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Hardiness vital in winter; Don't fight the cold -just learn to live with it.

Byline: Peter Surridge

ONE of the most demanding projects in gardening is trying to create an attractive plot on a site that's exposed to winds from all sides. From the west come the strongest and wettest winds while north and east send the coldest. Plants cower as gales sear and shred the foliage.

If this describes your problem, don't despair -there's a way to meet the challenge. Most very windy gardens are high and on well-drained soil. While many plants are stressed by cold weather, it is the combination with wet conditions that actually kills.

The easiest response is to accept the conditions and grow only plants that arelikely to tolerate them. If the situation is not too fearsome, you may be able tog et away with low -growing, sturdy bedding plants such as busy lizzies and bellis,cultivatedforms of the common daisy.

Where annuals are out of the question, consider resilient bulb flowers with short stems,like snowdrops, crocuses, the wild daffodil or Lent lily, Narcissus pseudonarcissus , and crocosmia.

Choose herbaceous perennial plants using the same criteria. That means no delphiniums or lupins but plants that can cope with strong winds without staking, such as thrift (armeria),Campanula glomerata , with clusters of bluebells on sturdy stems,catmint, herbaceous form of potentilla, the true geraniums, including Geranium cinereum , the mound-forming evergreen Phlox douglasii,London pride, which is Saxifraga urbium ,and other tough saxifrages. Some small, delicate-looking plants such as pinks and violas will tolerate the conditions.

Shrubs will need tough leaves and a firm root system. Grey-green foliage is an indicator of hardiness - lavender and sage a regood examples. Many hebes, with blooms of pink, blue or white,are also reliable.

In nature, heathers are used to windswept conditions so can be relied on to keep their heads down in cultivation. Choose varieties of Ericacarnea and Ericadarleyensis. A small form of barberry,Berberis thunbergii `Atropurpurea Nana',is good, too. It has yellow flowers, purple-tinged foliage and grows to just 60 cm (2ft) tall.

If your unfriendly neighbourhood gales blow straight off the sea, select plants that tolerate winds laden with salt and sand.

Newcomers to windy gardens should check neighbours' plots to see what grows well. Even in an exposed position they may have achieved impressive results by planting a tough shelter hedge to protect wind-sensitive specimens.

Someof the most reliable hedging shrubs are attractive native berry-bearing types like sea buckthorn, hawthorn, black thorn (sloe) and common holly (though it is a slow grower). They also,as it happens, make excellent nesting sites for birds when clipped to create a thicket.

More exotic hedges can be made of escallonia, which is semi-evergreen, tolerates salt and produces red-pink or white flowers beloved of bees. Choose the hardiest varieties, `Donard Seedling' or `Langleyensis'.

Heroic evergreens include two shrubs with grey -green foliage and the same nickname - daisy bush-Olearia x haastii, slow-growing to 1.5m (5ft), with scented white daisies,and Brachyglottis laxifolia a rounded shrub reaching 90 cm (3ft), producing yellow daisy clusters; and an evergreen wall shrub,Griselinia littoral is ,of which there is the choice of a variegatedform.

For taller hedges,Leyland and Lawson's cypresses are effective but need protection from cold gales when young and require trimming once or twice a year to keep them to a reasonableheight.

Lathefences make good protection while trees or shrubs arematuring, because they filter the wind, which is more effective than trying to block it completely. Once a degree of shelter has been established,many shrubs can be grown.

Most of the viburnums, with their scented winter flowers, are resilient, so are thecotoneasters, the gold and green evergreen Eleagnus pungens , skimmia,and even the deciduous weigela with numerous deep pink flowers in spring.

For a sub- tropical effect choose the magnificent Yucca filamentosa with vicious sharp leaves but huge plumes of creamy white bells up to 1.8m (6ft) in summer.

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Tough shrubs - lavender and he be withstand strong winds
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 24, 2004
Words:659
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