Haven at Home
The Aussie coastal garden is iconic for a relaxed style, unfussy planting and the hint that the ocean is not far away. Picture weathered decks, crushed stone paths, plants that dance on the sea-breeze and your feet up on a deck chair….beach-side haven in your own back garden. Achieving this look means understanding the challenges of exposed sites and making smart plant choices.
Most locations on the coast are exposed to strong winds, salty air and sandy soils that lack any nutrition. Moisture retention is also a problem so conditioning the soil should be the first task at hand. Adding a rich organic matter to the soil a few times a year will increase its ability to hold nutrients and finishing off with a layer of mulch helps to reduce loss of moisture.
Challenge number two is choosing low-maintenance plants that can withstand these tricky conditions. Coastal gardening can be challenging, so look to use these plant species as a starting point. Look for fine, leathery or waxy leaves.You can usually tell a tough guy by his appearance – slightly scruffy, wiry limbs, low-growing and often with succulent leaves that retain moisture. Non-native architectural plants that have adapted well to our harsh coastline include Agave attenuata, Aloe, Aptenia cordifolia and Crassula species. They provide a great contrast to the natural weeping shapes of our Banksia and Acacia.
Groundcovers and grasses play an important role in binding the soil and reducing erosion.Grasses are also ideal for windy sites; they add movement and texture and look great clumped together. Some of the best ornamental grass for a beachy look include: Lomandra, Flax, Baloskion tetraphyllum and Dianella
Among the green and glaucous tones of these water-wise choices, don’t hesitate to add a splash of colour to liven your coastal space. Succulents like Crassula 'Camp Fire',Crassula ovata Red Edge and Kalanchoe Flapjacks provide injections of sunset colours which become more intense in colder climates.
An effective way to modernise your coastal design is to incorporate clipped shrubs. While it takes little practice to perfect the pruning technique, the resulting ball shapes almost resemble boulders or sand dunes. Plants like Westringia respond well to this and their compact shape keeps them looking neat in the toughest of winds.
Your choice of plants can be anything from understated to bold, exotic or colourful; as long as they all tolerate being a little sun-kissed and slightly mistreated. So before you buy plants online, take in clues from your local coastline and incorporate natural combinations that will make your space a welcome retreat.
By Kelly-Jean Saffy