Plants For Coastal & Exposed Sites
If you live very close to the sea and your garden has little protection, it is essential to plant some form of screening to reduce damage from salt winds. Some plants for the first line of defence are detailed below. Watch what grows in your neighbour’s garden or naturally in the countryside to give you some idea.
FIRST LINE TREES
- Acer pseudopiatanus (Common Sycamore): wide-spreading, densely and domed, growing to 10m+ over 10 years. Any soil.
- Cratageus (Hawthorn or May): among the hardiest and toughest of all trees – various varieties & sizes flowering late spring.
- Populus alba (White Poplar) and forms: undersides of leaves coated in white “wool”, turning yellow in autumn. 12m. Good on chalk.
- Quercus ilex (Evergreen or Holm Oak): stately evergreen forming a densely leaved canopy so ideal for coastal windbreaks. Stands clipping well. 5-6m. Any soil.
- Salix caprea (Kilmarnock Willow): famed for their ‘pussy willow’ catkins and available in all shapes and sizes. Any moist soil.
- Sorbus aria (Whitebeam), S. Aucupana (Mountain Ash), S. Intermedia (Swedish Whitebeam): varying forms and sizes with late summer berries. All ideal for chalky soils.
Most wall shrubs have the advantage over climbing plants by being able, with a little help, to cover an area from ground level to as high as required to form a dense cover for a wall or fence.
FIRST LINE CONIFERS
- Cupressus macrocarpa: various green and gold forms with conical habit.
- Pinus nigra ‘Austriaca’ (Austrian Pine): good for screening – tolerate most soils.
- Pinus radiata (Monterey Pine): grassy-green needles. 3-4m.
FIRST LINE SHRUBS
- Arundinaria (Bamboo): thick evergreen screens.
- Atriplex (Tree Puslane): silvery leaves, good for hedging in all well-drained soils.
- Berberis: prickly tough shrubs with orangey spring flowers and small dark berries in autumn. Most tolerate coastal conditions.
- Eleagnus ebbingei: dense green screen 3m x 2m. E. ebbingei ‘Coastal Gold’: variegated, slower growing.
- Escallonia: evergreen or semi-evergreen with small shiny leaves and red, pink or white flowers. Various forms and heights for any soil. Some become scruffy low down.
- Euonymus Ovatus (Evergreen Spindle Tree): densely leafed and bushy shrubs ideal for hedging. 1.8m x 1.5m.
- Hebe brachysiphon: dark green leaves. 1.5m x 1.2m.
- Hebe salicifolia: willow-like. 1.2m x 80cm. Various other species have elliptical leaves. In general, the smaller the leaf, the hardier the variety.
- Hippophae (Sea Buckthorn): small to medium size with linear silvery-white leaves. Orange-red berries in Winter. Any poor soils.
- Olearia (Daisy Bush): various forms including: O. haastii: fragrant white flowers. 1.2m x 1.2m.
- Rosa rugosa: ‘wild’ type roses ideal for hedging.
- Sambucus (Elder): various forms, mostly with deeply dissected leaves, especially ‘Sutherland’.
- Senecio: lax growing, tough grey-leaved shrub.
- Symphoricarpus (Snowberry): varieties with pink or white berries. 1.8m x indefinite.
- Tamarix: fine feathery flowers and foliage – ideal for tall hedging.
- Ulex (Gorse): with its prickly stems, this makes an impenetrable barrier. Yellow ‘pea’ flowers.
FIRST LINE CLIMBERS
- Hedera (Ivy): self dingers.
- Pyracantha: climber with white summer flowers and red, orange or yellow berries. 3m.
These will only succeed behind a screen of ‘First Liners’, or in the lee of a high fence, wall or even a house.
SECOND LINE TREES
- Acer platanoides (Norway Maple): tall, domed yet round headed and densely leaved. 9m+.
- Alnus (Alders): fast and easy with catkins.
- Betula (Birches): a wide range, many with whitish bark when established. Needs moist soil.
