Areas that experience high winds on the coast, like Adelaide’s suburbs, can make it quite difficult to create a stunning garden. However, it isn’t impossible. You need to pick the right plants as there are quite a few that are able to withstand the harsher conditions of coastal gardens. So, even if you live right on the coast and have to deal with incredibly windy summers and a high salt content in the air, you can still have a great garden.
The key to success with Coastal Gardens: plan wisely
The key to creating a beautiful garden lies in planning. The better you plan, the more beautiful your garden will be. To begin:
- Decide on the look you want eg Jungle vibe, Moroccan coast, Asian holiday, Desert dreams etc.
- Improve your soil by digging in compost wherever you plan to plant gardens. If the soil is sandy, 30-50% compost is needed to kickstart your garden and hold moisture over hot summers. If the soil is clay-based, add some Gypsum and still add 20% compost.
- Work out your watering regime eg a simple irrigation system that you can install yourself or how much time do you have to hand water?
- Add mulch. Mulch is the layer of material you cover the soil with (a bit like a blanket). It will hold in the moisture as well as moderate the soil temperature, keeping your plants warmer in winter and cooler in summer. In a brand new garden, a soft mulch like Pea Straw or Cottage mulch is better for garden establishment. In the second year, you can use something harder like bark chips or stones if that’s the look you want.
Draw up a rough plan of your block, where the house is situated and any existing trees or structures. Consider the front garden in comparison to the back. In the front you will need very hardy, salt tolerant plants able to handle high winds and full sun. Your back garden may be where you can plant more delicate plants which get the shade and wind protection from your house. It is usually enclosed and more sheltered.
For the front garden, we have a variety of palms, yuccas and waxy leaved shrubs which will tolerate Adelaide’s salt winds such as Dwarf Date Palm, Ponytail Palm, Dragon Trees, Bird of Paradise and Aloe Trees and are also drought resistant. If you’re looking for low coverage, we offer a variety of succulents, grasses and ground covers that can easily cope with these conditions.
In the back garden, think privacy and beauty. If you don’t like the look of your fence, for example, consider bamboo. Clumping bamboo can screen out all sorts of ugliness and provide a luscious green wall. It will grow in a narrow space so it is also ideal for a side garden. Palms such as Cocos or Bangalows will also go well in a more sheltered position and won’t take up too much room. For colour, consider Bougainvillea, Hibiscus, Cannas and Coprosma. You could also add a water feature or a lovely sculpture, or something spectacular like a Giant Bromeliad.
Bird of Paradise
Stretilizias: What cool plants! Those wild flowers and architectually designed plants are perfect for Adelaide. The flowers have a really tropical edge, looking a lot like Gingers or Heliconias, but originally they come from South Africa. They give a a big splash of colour over winter and spring, and survive our hot, dry summers with minimum water. Common Bird of Paradise grows to a clump about 1.5m high and Giant Bird of Paradise grows up to 5 metres! They are perfect to plant against a wall in full sun in your back garden. They also look great in a pot on the patio or verandah, even inside.
I really struggle to like Yuccas, because I’ve been poked in the eye too many times! However, this family of plants are fantastic for low maintenance and cruel conditions, such as windswept hilltops or coastal cliffs. They will survive extraordinary neglect! There are many varieties of Yucca including this small 1m high Yucca desmettiana aka Spellbound. Originating in north and central America, they are now very popular in regions which are also hot and dry, obviously needing very little water or care throughout either summer or winter.
Dragon and Aloe Trees
Dragon Trees are similar to the common Yucca, but the foliage is greyer and less spiky. They will eventually grow multiple heads and be a large spreading tree, after about 100 years (photos show the difference between 3 yrs and 100!) Aloe Trees are another large succulent which can look dramatic once established. They are tough as a boot and make a great feature in an arid, difficult garden. Smaller Aloes are available nowadays with a range of coloured flowers and striking architectural foliage. They are totally at home on the coast.
Palms and Cycads
There are a few palms that cope well with harsh, coastal conditions. Our favourites are Dwarf Date Palms, Wine Palms and Cocos. Dwarf Date Palms grow to about 3-4m. Cocos and Wine Palms are larger, have statuesque trunks to 6m and are both very cold tolerant. There is also a magnificent clumping palm from Morocco called European Fan Palm. We have all 4 varieties growing in our Jungle in Willunga, now over 25 years old. Cycads offer a tropical feel to your garden, being a beautiful feature plant. They are very tough and slow growing and tolerate all conditions.
And how about this for a beautiful, tough and coastal loving Groundcover? It’s name is Scaevola and it grows very well in our Adelaide conditions giving pretty lavender or white flowers over much of the year. Native Boobialla is another excellent ground cover for coastal Adelaide gardens, occurring wild on the cliffs at Sellicks Beach. That is TOUGH!
What about my Tropical Paradise?
We hope we’ve given you lots of inspiration and ways to create your very own tropical paradise right here in Adelaide. We are happy to help and have a 25 year old tropical garden in Willunga which will give you a good idea of what your plants look like fully grown.
Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day and a garden is always a work in progress. Your garden is unique and is a combination of your creativity and the environment. If your first choice doesn’t work, try something more suited to your individual spot. Gardening is a lifestyle, not a photo. The joy is in watching things grow when you do get it right. It’s addictive!