to use gravel to assist in holding them; since then they have flourised.

Climbers facing south have been most successful - Virginia creeper and two roses in particular - Mrs Sam McGredy and Albertine. On our north fence the latter spans 24 feet and has always been free of mildew.

Our shrub failures have been relatively few and we pay tribute to Christine Kelway, author of "Seaside Gardening" as the only straightforward and simple writer who, when talking of the seaside, contrasts Cornwall and Scotland, Poolewe and Aberdeenshire. So far Daphne mezereum, Mahonias and Viburnums have defeated us. So, to our great surprise, has Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides). This we thought would surely prosper but, facing north with trees behind them ours are only 12 inches high, whereas those of neighbours, with protection on the north side, are bushes of 3 or 4 feet.

Our efforts so far have been in the commonest of trees and shrubs - there is nothing exotic about them - but every success and every failure is stimulating. We never know what we may be tempted to try next.



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