Gardening on the beach

Meschers beach

Since we have returned from the U.K. we have been enjoying an Indian Summer so the garden has been neglected somewhat in favour of the beach.  Mescher beach is only half an hour away so it is easy to visit for a short break.

Pine tree on cliff

Never the less, I cannot stop looking at things from a gardener’s perspective.  Look at these pines with their roots growing into the limestone rock.  Not exactly how the gardening books would advise you to plant them.

Crithmum maritimum

Clumps of plants with yellow flowers grow on the vertical faces of the rock.  The rock samphire or Crithmum maritimum grows all over the cliff face.  It is not the same plant as the samphires that grow more inland but is also edible and is recommended to be eaten either pickled in vinegar, raw or cooked in an omelette, but I have no personal experience of eating it.  Seemingly, it is very high in vitamin C and used to be eaten by sailors to combat scurvy.  A common name for it in French is “perce-pierre” (stone cutter) – very appropriate.

Sea lavander

Growing alongside the rock samphire is the incredibly delicate sea lavander (Limonium vulgare).  It is difficult to believe such a delicate flower could take root and flourish without special care and attention.


What a beautiful place it has chosen to grow in front of a miniature grotto in the soft limestone rocks, I’m sorry the harsh light does not do justice to the fine flower stems.

scrub oak root

A type of oak has thrust a root through the cliff and is now completely exposed.

oak with acorns

I do not know what species of oak this is but it is able to thrive and produce acorns in what looks like far from ideal conditions.  It has found a niche where few other plants can compete. It is a Holm Oak [Quercus ilex] or Cork Oak [Q. suber] see comment below from Dromfit.


I had to smile when I saw the clump of ivy hanging on to the edge at the top of the cliff – you would survive almost anywhere, wouldn’t you!

strawberry tree

A strawberry tree sits atop the cliff with a beautiful view out to sea.  It is full of its strawberry fruits now and does not object to the sea air.

Meschers carrelet

It is low tide on the estuary in the picture but the carrelet is just visible on the side of the cliff.  These are strange constructions that are very common here and consist of a little cabin supporting a huge net that can be lowered and raised to catch fish.  See my post “The call of the sea” for better pictures.

M.mar 1

But of course what really fascinated me was the clump of a kind of knapweed as it was full of bees and butterflies.  This is a Megachile, perhaps maritima.  The knapweed grows on the dune at the base of the cliff on a substrate that looks like sand.  However, it grows in the full sun and its flowers produce a sought after nectar for nearby pollinators.

M. ma male

I have never seen this fluffy Megachile before, he has such downy front legs as if he was carrying a muff.  It may have been the male of the Megachile maritima.

hare tail

Talking of fluffy things some of the grass Lagurus ovatus was growing beside the knotweed.  I often see this growing more inland and it keeps well if cut for using as a dried flower.  I like the French name “queue-de-lièvre” or hare’s tail.  I think it would tend to call it bunny tail.


I was quite excited seeing all these new Megachile but something was buzzing them as soon as they settled and I had a good idea what it was.  I finally got a photograph of the culprit, Anthidium manicatum, the wool carder bee.  He can be a bit aggressive towards other bees and does not like sharing “his” patch of flowers.


This is another Megachile I have not seen in the garden, yet.  It may be Megachile versicolor as its orange scopa has dark hairs at its tip.

Bee fly

This fluffy insect is not a bee but a bee mimic and a parasite of the solitary bees, laying its eggs on the flowers they visit or beside their nests.

seed head spikes

These knapweeds have very sharp raised spines as you can see on this seed head.  I have no idea what the species is but it was growing on the dunes at the edge of the beach and is different in this aspect from the knapweeds I find growing around the garden.

open seed head

Plants can fill ecological niches that most gardeners would view as impossible and in doing so they open up a path for other species to follow them and provide food and nectar for an uncountable number of other creatures.

Humans on the other hand decide that to grow plants it is essential to change the balance and nature of the soil with artificial fertilisers, then spray them with pesticides to control the insect life and herbicide to ensure their crops are not out competed by other plants.  Unfortunately, the world is now suffering from this basic lack of understanding.





36 thoughts on “Gardening on the beach

  1. How wonderful to have this lovely place just a short drive away, I have enjoyed your tour. I agree with your thoughts too Amelia, the drive to feed so many people cheaply needs to be balanced pretty quickly.


  2. A lovely post Amelia. I also love to see the different flowers and grasses that take root in the limestone rocks around us and admire the plants that seem to defy all the rules and settle in the most uncomfortable places! Yes, we have cultivated some of this planet to near death.


    1. I try to keep to native plants for the garden as much as possible but there are too many tempting strangers to be too strict but I try to stick to ones that are suitable for the conditions in the garden. Amelia


  3. solarbeez

    A strawberry tree? Does it grow edible strawberries? You could pick them without a sore back! 🙂
    Bees at the sea…that has a nice ring to it. 🙂


  4. What you are calling knotweeds…
    I call Knapweed.
    To me, knotweeds are members of the Dock family….
    viz: the terribly invasive Japanese Knotweed.

    Knapweeds are loved by all nectar loving species…
    are perrenials… and are clump forming.
    That means, to me, that I can leave them in place and mow around!!

    Your oak is Holm Oak [Quercus ilex] or Cork Oak [Q. suber]…
    both would look very similar in this sort of habitat…
    I would go for the former only because it has the smoother cups on the acorns.

    Love the bees.


  5. Hello Amelia,
    I like the Knapweed… a bit finer petalled than the ones here, which are also brilliant for attracting insects. Did you collect any seeds??? I’ve often thought that more of our native plants should be used in gardens for their insect appeal as well as garden worthiness,,,but I guess there’s no money in it for the nurseries. Your analysis of man’s (or at least in the ‘developed world’ ) disconnect and lack of awareness of the interlinking of species in the natural world is, I think, spot on,
    Best wishes


  6. As a matter of fact I did get some seeds. The bracts are extremely prickly but I was brave. I have also got some seeds of the Rock Samphire but I got those from another beach. I don’t think I have much chance of germinating them but it will be fun trying them on different media. I also collected some Fleabane seeds as the bees are loving this at the moment. Still no luck with your rose seeds 😦 Amelia


  7. Very beautiful and I envy you seeing all the solitary bees.

    Richard Mabey in his book Food for Free suggests boiling Rock Samphire in water for about 10 minutes and then serving with melted butter. You then have to suck the fleshy parts away from the stringy veins.

    Our local fish stall has the Marsh Samphire when it is in season and it makes a nice addition to a fresh tomato pasta sauce.


  8. Samphire is lovely, especially if served with fish, I wouldn’t serve it with butter; if you pick out only the newest shoots you can eat it all. The beautiful beach reminds me of the place we sometimes go at Lake Bolsena. It has a similar promontory.


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