As I play around with ideas for what to do with the front garden, I very much want to make sure that whatever I create sits happily in the surrounding context, if that doesn’t sound too pretentious. A sense of place can make an enormous difference to how a garden feels, though I certainly want to avoid both pastiche and cliché!

view from front garden

Part of it is that wonderful view, it forms the backdrop for whatever I do out the front. The view changes constantly, of course, as do the colours, dependant on the state of the tide, the weather. Now, all is dark slate grey with a faint glow of yellow from the lichen on the cliffs opposite. The only blue is from a stray recycling bin.

local rock

The local rock tends to gentle shades of green – I couldn’t resist picking this up from the beach, and it will find it’s way into the garden in due course. For now it makes a rather good doorstop.

However, it is also about learning what plants grow naturally around here, and what plants people typically grow in their gardens – it’s not all hydrangeas, crocosmia and fuchsias, though they do seem to be the holy trinity! So when we decided to take a stroll along the cliff path the other evening, I took my camera with me.

Ironically, virtually the first plant I saw was crocosmia! Obviously a garden escapee, since it looks suspiciously like ‘Lucifer’ rather than the orange of the wild montbretia. It looks surprisingly at home above the rock pools.

crocosmia on cliffs

There was also a hedge of Rosa rugosa in front of one of the many holiday homes that edges the cliffs.

rosa rugosa
rosa rugosa hedge

I really like Rosa rugosa, the open flowers, the richly coloured hips, and patently it survives quite happily in this very exposed position. I have been wondering about planting some in the front garden, possibly the white version.

I also saw a lot of wild carrot. I love umbels, and have lots of Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’ seedlings to plant in the back garden when I get hold of some compost, but I think something like Ammi majus might be better in the front. Not that I am trying to mimic everything I see, honest, but in my mind’s eye I am beginning to imagine wafts of silver, purple, blue, pink, and white umbels would help knit it all together. We’ll see, I’ll have changed my mind again in another couple of days!

wild carrot

One plant I see everywhere around here, from gardens to verges to the cliffs, is ragwort. It is so bright and sunny it always makes me smile, and it looks stunning set against a blue sky.


The huge patch we saw up on the cliff walk literally made me stop dead in my tracks it was so dramatic. Other things are altogether more subtle. There is lots of common knapweed (Centaurea nigra) growing along the cliff path, and in the roadside verges around the less well tended areas of the village.


I love the form, and this (or perhaps a slightly less invasive version) definitely deserves a place, not least because it is a huge favourite of lots of different types of butterfly.

One thing I noticed was that the grasses currently in flower have stiff, oat-like ears to them, forming wonderful silhouettes. It makes me think about planting something like Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’, which has a reputation for standing up to the wind well. I loved how nature had it combined with knapweed.

stiff grass flowers
natural combinations

I also loved the combed effect of this grass growing at the base of a rather beautiful wall, a lovely edging to the path, worthy of a show garden it was so immaculate!


One plant that you always expect to see in this kind of environment is Sea Thrift, Centaurea nigra. I love it, and round here you get huge carpets of it wherever there is a little bit of soil amongst the rocks. I must grow some, though I may go for one of the varieties with deeper, almost magenta, flowers, or perhaps a white form. Either way it is a beautiful little plant, I love the delicacy of the wiry stems.


I have no intention of trying to emulate a cliff top environment in my garden, for one thing there are far too many other plants I am itching to grow, but I think taking note of what grows naturally around here will help me create a garden that feels comfortable and harmonious. That’s the theory, anyway. And in the mean time there are the cliff views themselves to enjoy, with cormorants, sunsets, and apparently, later in the year, seals to watch for! I am a very lucky girl.

sunset over Wylfa Head

34 thoughts on “Out and About – A Cliff Walk

    1. I think I prefer “cormornat”! It looked more as if it was trying to intimidate the gull that was sharing the island, but it didn’t seem to work…

  1. Hi Janet,

    Mmm, plenty of lovely blooms for you, and of course the Ragwort is great for butterflies and for Cinnabar moths (I’ve loads of caterpillars on mine this year, post to come with their development sometime) so a definite thumbs up to have that in the garden.
    I sort of picture your front being full of blues to mimic the sea and sky of the view – so imagine sitting in the window looking out to the sea, the garden would mimic that). Then you could have splashes of gold for the sun and maybe white for the clouds… But that’s just me. And I know in reality I would be wanting pinks and purples in there too!