- Fraxinus (Ash): many forms, most soils.
- Ilex (Holly): tough leaved, many types and heights.
SECOND LINE CONIFERS
- Cupressocyparis leylandii: once established grow 1m a year. Widely used for hedges and secondary screens. ‘Castlewellan’ and ‘Robinsons Gold’ are attractive golden forms.
- Juniperus (Juniper): many different forms, upright and spreading. Blue-grey colour.
- Picea especially P. omorika: ‘Spruces’ that grow into beautiful specimens.
- Pinus sylvestris (Scots Pine): makes a narrow wind-resistant hedge. 1.8m – 2.5m.
SECOND LINE CONIFERS
Once you have developed an outer line of protection with ‘First Liners’ and a framework with ‘Second Liners’, attention can be turned to annuals and perennials. Those which tend to be more suitable for a sheltered coastal garden include:
- Aucuba: many types with plain or spotted leaves, good for deep shade. Generally 1.5m x 1.2m.
- Arbutus unedo (Strawberry Tree): slow growing with flowers & ‘strawberries’. Lime tolerant.
- Buddleia davidii & B. globosa: ideal for chalk.
- Choisya ternata (Mexican Orange Blossom): glossy leaves & fragrant white flowers. Good in flower arrangements. ‘Sundance’ is tender.
- Cistus (Sun Rose): C. corbariensis & C. laurifolius are the hardy varieties. Low growing.
- Corylus (Hazel): ideal for exposed sites, especially C. contorta & C. maxima ‘Purpurea’.
- Cotoneaster: many types, all berry in winter.
- Erica (Heather): winter forms tolerate chalk, summer forms are acid lovers.
- Eucalyptus especially E. gunnii: grown mainly for grey juvenile foliage. Best as a shrub.
- Fuchsia: hardy forms.
- Garrya elliptica: tasselled wall shrubs 3m x 2.5m.
- Genista (Broom): ideal for sunny banks.
- Gristelinia litteralis: chalk tolerant densely leafy, shaped evergreens. 3m+ x 1.8m. Not variegated.
- Hypericum (St John’s Wort): for sunny banks.
- Lavandula: ideal for low hedges, sunny sites.
- Lavatera (Mallow): tall long flowering shrubs.
- Ligustrum (Privet): for dense hedging.
- Lonicera nitida: flowerless neat hedges.
- Olearia macradonta: large leathery leaves.
- Pittosporum: many forms all requiring some shelter. Lime tolerant.
- Ribes (Flowering Currants): spring flowering.
- Spartium (Spanish Broom): flowers all summer.
- Viburnum tinus (Laurustinus): winter flowering with dark glossy leaves. V. tinus ‘Variegata’ is tender.
We try hard to stock as many of these plants as possible but cannot guarantee availability.If a plant you are interested in is not mentioned in this guide, it may be suitable for your garden if positioned carefully.Please ask a member of our friendly and knowledgeable plant teams for advice.
- Achillea (Yarrow): alpine & taller types.
- Alyssum saxatile: trails over rocks.
- Armeria (Thrift): ideal for edging.
- Aubretia: trails over walls.
- Chrysanthemum especially ‘Shasta Daisy’:
- Dianthus (Carnations & Pinks): ideal for chalk.
- Eryngium maritimum (Sea Holly)
- Gazania: sun lovers, flower all summer.
- Geranium (Cranes Bill): long flowering.
- Iberis (Perennial Candytuft): white flowers.
- Iris: likes chalky soil.
- Matthiolia (Stocks): many highly perfumed.
- Mesembryanthemum (Livingstone Daisy)
- Myosotis (Forget-me-not)
- Nepeta (Cat Mint)
- Papaver (Poppy): larger ones best.
- Penstemon: protect in winter.
- Rudbeckia (Coneflower)
- Salvia: wide range suitable.
- Sedum: sun lovers, ideal for sinks.
- Sempervivum (Houseleek)
- Stachys lanata (Lamb’s Tongue)
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