Don’t be fooled into thinking that you need to live by the sea to create a coastal garden. Whether your garden is nestled near the Cornish cliffs a stone’s throw away from the sea or miles inland, you can easily create a seaside feel and a nautical look with the right plants, flowers, features and accessories.
Coastal conditions can be testing for plants which means you’ll have to be smart about your selection if your garden will be affected by the elements. Take the lead from what’s already growing well in the area as inland plants likely won’t fare well against the salt and sand. Ornamental grasses are great for filling spaces, while hawthorn can make a fantastic windbreaker.
Our top design tips:
- Sand, shingle and drifts of pebbles will be more in keeping with a coastal theme, so you might want to consider forgoing a lawn in favour of these instead. Alternatively, you can use them instead of paving for garden paths or your patio area. Low-ground covering (and seaside proof if you are actually by the sea) plants are the perfect way to add a grassy feel to your garden without having a patch of lawn.
- Creating shelter is important if your garden is likely to be battered by a sea breeze. A hedged boundary of Cupressus macrocarpa or Escallonia macrantha can help to filter out the sand and salt of a garden which is really near the coast, while adding to the perfect coastal feel if you’re a little further afield. If you have a view to admire, make little portholes in the hedge so you can take advantage of it.
- A summer house or shed can easily be turned into a beach hut by adding a small porch or decking. Add shutters to the windows and shingle on the roof to really finish off the look!
- Formal beds and borders have no place in a coastal garden. Instead, be sure to avoid straight edges and sharp angles in favour of gently curving shapes and sow seeds in an informal way, so they’ll look much more natural when they grow.
- A coastal garden is a colourful garden, so choose plants with a bright and bold palette. Bright flowers look particularly lovely against grassy greens and silver-coloured foliage but remember not to make your garden look too uniform – it should have the look of wild nature.
- There’s usually a lot of natural design elements in a coastal garden. Think about decorating your garden with tales of your beach memories – hand collected drift wood, shells and interesting stones or pebbles are wonderful additions and great talking points. Heavy shipping rope and fishing buoys, while not natural, are also quintessentially coastal.
- Succulents, bushy shrubs and grass varieties are the ideal plants to withstand coastal weather and remind you of the seaside if you don’t actually live there.
- Fencing (of the white picket variety, especially) is a great way to create defined areas within your garden.
- A pergola with a climbing and heavily scented plant growing over it is another perfectly picturesque way to add shelter to your garden. Install it over the patio so you can sit underneath or use it as a visual focal point that will also protect less hardy plants.
- Try not to take your garden design too seriously! A coastal garden doesn’t need to be perfect – that’s part of what makes it so enjoyable.
The finishing touches
The finishing touches are what really make a coastal garden. While this design is as much a state of mind as it is the way the area looks, the key elements are those things which will always remind you of the coast, no matter where you are.
Nautical ornaments are essential. Give bird houses a lick of paint in nautical hues, find a spot for a wicker lobster pot, include a length of jetty or breakwater and source a coiled anchor and chain to really set off the theme.
Wooden containers are a good way to carry the vibe throughout the garden, especially if you don’t mind a touch of rustic weathering, and match them to the colour of your decking or shed for a complete look. You can also use terracotta or pottery containers and add a splash of nautical colours too.
Make the most of the sun and the views with a place to sit. Whether that’s wicker chairs in a sunny spot overlooking the sea, or iron chairs for enjoying your morning coffee, be sure to protect these special spots from the wind.
Last but by no means least, if you can, find a space for a hammock. Once you’ve mastered clambering in and out of it, there’s no better place to relax and enjoy your handiwork, a glass of wine and a great book