Gardening in Wellington can be challenging, but don’t despair, there are steps you can take to reduce the effects of the local weather and create a beautiful space to enjoy all year round.
Wellington is well-known for its windy environment. The frequent high winds we experience are due to the influence of Cook Strait and the rugged local topography. Wellington’s northerly winds are more frequent than the southerlies, but both can be equally severe.
Our strong winds can play havoc in exposed gardens by damaging or uprooting plants, scorching leaves and causing loss of buds, flowers and leaves. Unchecked, they can also make your garden unpleasant to spend time in.
Here is what you can do to help reduce your wind exposure and turn your wild and windy property into your dream garden.
Assess your site
Try to work out which winds have the most adverse effects on your property and take this into account when you are designing your garden.
The prevailing wind might be from the north, but it could be the less common southerly wind that makes outdoor living really unpleasant and damages your plants.
Entertainment areas, seating or plants that need sheltered conditions should be located on the leeward side of your house or any windbreaks.
If you don’t have any sheltered areas in your garden you will need to create them. Providing wind protection will slow the speed that the wind passes plants, reducing the amount of water lost from their leaves.
Many people mistakenly think putting up a solid barrier will be good wind protection. Unfortunately this is far from true. Walls and fences deflect the wind over the top of the barrier, which can cause damaging turbulence on the leeward side.
Windbreaks that filter 50-60% of the wind are ideal because they break up the wind rather than blocking it. Trees and shrubs make excellent wind breaks, but be aware that a very thick hedge can act more as a solid wall rather than a filter, so make sure there is space for the wind to escape through gaps. Windbreaks can also be erected using netting, proprietary windbreak materials or woven hurdles.
Directing the wind to pass over the top of a garden space is another way to beat the elements and provide a sheltered garden environment. Tucking plants or seating behind boulders, or creating a sunken garden are two ways of doing this.
Be kind to your plants
Ensuring plants are healthy and not stressed will help to minimise weather damage.
Scorched leaves indicate water is being lost from the leaves faster than it is being replaced. Water plants well during dry and windy periods and mulch the soil around plants with bulky organic mulches, such as bark chips. This will reduce the drying effect of wind on the soil. If plants are damaged by wind scorch, encourage their recovery by feeding in spring with general-purpose fertiliser.
Plants grown in containers or hanging baskets are even more susceptible to drying out from the wind than those grown in the ground, so make sure that you water and feed these regularly. Place plants in pots against a sheltered house wall, but be careful to avoid a position where buildings create a wind tunnel.
Choose the right plants
Choosing species that grow naturally in windy conditions is really important if you have an exposed garden.
NZ natives are a good starting point because they are used to our wild conditions. They are also great if you want to encourage native wildlife into your garden. Drought tolerant plants that originate from other coastal environments such as Australia, South Africa, California or the Mediterranean will also grow well in exposed gardens.
You can also buy shorter varieties of plants to reduce the likelihood of them being exposed to wind damage. Or, if you want to make the most of the wind, select plants that look beautiful when they are moving in the breeze, like grasses and salvias.
Top plants for windy sites
Akeake (Dodonea viscosa)
Box (Buxus sempervirens)
Broadleaf/Kapuka (Griselinia spp.)
Cabbage tree/Ti kouka (Cordyline australis)
Gum tree (Eucalyptus spp.)
Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium)
Ngaio (Myoporum laetum)
NZ Christmas tree/ Pohutukawa (Metrosideros spp.)
Portuguese laurel (Prunus lusitancia)
Bottlebrush (Callistemon spp.)
Coastal rosemary (Westringia spp.)
Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis)
Lavender (Lavandula spp.)
Roses, particularly Rosa rubiginosa, R. rugosa, R. spinosissima
Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrida)
Ornamental sage (Salvia spp.)
Rengarenga (Arthropodium cirratum)
Rock rose (Cistus lusitanicus)
Stonecrops (Sedum spp.)
This article was published in Tommy's Lifestyle Magazine on 25 January 2019.