Watergate Bay in bloom

Keeping the plants around the hotel looking their best in extreme coastal conditions isn’t easy, but Cornish Garden Team has helped us overcome the challenge. In this first of two blog posts, they set the scene and talk us through some of the plants you’ll spot around the hotel.

Watergate Bay Hotel's entrance

Travel back a couple years ago and the hotel had gone through a major redevelopment with the new Swim Club extension. Other projects like Zacry’s were also in the pipeline, but the plants and greenery around the hotel were looking less than their best, battered by the wind, sun, and salt air. It was time for a major gardening re-think.

Enter Vicky and Ed from the Cornish Garden Team, based up the road in Wadebridge, who have been our greenfingered gods for more than two and a half years.

Problem solved

Watergate Bay in bloom

“There are so many challenges in terms of gardening at Watergate Bay, where do I start?” says Ed who has background in forestry and conservation. He began working with Vicky five years ago. She started the Cornish Garden Team in 2001.

Firstly, it’s maintaining a high standard so that it looks great for guests all year round. “It has to look great all the time, so we visit weekly to maintain standards and constantly review how things are going.”

Secondly and unsurprisingly, it’s the conditions; extreme winds, blistering summer heat and salty air all limit species choice. Ed admits that some of the specimen plants have to brought inside during the winter months.

Watering – think plants that can tolerate dry conditions and look great at the same time – and pests and diseases are also a problem. The mild Cornish climate means sap-feeding pests like mealybug are a year-round problem, as are snails. “Guests may often find me staring at plants – I’m not, I’m probably doing pest control!”

Watergate Bay in bloom

But for Ed, the hedge outside of Zacry’s was the trickiest part – how do you establish a 22 metre long evergreen hedge in a planter 40cm deep and wide, in full sun and summer heat, full coastal winter winds, requiring minimal watering, but which will drain in winter and look fab too?

Their solution was to plant Olearia, usually found in New Zealand and Australia, in a pond liner with drainage points (below). Incredibly, this summer it hasn’t needed to be watered at all.

The planting scheme by Zacry's, Watergate Bay

What’s in the pots?

The plants at Watergate Bay

Ed and Vicky have concentrated on cultivating plants that are special and unusual for guests to look at, with more than 60 or so plants and pots dotted around the hotel.

There’s a sub-tropical theme, and guests ask a lot of questions about these plants: succulents like certain Aeoniums, Echeveria Lampranthus, as well as Agaves and Aloes. Species like Yucca and Eryngium (sea holly) provide structure and look very exotic when in flower.

They also kept the large Trachycarpus (Chusan palms) from the old scheme. Incredibly they’re managing to survive here.

To finish it off, reliable species like Armeria (sea pinks and thrift, pictured above) commonly found all around the Cornish coast, and Osteospermum and Erigeron provide a natural backdrop to the specimen plants.

In their second blog, Cornish Garden Team share their top tips for coastal gardening and how to plant a piece of Watergate Bay at home. Watch this space…

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