In the British Isles, there are of course many gardeners who are dealing with an exposed coastal garden. Much as many of us love to live beside the sea, coastal gardening can also come with its challenges.
From my own garden, I am lucky enough to enjoy glimpses of the coastline, around four miles away. But I have previously lived on the coast, and have helped a number of gardeners in coastal locations to make the most of their exposed coastal gardens. Here are a few tips:
Work With Your Coastal Garden’s Environment, Don’t Fight It
If you have a coastal garden, there are both strengths and weaknesses to the setting in which you find yourself. As you set about making design decisions and choosing plants for your garden, it is important to make those choices with reference to the environment.
Coastal gardens tend to:
- Be windier than many other gardens.
- Deal with salt-laden spray.
- Have poorer and often very free-draining soil.
- Be somewhat warmer, with higher light levels than inland gardens.
Of course, each coastal garden should be analysed, to identify its challenges and opportunities. But in all cases, you should work with what you have, rather than fighting against the natural world around you.
Plant Species Which Cope With Wind and Maritime Exposure
When it comes to plant choices, it is important to remember that some plants will be far better at coping with wind and maritime exposure than others.
Embracing native, coastal plants already found within the area can be an excellent idea – as well, potentially, as choosing coastal plants from elsewhere which will work well in your particular garden.
Generally speaking, plants with narrow or needle-like, waxy or glossy leaves are best able to deal with the elements.
Armeria maritima, Crambe cordifolia, Echinops, Phlox and Saxifraga, along with native and ornamental grasses are some of the options which can work well in coastal gardens.
For food producing spaces, Mediterranean herbs will often thrive in coastal gardens, and with the right layout and planning, many vegetables and even fruits will also do well with some protection from other planting.
Filter the Wind, Creating Natural Wind Breaks With Plants
The protection from other planting is one of the most crucial things in many coastal gardens. Creating shelter belts or wind break hedges to filter and break up strong winds is key. Try trees/ shrubs like pines, junipers, hawthorns, hornbeams elder, gorse, alders and sea buckthorn, for example.
Find some further tips on creating a windbreak hedge here. These features can be crucial to protecting plants and increasing the number of plants that can be grown in a coastal garden.
Position Polytunnels, Seating Areas & Other Features Carefully
In a coastal garden, you might also consider protecting plants from the elements by adding a polytunnel, greenhouse or other growing structures.
However, in coastal gardens where strong winds can be an issue, it is of course important to position such features very carefully, and to make sure that they are well anchored and able to withstand the elements.
Remember that they too might be sheltered and protected by a shelter belt or windbreak hedge with appropriate planting.
Look For Plants Which Thrive In Spite of Poor Soil
When landscaping a coastal garden, it is often a good idea to embrace plants which can thrive in relatively poor soil, as well as coping with the wind and salt exposure.
As mentioned above, Mediterranean herbs can thrive in this environment. They tend to do well in the moderately poor and free-draining soul conditions found in many coastal gardens.
Improve the Soil and Maintain Fertility With Local, Natural, Organic Resources
While often, it can work well to embrace the soil you have across much of your space, it is also important to remember that you can use natural and organic means to protect and improve the soil. Amending the soil with plenty of organic matter will help with fertility and moisture retention.
You should always consider what local resources – both local to your own garden, and local to your area – can be used to improve your garden.
If you live by the coast, in addition to utilising plant materials from your garden, you might also consider using seaweed sustainably collected from the coast to enrich your growing spaces.
Take Advantage of Warmth and High Light Levels
In a well designed coastal garden, you will not only be combatting issues. You will also be able to take advantage of the benefits that gardening in a coastal location can bring.
Since coastal gardens will generally be milder, and have higher light levels than many inland gardens, you may have the potential to grow a range of more tender and heat-loving plants which will not thrive inland. Embracing a few more exotic plants could elevate your planting scheme.
Embrace a Seaside Theme in a Coastal Garden
To complement your seaside planting, it could be a good idea to embrace a maritime and/or nautical theme in your garden design. The coastal plants you incorporate should look right at home among other items usually found near the seaside.
For example, you might incorporate pebbles, shingle or sand, seashells or drift wood in your designs. You might also upcycle old ropes, fishing floats, or other nautical materials. Personalising your garden with fun and quirky features can help it to stand out, while not feeling out of place in your area.
Use Borrowed Landscape and Frame Your Beautiful Views
Finally, many coastal gardens will enjoy beautiful seaside views. To make the most of your setting, think about how you can draw in those wider views and almost make them part of your garden by placing planting strategically to blend with and frame your stunning outlooks. Use grasses and other plants which sway in the breeze, for example, to reflect and complement the ever-shifting seascape beyond.
These are just some design tips to help you make the most of your exposed coastal garden. If you have more suggestions or tips to share, please do feel free to share them with us below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.