Depending on whose figures you accept, the UK has between 11,000 and 15,000km of coastline. Either way, many thousands of gardeners have to take their proximity to the sea when planning and planting their plot.
On the up side, coastal areas are generally warmer and less prone to frosts – water may take longer than land to warm up but once there, it retains its heat for considerably longer.
On the downside, gardeners have both salt and winds to contend with.
There is no fixed distance between where the land and see meet and the point inland at which it ceases to be ‘coastal’. That depends entirely on local topography and on the prevailing winds and other aspects of the micro-climate. Fortunately, simple observation will tell any gardener whether or not the sea winds are reaching their garden and whether or not they are bringing salt with them.
The Seaside Hedge
A hedge planted in a coastal garden has to do not only all of the jobs one would expect of it in an inland situation BUT ALSO withstand the salty effects of sea winds while helping protect the rest of the garden from them. Four suitable – and salt tolerant – varieties immediately spring to mind, though if your garden is in the path of regular gales, even these will need some man-made protection.
Griselinia littoralis AGM
Griselinia Littoralis is a true evergreen plant with glossy, apple green leaves, tiny yellow flowers in spring and, subject to pruning, purple fruit in autumn. The plants make a dense and bushy garden hedge and are generally kept to a height of 2m or lower. However, if you want something taller, it will reach 6m. Happy in just about any soil and location: acid or alkaline, wet or dry, sun or shade, it is also easy to maintain and, of course, salt tolerant – littoralis means growing by the sea.
Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’
This hardy Photinia offers vibrant and striking colour – its new growth is a strong, deep red which slowly matures to a shiny dark green. The more this hedging plant is cut, the more the vibrant red shoots appear. It needs good drainage and prefers being in the sun but is otherwise unfussy when it comes to soil. Feed in spring with a standard fertilizer if your soil is poor and/or shallow.
Escallonia macrantha Rubra ‘Crimson Spire’
A reliable, highly decorative and fast growing shrub, Crimson Spire has glossy green leaves and a floral display that lasts from summer through autumn.
It will thrive in any soil type (including chalk and clay) that is both moist and well-drained and is equally happy in sun or partial shade.
Common Box (Buxus Sempervirens)
Another unfussy choice, Box will thrive in most soils and in any location from full sun to partial shade. A slow-growing, compact plant, it makes the perfect traditional hedge – even by the sea.
In our next post, we’ll look at smaller hedging and edging plants for coastal gardens…
PIC: Crocosmia Garden Design
A seaside garden in Bexhill-on-Sea with drought-tolerant planting among shingle and pavers around a beach-hut style summerhouse.