Seaside Garden Basics: Planning And Maintaining Gardens Near Ocean Fronts

Seaside Garden Basics: Planning And Maintaining Gardens Near Ocean Fronts

By: Jackie Carroll

Seaside landscaping presents unique challenges. Gardeners must contend with strong winds; salt spray; poor, sandy soil; shifting soil and storms (like hurricanes) that may cause saltwater to wash over the garden. Seaside gardens call for plants that thrive in the face of adversity and a plan that incorporates sturdy barriers that protect your home and garden. Keep reading to find out more about garden design for coasts.

Seaside Garden Basics

Begin planning ocean gardens with a tight hedge of tough shrubs that can take the worst of the ocean front conditions while protecting the rest of the garden. These shrubs need to withstand strong wind and salt spray. Consider using firethorn, which can create a secure, evergreen boundary around your seaside garden. Beach plum and bayberry are also good choices. All of these shrubs can take salt spray without shriveling or discoloring.

Further inland where wind is a problem but salt spray on the foliage is unlikely, inkberry holly, elderberry or chokecherry provide good protection and also attract birds to the landscape. Plant your shrubs at the distance recommended to form a tight hedge.

Maintaining gardens near oceanfront vacation properties presents additional challenges because you aren’t always there to provide routine maintenance. Therefore, choose low-maintenance plants and rely on shrubs that need to be pruned at the time of year when you typically visit your vacation home. Use plants with good natural shape that don’t require frequent pruning to look good.

If your seaside garden plans include a lawn, apply at least 6 inches of topsoil over the sand before planting or sodding. Choose seed mixes that are predominately hard fescue and avoid Kentucky bluegrass. Seaside lawns should be maintained a little higher than inland lawns. You should typically let the grass grow to a height of about three inches before mowing.

Coastal Garden Ideas

Use native coastal plants and grasses as much as possible. These tough plants will take everything the elements can throw at them while helping to control erosion and blowing sand. Garden design for coasts should incorporate sturdy ground covers such as:

  • bearberry
  • cotoneaster
  • English ivy
  • heathers
  • juniper

Work at least three inches of organic matter, such as compost, into sandy soil before planting. Use pots and large planters for annuals and perennials that can’t tolerate the difficult soil. Grow them in a location sheltered from wind and ocean spray.

Maintaining gardens near oceans doesn’t have to be a frustrating endeavor. As long as you include suitable seaside plantings within your coastal garden ideas and take the time for planning ocean gardens, you should not encounter any issues.

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Read more about Seaside Gardens

Vegetable gardening consists of selecting a site, planning the garden, preparing the soil, choosing the seeds and plants, planting a crop, and nurturing the plants until they are ready for harvest. The end result is fresh produce to eat, share, or sell.

Anyone who is willing to invest some time every day or two to nurture the plants can grow a vegetable garden. It doesn’t take a lot of money, time, or talent, although some of each would be helpful. With patience and practice, your skills will improve every year. Don’t be discouraged if the first attempt isn’t a huge success.

Growing vegetables takes some space, but not necessarily acres. A vegetable garden can be in the ground or in a planting bed, but it doesn’t have to be. Many vegetables can be grown in containers. For example, enough lettuce for a salad can be grown in a 12-inch pot on the back deck. Add a few radishes and carrots, also grown in 12-inch containers, for spice and sweetness, and you have a good start on a delicious salad.

Success, however, takes more than just a place to grow the vegetables. They need sunlight, water, air, soil, fertilizer, and care.

Growing a salad in pots.

Coastal Garden Statues | Garden Decor Ideas with Sea and Shore Animals

Animals living in the sea and by the shore have inspired many garden statues. From fish to birds to sea turtles to seahorses, and beyond. Here are some coastal garden & porch decor ideas with statues.

A vintage seahorse statue from a pottery flea market sits in a Succulent Garden, along with Glass Floats, and Ocean Rocks. Seen at Laguna Dirt.

A pelican garden statue from Wayfair that feels right at home near a little stream.

Seahorse fountain on the patio. The fountain was purchased at Lowes (no longer available) and placed in a birdbath. Via Pinterest. You can find Seahorse Fountains on Amazon.

A friendly fish garden spout from Wind and Weather.

Pelican statue on Nautical Mailbox piling. Original source unknown.

Metal fish spout idea from Houzz.

More imagined than real, the mermaid. There is no shortage of mermaid garden statues. This special lady from Wayfair is most comfortable residing by the pool.

The Octopus Garden Sculpture from Uncommon Goods adds a dramatic statement to a green spaces.

Small concrete stained sea turtle statue from West Wind Home, made in Maine.

Sea theme garden statues at Pier 1.

Shop All Coastal Garden Statues at Wayfair

Weathervane statue idea seen in a MA coastal home via Facebook.

2) …..or sculptural and spare

This fennel grows all over the beaches near Whitstable – it’s a very ‘beach garden‘ plant. I’m very proud of the bee….

There is a small beach near Whitstable where the gardens go right down to the sea front. The plants spread beyond their own boundaries. Fennel, sedums, California poppies and rosa rugosa mix with the Crambe Maritima (sea kale).

