Coastal tolerant planting scheme

Coastal tolerant planting scheme


Coastal gardens are a unique blend of natural beauty and challenging environmental conditions. With salty sea air, sandy soils, and strong winds, these gardens demand resilient and salt-tolerant plant species. Fortunately, the UK has a plethora of stunning native and adapted plants that thrive in coastal areas, adding charm and character to seaside landscapes.

There is a unique combination of challenges to be considered when planning a seaside garden. The coastal breeze carries salt particles that can damage plant foliage and roots. Salt accumulation in the soil can inhibit water uptake, leading to dehydration in plants. Wind can exacerbate the effects of salt on plants as well as causing damage to delicate plants, breaking branches, and hindering growth.

Coastal areas are susceptible to soil erosion due to wind and waves. This can be detrimental to plant stability and health. The soils are typically sandy meaning they drain quickly and struggle to retain moisture and nutrients. This makes it harder for plants to establish deep roots and access the necessary nutrients. These regions often face water scarcity issues, and restrictions on irrigation may be experienced during droughts. Coastal gardens lend themselves to a top dressing of shingle or gravel which will help to conserve soil moisture, lessening the effect of drying winds.

Overcoming these environmental challenges requires a combination of careful plant selection, soil improvement, and ongoing maintenance. Providing windbreaks, applying organic mulch, and incorporating salt-tolerant plants are strategies that can help. Additionally, regularly monitoring soil quality and providing irrigation whilst plants get established are essential for success.

On the plus side, coastal areas tend to experience milder winters, because the sea retains heat and has a warming effect on the coastline. This allows opportunities to plant varieties that are not hardy enough for higher altitudes and cooler climates.

A good starting point, when planning a coastal planting scheme, is to include a hedge or some mixed shrubs to create a wind-filtering shelter belt. A windbreak can reduce the breeze on its sheltered side, for a distance of ten times its height, which allows a wider variety of plants to establish in its shelter. Aucuba japonica, Griselinia littoralis, Escallonia, Elaeagnus x ebbingei, Euonymus japonicus, Ilex crenata, Hypericum ‘Hidcote’ and Lonicera nitida all make excellent coastal hedges.

Hydrangea macrophylla is a low-maintenance, deciduous shrub with showy, ‘mophead’ flowers in a variety of colours. It is able to withstand salt burn and offers colour and structure throughout summer and into autumn.

Some perennials that will withstand the challenges of exposed locations include Anemone × hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’, with its dainty saucer-shaped flowers, Achillea ‘Moonshine’ which offers a splash of yellow, and Astrantia major ‘Ruby Star’ with its striking pink-red flowers. Alchemilla mollis and Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ provide interesting foliage and flowers whilst withstanding salt spray and sandy soils.

Lastly, don’t forget that grasses, like Seslaria, Libertia, Anemanthele and Pennisetum, play a vital role in preventing soil erosion. Their sturdy roots anchor the soil, making them essential in coastal landscaping. Phormiums are larger grasses that add architectural interest with their big shapes and bold colours and are very hardy for windy areas.

Whilst coastal gardening may present its share of obstacles, the rewards of creating a picturesque garden are well worth the effort. These robust plants not only survive the seaside’s challenges but their striking appearances also enhance the natural beauty of coastal gardens, turning them into tranquil havens for both gardeners and nature enthusiasts.

Escallonia ‘Apple Blossom’

A compact, fast growing shrub with glossy, dark green, crimped foliage and racemes of pink and white, tubular flowers from summer to autumn. Great for growing at the back of a shrub border or for hedging in coastal locations. Also works well as part of a cottage garden scheme.

Libertia grandiflora

A clump-forming grass with narrow, sword-like, dark green leaves and upright stems of white, bowl-shaped flowers. Fantastic in a gravel garden or in the front of a sunny border.

Hydrangea macrophylla

A rounded shrub with mopheads or lacecaps, depending on the variety, and mid green foliage. Flowers come in a range of colours, including white, pink, blue, and purple. They tolerate sandy soil and wind making them a pretty addition to a garden by the sea.

Hypericum ‘Hidcote’

An evergreen to semi-evergreen shrub with lance-shaped foliage and masses of cup-shaped, golden yellow flowers. Great for positioning in the middle of a border.

Potentilla fruticosa ‘Elizabeth’

A compact, spreading shrub with grey-green foliage and a profusion of bright yellow saucer-shaped flowers from late spring until autumn. It’s a robust plant that is tolerant of most soil types, salty air, and drought. Adds a pop of colour to sunny borders.

Phormium ‘Evening Glow’

An upright evergreen grass with eye-catching pink striped, bronze edged, sword-shaped foliage. Ideal in containers and tolerant of urban pollution and sea winds.

Anemone × hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’

This clump-forming deciduous perennial is great for providing late summer blooms. It has large, single, pure white flowers on tall stems from summer to autumn, with vine-like, dark green foliage. Anemone × hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’ is great for coastal locations and fits nicely as part of a cottage style garden.

Seslaria autumnalis

A dense and compact evergreen grass with narrow, bright green foliage that turns yellow-green in the autumn months. From summer to autumn it bears panicles of silver-cream flowers that nod in a breeze. Looks effective planted in large blocks.

Achillea ‘Moonshine’

A drought tolerant herbaceous perennial growing up to 60cm, with grey-green foliage and flat heads of canary yellow flowers on erect stems that can withstand windy conditions. Works well amongst ornamental grasses.

Astrantia major ‘Ruby Star’

A perennial with masses of starry, ruby red flowers from June to September, and vibrant red stems in summer. Its flowers stay upright as it dies back at the end of the year.

Alchemilla mollis

A clump-forming herbaceous perennial with hairy, scalloped, bright green leaves. Tiny flowers emerge lime green and later turn yellow.

Genista lydia

A compact, dwarf shrub with arching branches bearing blue-green foliage and clusters of bright yellow, pea-shaped flowers in summer. Lovely for a Mediterranean planting style.

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’

An upright perennial that has flat-topped, salmon pink flowerheads which transition to a stunning pink-bronze, adding great autumn colour. Its green foliage is succulent-like. Great for adding structure and the dried flowerheads look pretty in winter.