Coastal Garden Design

Establishing a garden on a coastal site isn’t easy, but we’ve got some tips on how to make the most of your beautiful spot.

Coastal gardens can be difficult to maintain – sandstone ridges, poor soil, severe winds and salt can test the mettle of even the most green-fingered gardeners.

But Brendan has some tips on maintaining your seaside paradise, and finds that taking your cue from Mother Nature is the best way to learn which plants to use, where and how.


  • Wind is the number one issue with coastal gardens – both you and your plants need protection from it.
  • When planning a coastal garden, plant a protective barrier of salt-tolerant front-line plants if the garden opens directly onto the beach-front, and retain as much natural vegetation as possible.
  • Plant lower growing shrubs nearest to the sea, with taller shrubs and trees to the back, to direct winds upward and decrease wind velocity.
  • Coastal banksia (Banksia integrifolia) creates a fantastic wind-break. It occurs naturally which means it cops the lot, and that is Mother Nature giving you a sign – so plant away!
  • If your garden is full frontal to the wind, a hardy hedge is a good idea, to act as a barrier eg Coastal rosemary (Westringia fruticosa).
  • Open slatted timber, lattice or wire mesh interlaced with branches make useful wind barriers.
  • Try not to stake your plants. Encourage plants to develop their own root system and sturdy trunks.
  • If you have pot plants on your balcony, it’s a good idea to keep them well pruned as the wind will be sure to blow them over!
  • Coastal rosemary is the perfect compromise to preserve your coastal view. It grows to about 2 metres so is great as a partial wind-break as well as saving your view.

  • Choose salt-tolerant plants for your garden or you’ll spend your weekends hosing off the leaves. Salt burns plants by sucking all the moisture out of the leaves allowing the wind to dry them out.
  • Again, Coastal rosemary is a good choice. It’s tough, drought-hardy and grows just about anywhere.

Sandy soil
  • Enrich your sandy soil with well-rotted organic matter such as animal manure, compost or leaf litter to counteract the harsh conditions. Mulch is very important to retain moisture and improve sandy conditions.
  • Composts and fertilisers will improve your chances of having healthy growing plants. It’s usually better to improve your existing soil than to add bought soil to your garden.
  • Instead of spending your precious weekends improving your sandy soil choose plants that love sandy soil! One such plant is Lomandra longifolia. Ideal for planting on sloped banks to stop erosion, it’s super drought hardy, adapts to just about any climate and never needs pruning – how good is that!

Things to consider
  • Check out the area around your garden, what is growing there naturally – make notes as to what is growing and if need be take some sprigs to take to the nursery.
  • Improve soil with organic matter, such as mulch, especially in summer when dehydration is a major factor.
  • Knowing your soil type is an important step in helping you to select plants for your garden. Plants which are suited to your soil type will perform better - they will be healthier, more disease resistant and produce more fruit and flowers.
  • Provide plenty of water when you first plant your garden and always water with thorough soakings. Hose down after storms to prevent foliage being scorched by salt deposits.
  • Look into an irrigation system as rain can be sparse at certain times of the year. Why not put out buckets to catch the rain when it falls – your plants will love you for it!
  • Wind causes damage or retards growth. Wind-tolerant plants are the best in such inhospitable situations.
  • Add coastal-inspired pieces eg driftwood furniture/sculpture

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