Every year in May, a group of private gardens in Whitstable open to the public via the NGS. Some are seaside gardens, and they have lovely ideas.

The wind-lashed, salt-stripped look is all part of beach chic – this is in Dorset .

You can actually buy seashells for garden terraces and paths. They’re byproducts of the shellfish industry, so, unlike gravel and shingle, they’re not mined. That makes them environmentally friendly options and they also offer great value for money. We did a seashell path for our garden.

3) Go for grasses in windowboxes or troughs

I love that bleached, grassy look that says ‘baking hot sun and sea’ even on the bleakest of days. Jo-jo’s is a fab seaside cafe and restaurant near us in Tankerton. They have a tiny garden. They’ve set troughs in all round the top of the walls, mainly planted with grasses and poppies. It’s just a small space but it spells summer.

Planting troughs on the walls all round Jo-jo’s garden are filled with grasses, seedheads and poppies.

Coastal Garden Ideas - Things To Consider When Planning Ocean Gardens - garden


Julia Levitt, co-founder of Sydney’s Sticks and Stones Landscape Design, shares her advice on how to get the coastal garden look.

Coastal gardens exude a relaxed, laid-back vibe as they embrace a natural and organic design. A well-executed coastal garden tells of a beach not too far away and encourages you to kick your shoes off and settle in for a relaxing afternoon.

As we discover with Julia, there’s more to designing a coastal garden than adding some gravel paths and a few native shrubs.

It’s all in the lines

Peter Fudge’s ‘Seamless Connection’ garden

Getting your garden’s layout right is the first step to achieving the coastal style. Julia recommends your garden be made of gentle, organic curves which entice you to stroll through the garden.

Avoid harsh, formal lines and instead incorporate a natural flow that curves through your design.

Julia suggests locating open spaces within the garden, as well as intimate seating areas to enable you to explore and be immersed within the garden.

The right plants for your coastal look

The key to selecting plants for your coastal garden is to look for varieties that offer movement and texture, advises Julia.

Drought-tolerant, hardy plants are popular in coastal gardens and with a nod to their natural environment, the gardens are often left to grow organically, meaning they are low maintenance.

Rather than plant a few varieties here and a few there, Julia recommends you plant on mass to create a visual impact. Coastal grasses such as Poa labillardieri are ideal and will provide a great level of interest.

Playfully combine succulents and shrubs with strappy plants and architectural trees for focal points. Australian natives such as Westringia or Correa alba, will tie in perfectly with their dusty blues and muted hues.

Particular plants found in the coastal garden are:

Materials will tie it all together

Porphyry filletti with wild grasses and wooden fence | Garden Designed by Michael Cooke Garden Design

It’s the organic elements that will tie the coastal style all together, says Julia. Look for materials that have texture, age and a natural patina. Avoid those that are too clean and perfect.

Incorporate sandstone blocks and weathered timber as decking, seating or steps. Placed naturally and combined with sand or gravel as a mulch, it gives the design an earthy feel.

Our Freeform® natural stone walling is an ideal material for the coastal style, as is the porphyry filletti or sandstone flooring.

A coastal colour palette

Fiona Brockhoff’s Coastal design

The colour palette of a coastal garden is sympathetic to its natural surroundings. Nothing appears out of place as the colour story flows from the hard materials to the soft landscape.

Soft browns, dusty blues, greys and muted pinks, the colours are found in the foliage and materials. They are not loud, excitable colours, but rather relaxing and soothing.

By incorporating all these elements in your design, Julia says you’ll be able to create your own coastal retreat. Remember to select suitable plant varieties for your garden’s conditions and organic materials that reinforce the style. This way you’ll be able to spend more time chilling out in your garden and less time maintaining the look. Julia adds a well-designed coastal garden will weather and age naturally over time, enhancing the garden’s overall look and atmosphere.

An Herb Spiral

Spiral gardens, like this herb garden at Mill Creek Gardens, are a popular permaculture technique. They increase the amount of usable planting area without taking up more ground space in your garden. You can easily build them out of stone, brick, wood, or simply pile up the soil. The unusual shape and swirl of plants make for an eye-catching focal point in your garden. Herbs are the plants of choice in this photo, but you can grow anything using the spiral design.

Plants for Your Coast Landscape

One of Florida's many charms is that no matter where you are, there's likely to be a beach nearby. But this confluence of salty soil and sea spray does affect what plants will—and won't—succeed. If you live close to the ocean, be sure to choose salt-tolerant plants for your landscape.

Plants installed within about one-eighth of a mile of saltwater coasts should be at least somewhat salt-tolerant. Salt-tolerant plants can have varying degrees of tolerance, so choose and place them carefully.

Keep in mind that many native plants already growing on coastal lands are highly salt-tolerant, and could be incorporated into your landscape.

When selecting plants for your coastal site, look at more than just salt tolerance. Cold weather might impact tropical plantings in North and Central Florida, and light and soil are always important factors to consider.

To discover what plants will thrive in your landscape, contact your county Extension office.

Watch the video: Top 10 Coastal Plants for Salt-Laden Windy Situations - Ozbreed