Designing a coastal garden

Designing a coastal garden
    Gardening inland can be a difficult enough task – particularly when weather conditions have been as poor as they have in recent weeks.

But gardeners on the coast face a completely novel set of challenges, which means they need to adapt their methods to the conditions peculiar to such areas.

Writing in the Express, Alan Titchmarsh offers advice to people who dream of setting up home on the coast but are faced with difficult conditions such as salt spray, mini sandstorms and winter gales.

He advises visiting local gardens to see how owners adjust to local conditions, which can vary dramatically from place to place. Although a mild climate prevails in areas such as coastal West Sussex and the Isle of Wight, some parts of the coast are notoriously exposed, cold and windy, meaning only hardy plants will survive.

Mr Titchmarsh counsels against using conventional gardens as a model, saying existing coastal features should be incorporated into a gardener's plot. Rope, driftwood, flotsam and jetsam found on the beach, shingle and smooth pebbles and horticultural sand obtained from builders' merchants can all be used.

An outer boundary such as a hedge of Cupressus macrocarpa or Escallonia macrantha can be used to shield plants from wind and sand. Coastal gardeners looking to maintain their hedge could benefit from one of our durable Echo Petrol Hedgecutters. Alternatively, a fence made out of driftwood can be used to give the garden a more open feel.

Sand, shingle and drifts of pebbles interrupted by patches of low-ground covering and seaside-proof plants should be used instead of a lawn. Nautical ornaments such as a wicker lobster pot can also be incorporated into the design. 

Planting should be done in late spring to give plants a chance to establish themselves before the winter gales arrive. 

Ground-hugging plants such as armeria (thrift), dianthus, osteospermum, Erigeron "Profusion" and Erigeron speciosus hybrids and Hottentot fig Carpobrotus edulis are recommended.

For taller plants, try sea holly (Eryngium maritimum), sea lavender Limonium latifolium and sea kale (Crambe maritima). 

Good shrubs and hedging options include Griselinia littoralis, Hebe salicifolia, double-flowered gorse (Ulex europaeus "Flore pleno"), tree purslane (Atriplex halimus), Elaeagnus ebbingei, sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) and Rosa pimpinellifolia.

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