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Low-maintanance Beach Gardens

Published on December 24th 2020
A bird that is standing in the water
It is no wonder that one of the most talked-about gardens at the 2019 Chelsea Flower Show was a beach garden. Joe Perkins’s "The Facebook Garden: Beyond The Screen" proved to be a harbinger of what was to come in 2020.
It shows how you can create a wild garden that would take care of itself and make you want to sit outside even when it is windy. So here are some tips we can use in a sandy garden.
beach garden salt bush

Create Rooms

Coastal gardens are buffeted with wind year-round. It is one of the hurdles you need to bypass to have a garden flourish. Planting a windbreak is a good start, but the wind will merely be directed upward and then come down to eddy on the opposite side.
Some great alternatives:
1. Courtyard gardens
Building a house around a garden will not only give you privacy, but an area to dine outside.
2. Nurse a tree
Larger trees may establish quicker and is a wonderful way to add to your garden. Pick an Olive or Millwood, even a Boekenhout (or Igcolo) and make sure to water it till it's established. Your family can then see how your woodland grows over the years.
A close up of the green fruit of an olive tree lit by a low sun.


Olea spp.

Foliage and flower buds  of Sideroxylon inerme

White Milkwood

Sideroxylon inerme

Rapanea melanophloeos


Rapanea melanophloeos

3. Make use of trellis
If you plan to construct a windbreak, make sure to secure it thoroughly with anchor points. Using slitted trellises will let some wind through while blocking the worst.
Remember that exposed soil will blow away. Mulching or adding branches/wooden stumps will help stabilize the area so the sand does not blow away. If you are doing a large scale revamp or it is a newly cleaned plot, you might consider a more comprehensive approach. You can create a matrix of stakes and wire in parallel lines perpendicular to the predominant wind (SE in Western Cape) that will keep the topsoil in place.
beach garden vygie succulent

Rock Gardens

Coastal areas often have an abundance of natural sandstone that most gardeners would pay dearly to obtain. Creating terraces or even just a small mount will give you small microclimates to play with.
Microclimate | An area that has a slightly different climate (humidity, sunlight, moisture) than its surroundings.
This is ideal in areas with pure sand where any topsoil quickly disappears either through wind or rain. Picking plants with shallow root systems will also help deck out your new rock garden.
Some low-maintenance options:
beach garden

Waterwise and Indigenous

Curating the garden with shrubs that naturally occur in the region will save you from an astronomical water bill. The problem is that we do not always know what is indigenous. This is where your local botanical garden is a great resource!
The easiest way to go about starting off is to plant one or two filler shrubs that are fast growers and provide semi-shade and wind protection for sensitive plants. Then slowly fill in the area as the plants mature.
Here are some widespread proven winners:
Do not miss out on the wonders of creating a moving garden. It is the quickest way of establishing a waterwise garden:
garden vine creeper

Tropical coastlines

If you are lucky enough to have rainfall year-round then you have access to a larger assortment of plants. You can think of building up your very own forest by adding a tree each year. The trees will provide a much-needed refuge in hot summer days as well as attract birds from the area.
There are also several (non-parasitic) vines that use trees as support. They will turn the garden into a rainforest and puff out some gorgeous scent if given the chance.
Coastal vines:
beach garden

Summer Planting

Last, but not least, you might be tempted to dig into the garden this summer. Know that new additions will go through a bit of a shock and will need a consistent supply of water till the roots have established. This does not mean they need to be continually moist, but that you will need to provide it once or twice weekly.

Beach gardens are a delight, so why not share yours with us?

BBC NEWS (27 Nov, 2020). RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019: In pictures.

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