Recently I had the pleasure of a coastal camp site. Don’t get me wrong, I love the river but as they say a change is as good as…

Anyhow, one of the many delights of this particular trip was the vegetation (for me at least). The amazing thing about severe coastal sites is how anything manages to grow at all. This place was obviously very windy with plenty of salt thrown in; very shallow soils to the point of no soil at all in places (just sheet limestone) and to top it off relatively low rainfall.

Most plants take on the appearance of bonsais; thick trunks supporting time weary shrubs that are usually trees. One example I made a note of was Melaleuca lanceolata dryland tea tree. This plant in the Riverland on the flood plain often grows to around 4 to 6 metres and takes on the appearance of a tree. On this coastal site was reduced to a mere 60 to 70mm with a metre spread. Sounds more like a ground cover doesn’t it?

Another I spotted was an example of Correa pulchella native fuchsia. This beautiful little shrub with bell flowers (pictured) can grow up to 1 metre high and spreading to 1.5 metres. With the ‘lack of soil’ it was quite literally smaller than a baby’s fist.

My favourite for the trip was a native pig face Disphyma crassifolium ssp clavellatum (pictured) clinging to a rock face for dear life with the frothing tide whipping its new growth at its lower extremities. I mean to say, talk about living on the edge! Have you done a flip on your water skis? How about free falling off cliffs? That’s nothing – this little bloke hanging out there 24/7 in all weathers, storms and all! Do you know what? This plant didn’t even look out of place. It was even the picture of health.

My point is that if these sorts of plants can do well in the extremes of situations how much better are they going to grow in your garden in your tender care (or in spite of it)?

So make wise choices using tough plants that can handle anything that you can dish up in your garden.

This article first published in the Riverland Weekly © May 19, 2011.