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Make the most of your Suffolk coastal garden

PUBLISHED: 12:27 31 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:39 20 February 2013

Make the most of your Suffolk coastal garden

Make the most of your Suffolk coastal garden

Different rules apply when you are planning a coastal garden, says Sue Townsend. Choose plants that thrive on salt, sea and sand

Different rules apply when you are planning a coastal garden, says Sue Townsend. Choose plants that thrive on salt, sea and sand

The key to creating a beautiful planting scheme for a Suffolk coastal garden is to choose plants that thrive in the conditions of our stunning coast. Resist the quick fix solution of driving down to a garden centre and stocking up on whatever is in flower. The risk is you may choose plants suited to the rich, moist and heavier soil of inland Suffolk not the light sandy, dry and salt-laden conditions offered by your coastal garden. The plants may stagger through a season but it will be a constant battle to keep them healthy and alive.
Instead, take some well-deserved time out and walk along the sandy and shingle beaches of the Suffolk coastline to gain a real insight into the types of plants that can cope with the salty winds from the North Sea, the light sandy soil and the low rainfall.
Walking from Warbleswick to Aldeburgh youll find dune grass, sea kale (crambe maritima), yellow horned poppies, sea buckthorn, thrift and sea holly. These plants have adapted to cope with periods of drought and exposed conditions by developing a number of techniques to conserve water from the tightly rolled leaves of dune grass to the silvery grey reflective foliage of sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) and the tough leaves of sea kale with its moisture searching, long tap roots. These are the types of survival qualities you need to look for in the plants for your coastal garden.
When it comes to deciding what to grow in your coastal garden you should think of the feel of the garden you are after and consider its setting. Do you want to create a naturalistic feel so that your garden blends in with the coastline, or are you after a more ornamental garden with plants that can cope with the conditions of the coast?
Earlier this year, clients of mine requested a purely native planting scheme in their coastal garden to ensure a seamless transition from garden to the beach. I planted swathes of dune grass into the sand and pebbles to echo those on the beach, clumps of the cabbage-like sea kale, yellow horned poppies and dotted sea thrift through an informal path made of reclaimed brick, weathered sleepers and pavers that meanders down to the beach from their weathered deck.
For those who yearn for a wider palette of plants, many of the Mediterranean plants and grasses cope well with the conditions of the Suffolk coast silver leaved shrubs such as lavenders and santolinas, plants with fine rolled leaves like rosemary and grasses like stipa gigantea and stipa tenuissima. Salvias with their soft velvety leaves and Phlomis russeliniana with its hooded yellow flowers cope with the dry conditions too.
If you are after a bit of shelter the following plants can withstand salt-laden wind: hawthorn; blackthorn; sea buckthorn; tamarisk; rosa spinsissima; Griselinia littoralis and Eleaganus Ebbingii.
As moisture is key to establishing new plants on sandy soil, one tip is to make a watering basin around a newly planted plant which will allow the water to be directed to the roots and not escape in all directions over the soil. Water that flows over the surface of the soil evaporates quickly but the plant needs the water to penetrate the soil deeply.

For more information on coastal gardening contact Sue Townsend Garden Design 01728 648 790


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