Top Plants for Coastal Gardens

Our Gardening Guru, Charlie Albone, tells you all about his favourite plants for the salty conditions of a coastal garden. 

With the majority of us living within 50 kms of the sea the proximity of the coast plays an important role in our plant selection in the garden.  Winds from the sea pick up the salt and deposit it on the leaves of the plants.  This acts like sandpaper roughly wearing at the tender foliage doing damage, it will also wash off into the soil.  Picking plants for these conditions can be tricky but there are some great ones out there – here are my favorites.

Salt tolerant plants can be split into categories, there are the front line salt tolerant – these are the ones that are tough as old boots and can cope with the worst the salt air can throw at them.  Then there’s the second line of salt tolerance.  These plants can take a bit of salt but also need some protection too, behind a windbreak like a row of shrubs or a fence is usually sufficient.  Lastly there are the tender plants that will just suffer in the salty air and never perform well.

My favorite trees for a coastal garden are Tristaniopsis laurina ‘Luscious’ (Water gum) and Olea or Olives.

Olives are a great tree for a Mediterranean garden and a modern garden too, they are very slow growing so be sure to buy and advanced specimen to make sure you get the shape and structure you need for your garden.  The Tristaniopsis variety ‘Luscious’ has white trunks, black stems and a shiny green leave and is a fantastic specimen tree. 

My favorite shrubs have to be the Coastal Rosemary or Westringia and the Indian Hawthorn or Rhaphiolepis ’Oriental Pearl’

The coast Rosemary is an Australian native with dense small silvery foliage that can be easily clipped for a formal garden or left for a more natural form.  Coast rosemary loves full sun and get straggly in the shade and give it good drainage for its roots.

The Indian Hawthorn has a larger greener leaf than the coast rosemary but the variety ‘Oriental Pearl’ has a great bun shape but it can have the wind swept look you can often see in a coastal garden so protect it with a fence or wind break.  This shrub also gets a profuse amount of small pink or white flowers twice a year.

My favorite groundcovers are Pig Face or it’s more complementary name Disphyma and Myoporum or Creeping Boobialla.

Pig face is a succulent type ground creeper that helps to bind sandy soils and has almost animated bright flowers that children adore.  This plant is front line salt tolerant and will easily divide once established.  The Creeping Boobialla is only second line salt tolerant and creates a carpet of small green leaves and tiny white flowers in spring or summer.

All the above plants are great for a coastal garden but can also be a great additional to any garden.

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