Tips for Coastal Gardening

Top tips and planting selections for the perfect seaside garden.

Photo by Yvonne Duivenvoorden

Roses and spireas in full bloom set off an array of containers set amid shells and coral that were gifts from the sea.Roses and spireas in full bloom set off an array of containers set amid shells and coral that were gifts from the sea.

Deborah Smith’s words to the wise on seaside gardening
The Smith’s top plants for coastal conditions: Shrubs / Perennials / Grasses

Deborah Smith’s words to the wise on seaside gardening

  1. Plant a windbreak that is right for your location. ?We wanted the view so we kept our windbreak shrubby.?
  2. Top-dress with organic matter without fail in both spring and fall to keep your soil full of nutrients that will counteract the salt.
  3. Use polymer crystals in containers so they don?t dry out as quickly in the wind; keep plants airy so the fog can?t eat them as fast.
  4. Keep taller perennials and shrubs pruned to avoid wind damage and reduce the need for staking.
  5. Use plants with foliage that repels the salt: thick, strappy leaves such as hostas and daylilies; and hairy, fuzzy leaves such as rugosa roses, lamb?s ears and lady?s mantle, for example.
  6. Know your plants? needs so you get them in the right place. Seaside gardening is not as forgiving when a plant has to struggle to survive.
  7. Water new transplants more when it is windy; cutting plants back when they?re established will encourage stronger root systems.
  8. Water deeply in spring and fall if there hasn?t been enough rain to help leach salt from the soil.
  9. For winter interest in seaside containers, staple chicken wire into your boxes to anchor the decorative branches so they don?t blow away.
  10. Use layers of spruce and fir boughs to protect plants from winter?s damaging freeze-thaw cycle.

The Smith’s top plants for coastal conditions

Shrubs

  • ?Black Lace? elder (Sambucus nigra)
  • ?Blanc Double de Coubert? rose (Rosa rugosa)
  • Bridal wreath spirea (Spiraea x vanhouttei)
  • ?Diabolo? purple ninebark (Physo carpus opulifolius)
  • ?Goldflame? spirea (Spiraea x bumalda)
  • Red-leafed rose (Rosa rubrifolia)
  • ‘Rose Glow? barberry (Berberis thunbergii var. atropurpurea)
  • ?Sutherland Gold? elder (Sambucus racemosa)
  • ?Yellow Ribbon? arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis)

Perennials

  • Bee balm (Monarda didyma)
  • Clematis (particularly Clematis viticella, C. texensis and C. recta)
  • Coralbells (Heuchera spp.)
  • Creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum)
  • Lady?s mantle (Alchemilla mollis)
  • Lamb?s ears (Stachys byzantina)
  • Peonies (Paeonia spp.)
  • Pinks (Dianthus, especially D. gratianopolitanus ?Firewitch?)
  • ?Red October? hosta (Hosta)
  • Scotch moss (Sagina subulata ?Aurea?)
  • ‘Valerie Finnis? artemisia (Artemisia ludoviciana)

Grasses

  • Blue lyme grass (Elymus arenarius)
  • Bulbous oat grass (Arrhenatherum bulbosum ?Variegatum?)
  • Golden Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ?Aureola?)
  • Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)