Coastal & Beach Gardens

coastal planting design

Coastal “Mediterranean” planting in Bosham, West Sussex

Gardens by or near the sea present opportunities to do something special and I have a particular love of such places. Most gardens in such locations tend to shut out the environment and be, well, normal gardens. Except they don't really succeed in that, and are missing something special. There are unique opportunities, as well as the challenges, to creating a garden by the sea, the mildness being an obvious advantage, the wind and salt being the challenge. We do have, however, a huge range of plants whose origins lie in coastal areas, some of which are halophytes (salt tolerant). Recreating plant communities from Mediterranean regions along UK coasts is quite feasible, for example and we should remember that there are FIVE Mediterranean climate regions across the world: W & S Australia, Western Cape of South Africa, Central Chile, California and of course, the Mediterranean Basin. So much choice!

Beach garden design

A garden right on the beach in West Sussex. Walls are sea defences.

Materials have to be chosen with care, for the sea is famous for its corrosive and destructive qualities. Using materials found in the wider coastal landscape is a natural and harmonious thing to do, the breakwaters in the above photo have been used to build a pergola and deck. The massive scale of the timber give a reassuringly rugged feel. The use of galvanised security fencing again gives reassurance of strength. However, nautical “themes” should be avoided!

I have always found that in the winter the average coastal town feels a bit depressed; it's out of season, cold, drab. I recall revisiting one of my beach gardens on a rainy January, only to find how uplifted the planting made the space feel, even in that seasonal low. We have to choose the right materials but it is the plants, as always, that make the space.