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Coastal gardeners keen to try native dune plants

Coastal gardeners keen to try native dune plants

A handbook sure to delight the coastal gardener is quickly making its way down the Bay of Plenty coastline.

Ti kouka (cabbage tree) are often considered a plant of the wetland margins but actually grow naturally on dunes. Coast Care’s Greg Jenks says they are also favoured because they don’t block off the view. “You can see through them,” he says.

Published by Coast Care, the Backyard Buffers booklet has won positive feedback from people working to protect the region’s sand dunes by planting them with native dune plants. They now plan to deliver copies by hand to all seaside residents at Pukehina and Ohope. Tauranga District Council has also earmarked 300 copies for local use.

The Backyard Buffers project is a new initiative of Coast Care Bay of Plenty. It focuses on planting and strengthening the landward side of the dunes, the coastal reserve that borders private land.

Coast Care coordinator Greg Jenks say the back dunes are often forgotten. They may be either full of weeds or converted into garden by the neighbouring landowner. Sometimes people have even put picnic tables or barbecues on them. However, they are publicly owned and must be kept free of structures, he explains.

The new booklet will help people who are working with Coast Care to plant the back dunes in front of their properties. It features a range of plants that are native to the Bay of Plenty coast and thrive in its harsh, arid and nutrient-poor environment.

Mr Jenks says gardeners are often surprised at the interesting colours and textural beauty of the native dune plants. Leading landscapers now often use them to create trendy and natural looking gardens. “We think in future that no one will want to plant exotics simply because natives are so attractive and low maintenance.”

As well as helping to strengthen the dunes, native plants provide a habitat and food source for a wide range of insects and animals. These include the nocturnal sand scarab beetle and the once-common common copper butterfly. When planted, birds also return to feed on native sand locusts and grasshoppers.

Mr Jenks hopes the attractive, and sometimes rare, plants shown in the brochure will inspire people to look after their dune reserves. He asks residents to contact him if they are keen. Coast Care will work with residents and can supply suitable plants, special fertiliser and advice for free. “We don’t want people to plant anything bought from nurseries or grown at home. We need to preserve the genetic integrity of these areas.”

Since its launch seven years ago, Coast Care has worked with dozens of local communities to plant vulnerable stretches of the coastline from Waihi Beach to Cape Runaway. It is an active partnership between Environment Bay of Plenty and coastal district councils.

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