If you garden on the coast or your garden is exposed to strong winds then this is the guide for you! Exposed gardens often bear the full brunt of the weather, from icy gales in the depths of winter to drying winds in the summer which scorch foliage and break fragile stems. In a coastal garden the wind is also laden with salt which only the toughest plants can tolerate. When drawing up coastal garden designs it’s worth knowing which plants will thrive, so your garden not only survives but flourishes in these challenging conditions.
You can really expand your choice of plants if you provide a windbreak in your garden. It’s quite surprising how much difference a hedge can make to the overall climate of the garden. Hedges are much better windbreaks than solid walls; walls create turbulence, whereas hedges filter and slow the wind down.
There are many good hedging plants but only a handful can tolerate heavy winds and/or salty conditions. Despite their hardiness, all the plants listed below will benefit from the protection of some windbreak netting or temporary fencing in their first few years, until they are established.
|Hedging plants for windy gardens||Salt tolerant||Plant type||Extra features|
|Holly (Ilex aquifolium)||Tree|
|Juniper (Juniperus communis)||Tree|
|Yew (Taxus baccata)||Tree|
|Blackthorn/Sloe (Prunus spinosa)||Shrub|
|Eleagnus x ebbingei||Shrub|
|Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)||Shrub|
|Rosa rugosa (Hedgehog Rose)||Shrub|
|Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides)||Shrub|
|Willow (Salix purpurea)||Shrub|
Exposed gardens can be found on hillsides or flat areas where there are no natural windbreaks such as trees and hedges. These gardens suffer the worst of the weather and plants have to be very hardy to withstand the constant battering. Sturdy coastal hedges will help alleviate the force of the wind although further trees and shrubs planted within the garden can create sheltered pockets in which more delicate plants can be grown. We’ve listed some of the best hardy plants for exposed gardens below.
|Plants for cold and exposed gardens||Salt tolerant||Plant type||Extra features|
|Laburnum x watereri ‘Vossii’||Tree|
|Mountain Ash/Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)||Tree|
|Philadelphus (Mock Orange)||Shrub|
|Armeria (Sea Pink)||Perennial|
|Centaurea dealbata (Perennial Cornflower)||Perennial|
|Lysimachia nummularia (Creeping Jenny)||Perennial|
|(Purple Moor Grass)||Perennial|
|Panicum virgatum (Switch Grass)||Perennial|
|Perennial sweet pea (Lathyrus latifolius)||Perennial|
For more trees and shrubs for exposed gardens, refer to the table of hedging plants above.
The upside to coastal gardening is the reduced risk of frost, allowing you to grow borderline-hardy plants which other gardeners only dream of! Plants adapted to growing in coastal conditions often have tough, leathery or hairy leaves which protect the plant from salt damage and reduce moisture loss.
A plant’s Latin name can also give clues to its coastal origins, for example if the name contains ‘maritima’ or ‘littoralis’ (meaning ‘of the shore’). Have a look at your neighbour’s gardens too and see what grows well for them! We’ve listed some of the best coastal garden plants below.
|Plants for coastal gardens||Salt tolerant||Plant type||Extra features|
|Sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa)||Tree|
|Armeria (Sea Pink)||Perennial|
|Corynephorus 'Spiky Blue' (Grey Hair-Grass)||Perennial|
|Delosperma (Ice Plant)||Perennial|
|Eryngium (Sea Holly)||Perennial|
|Helianthemum (Rock Rose)||Perennial|
|Red Hot Poker||Perennial|
|Lavatera trimestris (Mallow)||Annual|
|Malcolmia maritime (Virginian Stock)||Annual|
For more trees and shrubs for coastal gardens, refer to the table of hedging plants above.
Cornflower are ideal for exposed gardens due to their hardiness.
Evergreen perennials such as Dianthus deltoides are ideal for exposed, coastal gardens due to their salt tolerance and they provide colour in the summer months.
Plants and gardens have always been a big part of my life. I can remember helping my Dad to prick out seedlings, even before I could see over the top of the potting bench. As an adult, I trained at Writtle College where I received my degree, BSc. (Hons) Horticulture. After working in a specialist plantsman's nursery, and later, as a consulting arboriculturalist, I joined Thompson & Morgan in 2008. Initially looking after the grounds and coordinating the plant trials, I now support the web team offering horticultural advice online.