How to create your own garden beside the seaside

Sea holly
Sea holly

Going on holiday to the coast may fuel dreams of a life by the seaside - but creating a seaside garden needs careful thought, bearing in mind the salt spray, strong winds and dry soil.

Here are a few ideas to get you started on your dream garden by the sea.

1. Create a windbreak

You need a strong windbreak to minimise damage from the strong sea breezes, which will create shelter and help widen the choice of plant’s you’ll be able to grow. Plant a hedge or wind-filtering barrier of trees or shrubs which are of good depth, preferably planted in two or more staggered rows.

Good species for this job include pine, alder, hawthorn and hornbeam. If you want to go for willow or poplar, keep them well away from buildings, as tree roots can cause damage to the fabric of buildings and the drains.

Alternatively, you could go for a fence-like windbreak such as woven wattle or willow hurdles which are available from garden centres or local craftsmen. Have a look in the classified sections of any of the gardening magazines and you should find what you want.

2. Test your soil

Buy a pH kit from your local garden centre. Many seaside gardens are high in alkaline because of the high calcium content of crushed sea shells. If you have alkaline soil, don’t plant lime-haters such as rhododendron or azalea, because they won’t do well.

If your soil is sandy, beef it up with some organic matter to retain moisture and add nutrients. Once you have done this, mulch the area with compost or chipped bark to keep in the moisture.

5. Know what plants can thrive

Perennials which can be grown in a seaside setting include achillea, crocosmia, eryngium (sea holly), echinops (globe thistle), sedum, heuchera (coral flower), euphorbia, gazania, scabiosa.

Suitable shrubs and climbers include buddleia, berberis, genista (broom), cistus (rock rose), ceanothus, escallonia, weigela, hebe, lavatera, passiflora (passion flower), ribes (ornamental currant), rosmarinus (rosemary). Don’t forget rock plants such as Armeria maritima, aubrieta, dianthus alpinus, phlox subulata, stachys, osteospermum jucundum, erigeron karvinskianus, Iris pumila.

3. Choose plants carefully

There are many plants which are tough enough to withstand all that salt spray and sea breeze can throw at them, but as a rule of thumb, you will find that those with tough, leathery leaves as well as spiny and hairy plants should have more resistance to drying winds.

4. Check out neighbouring gardens

Walk around the area and make a note of the plants which are thriving in neighbouring gardens, so you know what would do well in yours.

Sea shells, nautical antiques, washed-up timber, statues and even disused boats can all be used for ornamental purposes.