I was brought up by the coast and even now, since moving inland, I can still see it from the top of the hill on the way out of our town, so I do have the best of both worlds. I don’t think I appreciated the coast until I moved further away from it. The sandy beaches were a pleasure to be on. Even now, I don’t think I could walk along the beach without studying the sand for the remnants of the wild life which once lived in it. Shells, and the smooth stones of various sizes, given their shapes by the constant movement of the water and sand are also of interest.
I never really thought about the coastal plant life, but my interest in trying to grow interesting plants led me to get a Mertensia maritima. It grows on some of our local beaches but I don’t recall seeing it in situ. It’s blue/green foliage is covered with a ‘bloom’, a powdery coating. It has pretty blue/pink flowers and is one of the plants known as an ‘oyster plant’. There is a mild oyster taste from the leaves and flowers and it can be served with fish dishes.
I bought Crithmum maritimum (rock samphire), also an edible coastal plant, although slightly different from the marsh samphire, which is a common vegetable in restaurants now. Rock samphire, as it’s name suggests grows on rocks and even in Shakespeare’s time, it was noted what a dangerous trade collecting rock samphire was. “Half-way down, Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!” (from The Tragedy Of King Lear).
Here I have two coastal plants which like sandy, gritty soil so I decided to put both into the same container as a little bit of a seaside theme. One likes a less fertile compost than the other but hopefully a compromise of a mix of compost will work. As a recycler and upcycler, I don’t often get stuck for substitutes and since it’s illegal to remove sand from the beach, I used horticultural sand with the compost to lighten it a little bit. Also I gave it a top dressing of gravel and broken egg shells, with a few nut shells thrown in. I had crab for dinner one night and kept the shell, this gives me a seaside theme in a pot. The plants are still very tiny but I hope their new home will encourage them to grow.
Although the plants are still very young, I actually thought the oyster plant had died over winter but thankfully, I am reluctant to throw even dead-looking plants out until they prove that all life is extinguished. I’m almost at a stage where a post-mortem is carried out on all expired plants, just to be sure.
Seakale (Crambe maritima) is a clump-forming plant found on coastal sites and often found on the beaches. It’s leaves develop a waxy appearance as it gets older.
Related to the cabbage, it is, like many plants, edible and found growing wild on the beaches, but can also be grown as a garden plant. They are easy to grow from seeds and my seedlings are ready to be planted in a much bigger pot.
I just hope I can provide the right environment for them. According to information, the shoots can be served with béchamel sauce or butter. If you don’t want to eat it, then it makes an interesting ornamental plant.