AT this time of the year, our thoughts are very much on the imminent summer holidays. Many of us only experience the seaside when we go on vacation, unless we are fortunate enough to live within a short distance of the coast.

When you look around carefully you will find a really interesting range of plants on the coast, some of which can be grown further inland in the average garden. Many of these are low maintenance plants that provide interest all the year around.

At RHS Garden Harlow Carr, it’s possible to experience a little taste of the seaside in our plantings. We have sea buckthorn - Hippophae rhamnoides – a tough evergreen shrub that produces bright orange berries from October right through into the following March. This plant only grows in this part of the world because we have altered the soil structure by adding some river sand or grit. The plant will grow quiet happily as long as it is positioned in a free-draining and sunny site. Sea buckthorn also serves a very valuable role near the coast, where it is used as a specialist plant to prevent coastal erosion.

On a recent trip to Scarborough and Whitby I noticed that fuchsias were growing in great swathes along the coastal banks and gullies. Fuchsias are normally tender, being used extensively in our gardens as patio plants in pots and containers during the summer. However, there is a hardier species of fuchsia called fuchsia magellanica which can flower well into late November in a sheltered site. This plant originates in South America and the hardier form grows right down to the coastal tip of Argentina in the Tierra del Fuego province. This part of the world is well known by both explorers and keen yachting folk. One of the nicest varieties is fuchsia magellanica ‘Silverdale’ with its slender porcelain white-to-pink flowers. It does particularly well when grown against the wall of a house. We treat these hardy fuchsias the same way we would treat our very own roses and leave any hard pruning until the following March.

Another important plant that does such a good job as a coastal defence plant is marram grass. This forms the first line of defence in what is known as the mobile to fixed sand dune system. The leaves are very tough and waxy and the root system penetrates deep into the sand, helping to bind moving sand and prevent erosion. This plant is not the ideal grass to grow in the average garden, but there are many more you can plant to give you that feel of the coast.

Grasses are such a sensory plant: they provide interest for most of the year, only being reduced in height during the spring or late autumn. Stipa tenuissima and stipa gigantea can both be found growing well within the herbaceous borders. Stipa tenuissima only grows to a height of 40cm and does well at the front of the border. Unlike all the other grasses, it should never be cut back hard, just a light thinning and reduction is required. Festuca glauca is another alternative to stipa tenuissima, producing waxy glaucous blue leaves that look like they have been coated in the morning frost.

The sea holly - eryngium maritima - is now a very rare native coastal plant in the UK and is afforded special protection and, like all wild plants, should not be collected. There are, however, many beautiful and colourful forms of garden cultivated eryngiums that will bring a taste of the seaside to the garden. Eryngium planum ‘Blue Hobbit’ produces an amazing almost blue neon colour during late summer.

Due to their ability to survive windy and dry sites, these plants make the perfect combination for gravel gardens that can double up as driveways. Many of our driveways are being concreted or tarmacked over, but by creating a gravel driveway to the front of the house, this enables excess water during heavy rain to be absorbed into the soil and not overload drains.

These bolder planting schemes can be inter-planted with low growing herbs like thyme, rosemary and sage. Verbena venosa and the taller verbena bonariensis bring together and bind these bright, vibrant and sensory planting schemes for many years to come.


• Continue to feed lawns with a summer feed

• Sow pansies and wallflowers for spring / winter bedding for next year

• Continue to weed out and remove perennial and annual weeds in the border

• Mulch flower beds and shrub borders to reduce weeds

• Dead-Head spent and dead flower heads in baskets and containers to encourage more flower development

• Only lightly trim hedges at this time of the year, leave any major cutting back until September to protect nesting birds


July: RHS Members’ Gardening Advice

RHS Members can get face-to-face gardening advice from a friendly RHS advisor every Monday and Friday from 1pm – 3pm, except Bank Holidays. Come to the advice desk in the entrance conservatory. Normal garden admission.

4, 11, 18 & 25 July: Thursday Late Night Opening

Enjoy live music every Thursday evening throughout July. Bring a picnic and settle in for the evening. Last entry 7.30pm; the garden closes at 9pm. £5 after 5pm; children and RHS Members go free. Normal garden admission.

6, 13, 20 & 27 July: Saturday Beekeeping Demonstration

Visitors can join members of the Harrogate & Ripon Beekeepers Association at 2pm for an afternoon demonstration of the traditional craft of beekeeping. Normal garden admission.

6-7 July: Meet the Experts – Clematis

Find out all you ever wanted to know about clematis as the British Clematis Society puts on a show of these beautiful climbing plants. A first for Harlow Carr, gardeners can get face-to-face advice and tips on planting, growing and pruning clematis for year-round colour, see a striking display of potted clematis and buy quality plants from Taylors Clematis of Doncaster. Don’t miss demonstrations on growing clematis at 11am and 2pm each day. The event runs from 10.30am-4pm. Normal garden admission.

7, 14, 21 & 28 July: Summer Music Sundays

Bring a picnic, soak up the summer sun and enjoy an afternoon of live music in the garden every Sunday throughout July from 1pm-4pm. Normal garden admission.

Until 29 July: Bath House Gallery – Art Showcase

If you’ve been looking for something special to hang on your wall or a decorative piece of artwork as a talking point, don't miss Harlow Carr’s art showcase offering work in a wide range of styles and different mediums to browse and buy. Normal garden admission.

RHS Garden Harlow Carr, Crag Lane, Beckwithshaw, Harrogate HG3 1QB (use Sat Nav postcode HG3 1UE).