Posted 9th Jul 2018
One of the hardest horticultural challenges is, without a doubt, gardening by the sea
The combination of salt spray, high winds and sandy soil ensures most gardeners will end up running for the dunes...however, following these tips from Rose McMonigall, who created a coastal-themed garden for the Spanish Tourist Board and Turismo de Galicia at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show (3-8 July) ensures you can make an outdoor space that you are proud of!
If you live inland but in an exposed site or have very free-draining soil, it could also be worth taking note.
1 Work with nature
Go for plants that thrive in these hard conditions. A surprising amount of beautiful looking plants can withstand the toughest of environments.
Shrubs such as beach rose (rosa rugosa), butterfly bush or summer lilac (Buddleja davidii) and tamarisk are all likely to flourish, capable of adding colour and shape to your garden. If you'd like to grow trees, try holm oak (Quercus ilex) or coastal pine (Pinus pinea), while grasses are a great option to add fantastic texture. Here, you can opt for varieties such as Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) or Carex comans 'Bronze Curls' or 'Froster Curls'.
For free-draining soil, try Sea hollies (Eryngiums), as are sea campions (Silene maritima), sea cabbages (Crambe maritima), seduns (Sedum), thrifts (Armeria martima) and houseleeks (Cepmervivums).
2 Protect if you can
Consider adding a low, sturdy structure or two to your garden that is able to withstand powerful natural elements - this will be a great hack. Windbreaks including walls, large rocks or grassy banks will provide protection, creating the ideal shielded spot for plants to thrive, and even offers a tucked away zone for seating and dining. There are even tiny crevices in low walls or rockeries that can be filled with flowering plants.
3 Add seasonal interest
Soil conditions in coastal gardens will be very free-draining, so it's not worth adding lots of compost - whatever nutrient-filled goodness you put in is likely to be washed away quickly. For seasonal interest, try planting in containers instead as you can instead control the soil conditions more easily. Bear in mind any plants that you use to fill them will need to be salt-resistant too.
4 Nautical is natural
Embrace maritime accessories! For instance, use fishing nets or buoys, and rope or weathered timber for fencing - these can look fantastic as they will link the vibe of your coastal garden to its local environment. Shells, pebbles and gravel will act as great mulches, locking in some much-needed moisture and preventing weeds.
5 Be inspired
If you need inspiration, visit coastal gardens. You can check out gardens in parts of the UK like Dungeness in Kent, Cornwall, Tresco or even the Isle of Wight, or look in magazines, social media or websites for suggestions.
Rose add: "Many people feel daunted by taking on a seaside garden as conditions can be tough to say the least. However, if you follow some simple rules and use plants that suit the local environment, you can create a space that looks great all year round."