    1. Hi Liz, that’s pretty much the feel I think I want to go for, at least in the front area of the garden. I spotted a perovskia looking magnificent in the front garden of a house in a more exposed position than ours, and I love the idea of the way all that blue would sway in the wind. Re moths, I’d like to plant some white flowering plants that would look good in the evening and attract moths. Any suggestions?

      1. Hi Janet,

        Mmmm Russian Sage is lovely – had one in a previous house and really ought to have some here too. I’d imagine a lovely white/pale pink wild shrub rose would look very nice along there with the blue sea behind.
        White Sweet Rocket? White Nicotiana? They’re possibilities for the moths and of course smell lovely in the evening too and will certainly add a nice glow in the setting sun. I know there are books on night gardens (for moths); might be worthwhile checking some out.

        1. White sweet rocket would go beautifully, as would nicotiana. Cheers Liz!

  2. You have a wonderful view and a very beautiful part of the Island on your doorstep not to mention the best (in my view) eating place in Anglesey “The Lobster pot”, at least it was when I last visited. Its a shame that so many of the gardens either try and look like each other or are given over to the “Holy Trinity” you described. I would be interested to know where you get your plants from as there is a real lack of nurseries in the area, though last time I visited I came across the little roadside place in Star, one to visit, and then there is Hollands of course but don’t go on pensioners day out!
    All the best with settling in and the sunsets will just get better and better over the next 2 months, try a ride up to South Stack.

    1. Hi Niah, thanks for stopping by – pensioner’s day at Hollands sounds rather terrifying… I’ll check out the place in Star, thank you. I imagine I will grow some perennials from seed, and buy others on line, but I am going to pick the brains of one of my neghbours, who is a very keen gardener, about where else to go. I hear Stermats in Valley has vastly expanded their garden area since I last lived here, so I will be checking that out as they tend to be very good value for what they do carry.

  3. Apparently Rosa rugosa is a brilliant plant for coping with coastal conditions. We spent a week staying in a cottage just on the edge of sand dunes in Sussex and all the gardens had Rosa rugosa. It is a stunning plants and those hips are beautiful. I love the idea of being inspired by the native plants and I think Ammi would look lovely swaying in the breeze. Have you tried ammi visnaga? I’m growing it for the first time this year – it has yet to flower due to this being my third sowing after the others were got by slugs. Anyway it is meant to be a bit sturdier. Hopefully I’ll have some photos soon.

    1. Yes, we had huge numbers of rosa rugosa plants growing behind the banks that defined the different areas of the camp site we used to work at, on the other side of the Island. Very exposed position, and the roses just lapped it up. I’ve not tried ammi visnaga yet, though I think I might have some seed somewhere, I will be interested to see how you get on with it. The other thing I might try is Cenolophium denudatum, which has the advantage of being perennial. Have you grown it?

  4. I think you have a good plan on finding what growing easily along the windy slopes. It will make gardening easier when you are working with instead of against the elements. I love the fragrance of Rugosa roses. There is one, ‘Hansa’ that is a double bloom and very fragrant.
    Do you have River Oats there? It is a shorter grass that dances in the wind. It does reseed well, but lovely as it moves with the breezes. Chasmanthium latifolium.

    1. Hi Janet, thanks for the pointer to River Oats, we can indeed get it here, and I really like the look of it, those flattened heads are really interesting. I agree about the scent of rosa rugosa too, and since the roses I have inherited seem to be scentless, it is another big thing in their favour!

    1. It’s lovely Rose, can’t wait to see what blooms in the Spring along the cliffs.

  5. You’re very wise to observe the natives as a base for your planting plans. A good example, and one I will follow when I eventually move from this place. How wonderful to be able to quickly take strolls along the coast!

