Friday, 13 July 2012

Gardens on The Edge

Coastal gardening is often thought to be difficult and a battle with the elements.  It need not be so.

When planning a coastal garden it is particularly important to work with the prevailing conditions.  Exposure to strong winds, sun and salty air are the most crucial.  The soil is also more likely to be quite poor and free draining.

The basic design principle for a coastal garden is the same as for any other - get the ground plan right. 

When planning the garden layout look at the level of exposure and decide the best place for terraces and sitting areas.  Consider where the prevailing winds come from and factor in shelter belts.  It is far better to filter the wind rather than try and block it.  Solid barriers create turbulence and eddies on their leeward side.  They may well end up causing just as much damage as no barrier at all.  Windbreaks should ideally be 50% permeable and hedges or trees are preferable if space allows.  Use the wind to your advantage.  It can shape and sculpt plants into dramatic forms.  It will create beautiful movement on ornamental grasses.

Look at the views and decide if they would be better being framed or left open.  Consider sunrise, sunset and moonlight on the water.  Don’t detract from them by over fussy planting because nature is the best designer of all. 

The presence of the sea will act as a giant mirror reflecting both light and heat.  Look at the quality of the light and use colour in the garden to sooth or stimulate the senses.  Blue, purple, pink and silver will act as harmonious colours whilst orange, yellow and red are complementary.

If the garden abuts the ‘natural’ landscape try to blur the boundary with natural planting.  The garden will sit better in its surroundings and will appear larger than it really is.

Finally don’t fight nature.  Match the planting to the site.  Look at what is growing naturally outside the garden and in comparable habitats globally.  Plants which are native to the conditions you have are well adapted and will thrive.  New Zealand, South Africa and South America are all rich sources of suitable species.  Plant young plants so that they can grow into your particular conditions and make as much use as possible of mulches to conserve moisture.

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