Coastal Selections - great plants for your seaside garden
Ironically, the environment can be both your muse and your enemy when planning a coastal garden. Sandy soils, exposure to winds, and salt are just some of the issues that can plague a seaside landscape.
The key to successful coastal gardens is to work with the environment – not against it. This does not have to mean a restricted plant palette: in fact, options are extensive thanks to a range of native and exotic species which can be combined in a variety of ways to make a visually interesting, yet suitably adapted, landscape.
Preparing for planting
Preparation and planning are vital to any coastal garden design. Understand your soils, and select plants that perform best in that soil type. Sandy soils retain less moisture and nutrients. If planting on sloping banks, consider the impact of wind and rain on soil erosion, and incorporate plants that will reduce the loss of precious topsoil.
Water is critical in coastal environments. Consider optimal times (Autumn, early-Winter and early-mid Spring) for planting to ensure that plants receive sufficient water during the establishment phase. If this is not possible due to sparse rainfall, consider irrigation for plant health. Improving soil with organic matter, such as mulch, may also improve with dehydration – especially over the summer months. Mulch should be replenished every 12 months for good results.
Small bushes, grasses and groundcovers
Low growing and groundcover plants can be a great way to create a low maintenance garden that is well adapted to winds. When planted in masses, the wind can blow up and over grasses and groundcovers, reducing the effects of dehydration and erosion on soils. They are also a great way to incorporate colour and texture into the landscape
Consider these selections:
- Lomandra ‘Seascape’ pbr
Featuring stunning blue-grey weeping foliage, this variety grows in most soil types, and is extremely hardy in dry conditions. These grasses look great in mass plantings, and can be clipped to shape.
- Convolvulus cneorum
Low maintenance plant that performs well in most soils and positions. Its soft silver foliage is accented by white flowers from Spring to Summer. Grows as a naturally grounded shrub, and does not require pruning.
- Euphorbia ‘Silver Swan’ pbr Variegated foliage adds texture and interest to your landscape. Produces spikes of creamy flowers from late Winter through Spring. Will tolerate dry periods once established.
- Nandina ‘Moonbay’ pbr
These hardy shrubs bring colour to coastal gardens. They thrive in most situations, and look great when mass-planted. Foliage colour intensifies during Winter or when grown in nutrient-depleted soils.
- Westringia ‘Jervis Gem’
This is the compact version of Westringia ‘Wynyabbie Gem’. This is a tough, compact shrub with narrow, grey-green foliage and mauve flowers produced all year around.
- Hardenbergia ‘Sea of Purple’ pbr
This wandering native makes a great cover. With larger, glossier foliage, it is excellent for preventing soil erosion, it covers large areas quickly It flowers abundantly in late Winter and early Spring with beautiful clusters of purple blooms.
Middle storey plants and shrubs
Incorporating medium-height plants and shrubs is important in coastal garden design. These plants can provide added shelter and protection from the elements, without obscuring valuable ocean views.
- Corea alba
This hardy variety is ideal as a screening plant or hedge, and works well with both native and exotic plants. Grey-green foliage with white flowers appearing in later Autumn and Winter.
nobilis ‘Miles Choice’
This compact Bay Laurel variety is drought and salt tolerant, and is an effective hedging and screening plant. Responds well to clipping, and is an excellent choice for a more formal coastal design. You might also consider the smaller-growing ‘Baby Bay’ for borders or low hedging.
- Pittosporum tobira
Also known as Japanese Pittosporum, this medium evergreen shrub is great for hedging or screening. Features glossy green foliage and clusters of white flowers through summer.
- Nerium ‘Vanilla Cream’
Commonly known as Oleander Vanilla Cream, this dense evergreen plant features fragrant creamy flowers with a distinctive vanilla scent from Spring through to Autumn.
Larger Trees and Screening Plants
Choosing the right trees and screening plants for the environment can be the difference between success and failure in a coastal location. When selecting screening plants, be mindful of the impact on any ocean views. Consider the following selections.
- Agonis ‘Lemon and Lime’ pbr and Agonis ‘Burgundy’
With beautiful weeping foliage, these Agonis varieties can help create the ultimate coastal feel. These elegant modern natives provide great colour contrast – from the striking yellow-green foliage of ‘Lemon and Lime’ to the rich maroons of ‘Burgundy’.
Tolerant to full sun, poor soils and drought, olive varieties are a versatile selection for coastal gardens. Consider ‘Del Morocco’ with slightly weeping foliage, or the French ‘Picholine’ variety – a strong upright form with medium sized fruit.
- Acacia ‘Copper Tips’
Copper Tips will make a fantastic informal screen or feature plant, as the beautiful weeping foliage can be used very effectively in most garden styles. Mixes well with Banksia praemorsa, Elaeocarpus and Agonis Burgundy. Underplant with new varieties of Lomandra and Dianella.
- Banksia ‘Sentinel’
Attract birds to your garden with this thin-growing, upright screen. Tolerant of wind, salt and sandy conditions associated with living along the coast, and produces distinctive yellow flowers.