    1. Thank you! It is really special to be able to walk along the cliffs so easily. There is an even more spectacular walk on the other side of the bay, we haven’t done that yet.

  6. I’m going to really enjoy your posts, all those beautiful views – fantastic! Going for a walk in the country is ideal for inspiration, most of the wild flowers will have a garden version and various hybrids developed for us to use. You ask which flowers will bring in moths to your garden, I’m sure they like the same flowers as butterflies, quite often find them on my buddleja.

    1. Thanks Pauline! I have lots of buddleja, though I’ve not seen any butterflies yet.

      1. Had another think about plants for moths, how about evening primrose, the pale yellow would show up in the evening, and honeysuckle, the perfume will be wonderful as you wander round with a glass of wine!

        1. There’s a rather bedraggled honeysuckle on the fence already, so I might see if I can renovate it successfully. Evening Primrose is a lovely idea, thank you!

  7. Some lovely pictures there Janet – I especially like the cliff top one with the ragwort – wild flowers always seem more lovely on the coast.

    1. Thanks Elaine. The ragwort does look really happy there, doesn’t it!

  8. a beautiful walk Janet, many of the plants are the same as grow here, I bought Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ last year and it is growing well and stood up to the dreadful storms we had last winter and spring, sea campion does well too but a word of warning it seeds very freely, I just included rosa rugosa in my latest post I hadn’t realised until last year there are several varieties, like you I get a bit fed up with the same plants being trotted out when coastal plants are mentioned and the assumption that a coastal garden has a sandy soil, if you let an area of grass grow next year you might find some of those wild grasses in your garden, it’s lovely to hear the excitment in your writing/voice, Frances

    1. Hi Frances, thanks for that, if ‘Karl Foerster’ copes in your garden it should be fine in mine, since I am blessed with rather more shelter than you enjoy!

  9. With such a wonderful view you won’t want to detract from it with planting that is too strong, if you understand what I mean – sometimes less is more. Using garden versions if native plants of your area will really give you a sense of place. you will so enjoy experimenting and deciding (the reason its good to wait a bit before planting anything). I would be inclined not to plant too many different species in the front garden; I don’t mean it should be the same as the cliffs but reflect what’s happening on them, so you’d probably need to plant layers. Whatever you do yoiu’ll enjoy the view even more if it is framed rather than entirely exposed, but you knew that anyway. Christina

    1. Hi Christina, sound advice, thank you, and you are right, I was looking at my already long plant list yesterday and thinking it was far too busy, I want something calm, but dynamic, so that the wind can play in the garden without damaging anything, and so that it is the view that speaks loudest. The goal for the winter will have to be whittling the list down to some key plants that will work really well, and I will keep the riot of colour for the back garden.

  10. Janet that sunset is stunning as is the cliff with grasses and wildflowers…my you are lucky to have so many lovely flowers occurring naturally. I love the color of that rock and would want more in the garden I think…lots for you to consider as you plan a beautiful garden!

    1. Hi Donna, psst, don’t tell anybody, but I just found loads more of the lovely local rock to use in the front garden – I’ll spill the beans later…

  11. Wow, what a great place to walk. I am not sure I would want my garden to compete with such views. If you get a R. rugosa, don’t take your eyes off of it. They tend to spread.

    1. Hi Les, I think that’s why I have gone off the idea of using lots of strong colours in the front, though I am not sure you could totally distract from that view. Other than by planting a large fuchsia in the way… Re rosa rugosa, yes, they do sucker, though I have read that the white ones are less thuggish, and it is white I would go for. You can laugh at me later when the “less thuggish” is shown to mean “only takes over half your garden instead of the whole”…

  12. Beautiful scenery and wild wild plants. We added Calamagrostis Karl Foester to our windswept garden this year, so far it is one of the few plants still vertical… S

      1. Ooh, well we have just a single plant that I picked up at Malvern this year, flanked by a Callistemon on one side, a Helenium on the other, with Aster turbinellus in front. I hope it will form a good clump in the years to come. Purple penstemons and a pale lemon yellow potentilla weave through the bottlebrush too.

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