Life can be tough at the seaside. Wind and the salt-saturated air aren’t the best conditions for a plant, or for that matter, a garden. Most plants perish – but some will flourish.
And it’s surprising how many have been able to adapt to what are pretty inhospitable growing conditions.
Look at the likes of cotoneasters, elaeagnus, escallonia, euonymus, many hebes, give a big hint to their liking for a bracing south-wester and a splash of eau de mer.
Genista lydia (gorse) is another well suited to planting where the soil meets the sea. It thrives in hot dry areas, flourishes on poorer soils such as sandy or chalky soils, and laughs off any amount of salt.
It also loves full sun and although it doesn’t care overmuch for cold winds, a clifftop site is just about the perfect spot. Just avoiding pruning if possible because it doesn’t like to feel secateurs biting into established wood. The flowers are like small pieces of the sun, and they have a delicious fragrance to be carried on the breeze. Perfect for Penzance, Portugal or parts of the Yorkshire coast where summer is but a fleeting visitor.
What else? Sedum and stonecrops keep their heads down and get on with growing and flowering, while hardy cranesbills make light of coastal conditions.
Many salvias are quite content to live at the seaside, as are lots of lavenders, culinary sages (Salvia officianalis), some shasta daisies, artemisias like ‘Powis Castle’, lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina), the silvery cotton lavender (Santolina) and old favourites like hydrangeas, which seem capable of growing just about anywhere – whatever the conditions and no matter how little maintenance they receive.
And for anyone with a bit more room, and a love of trees, Alnus glutinosa (common elder) is a big deciduous tree (70ft or more in height), which has no fear of salt.
And Crataegus x persimilis ‘Prunifolia’ is a deciduous tree whose leaves turn orange-red in autumn. It also has white flowers in spring. In perfect conditions, it could reach 25ft in height.
Or something even larger...Pinus nigra (the European black pine) whose domed evergreen canopy can break the 100ft barrier. Big but beautiful – and a great addition to a wind-break.