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Coastal Gardens

agapanthus on scilly
Billowing agapanthus on the Isles of Scilly
Image: Shutterstock/Andrew Roland

Dramatic, windswept, wild – coastal gardens are one of a kind. But exposure to strong winds, salty sea spray, and dry, sandy soils, can make the coast a harsh environment for plants.

Here are some simple ways to make the most of coastal conditions and create your perfect garden by the sea.

How to protect your coastal garden

sheltered coastal flowers
Coastal flowers protected by cottage walls
Image: Peter Turner Photography

Coastal gardens are often exposed to strong winds, making growing conditions difficult for plants. The first step toward getting the garden of your dreams is to install a suitable barrier to protect your space from the wind.

Avoid solid screens like walls and fences, which can cause turbulence. Instead, use something that can filter the wind and slow it down.Hedges, groups of trees and shrubs, or living willow screening will do the trick. Use them as a windbreak to create sheltered pockets within your garden. For a temporary fix, polypropylene webbing will make a suitable shelter belt or try artificial hedging .

How to nurture your coastal garden

pride of madeira
Echium candicans (Pride of Madeira) grows well in coastal gardens
Image: Shutterstock/Peter Turner Photography

If your soil is sandy it will be prone to drying out quickly and may be nutritionally poor. Higher levels of salt in the earth will also increase moisture loss. It’s important you incorporate lots of organic matter – such as well-rotted manure, compost and recycled green waste – into your soil before planting, to improve growing conditions. Adding flint, gravel or shingle will also help conserve moisture at the roots. br>
tabilise sandy banks by growing dense ground-cover plants such as Delosperma, Osteospermum or grasses – all of which will grow happily in poor soils. These will prevent your soil from blowing away in the wind.

Gather seaweed to feed to your plants. It makes a great natural fertiliser and can be dug straight into the soil once you have washed the salt from it.

What to grow in a coastal garden

flourishing plants in a coastal garden
Many plants will flourish in a coastal garden
Image: Shutterstock/Neil Duggan

When it comes to choosing the best plants for your coastal garden there are a few things to bear in mind. Plants from naturally harsh environments are well suited to growing in coastal gardens. So look for plants with tough, leathery or hairy leaves, which prevent salt damaging the leaf surface, and also reduce moisture loss. Grasses are good coastal-garden plants as many have tough, narrow leaves, which are good at resisting the effects of wind, salt and dry conditions.

Coastal locations often have a mild climate allowing you to grow more exotic plants. Hardy palms will flourish in coastal areas of Southern Britain, while pretty Acacia dealbata will appreciate the frost-free conditions of many coastal gardens.

Find plants whose Latin name contains 'maritima' (of the sea) or 'littoralis' (of the shore) and you can be sure you’ve got a coastal plant that will be happy in your garden.

Look around at your neighbours’ gardens – or better still, talk to them – to get an idea of which plants grow well in your area.

Lastly, print out the table below, which lists some of the best coastal plants. Use it to decide which plants you want in your coastal garden.

Now you know how to protect, nurture and grow plants in your coastal garden. We’d love to see what you’ve achieved. Share photos of your gardens with us via our Facebook page.

The best plants for coastal gardens

Trees Shrubs/Hedging Perennials Grasses Annuals Bulbs
Acacia dealbata Berberis Achillea Anemanthele lessoniana Alyssum Allium
Alder (Alnus) Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) Argyranthemum Calamagrostis x acutiflora Calendula Crocosmia
Arbutus unedo (Strawberry Tree) Cordyline Armeria (Sea Pink) Corynephorus California Poppy Crocus
Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) Cotoneaster Centranthus ruber Festuca glauca Clarkia Daffodil
Bay tree (Laurus nobilis) Eleagnus x ebbingei Delosperma Miscanthus sinensis Echium Muscari
Cytisus (Broom) Euonymus japonicus Dianthus deltoides Molinia caerulea (Purple Moor Grass) Gazania Nerine
Eucalyptus Griselinia littoralis Eccremocarpus scaber Pampas grass (Cortaderia) Lavatera trimestris Scilla
Pine Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) Erigeron Panicum virgatum (Switch Grass) Limnanthes (Poached Egg Flower) Tulip
Sorbus (Mountain Ash) Heather Eryngium Pennisetum alopecuroides Livingstone Daisy (Dorotheanthus)  
  Holly Fascicularia bicolour Pennisetum setaceum 'Fireworks' Tagetes (Marigold)  
  Lavender Gaillardia Stipa tenuissima    
  Mahonia Helianthemum      
  Pyracantha Osteospermum      
  Rosa rugosa (Ramanas Rose) Red Hot Poker      
  Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) Sedum      
  Viburnum Sempervivum      
  Willow (Salix purpurea) Thyme