How to create a delightful seaside garden

I’ve been visiting gardens in Whitstable to pick up seaside garden ideas.

Seaside garden open for Whitstable Open Gardens

Above is a bed from the seaside garden at 5 Clare Road, open part of Whitstable Open Gardens.

The gardens are open for you to visit, too, on 21st May for the NGS Kent’s Whitstable Open Gardens.

No 1 seaside garden tip – no lawn

Immaculate green grass and seaside gardens don’t go together. Chuck out your lawnmower and lay down gravel, decking or shingle instead.

Use shingle or gravel instead of lawn

Whitstable beach is shingle, and here you see piles of oyster shells from the Whitstable Oyster Company.

At 5 Clare Road, Janet and Philip say that their triangular garden was originally just lawn flanked by large conifers. They replaced the lawn with shingle and decking. And there’s a bonus. ‘We really don’t get many weeds either,’ Janet adds.

Shingle and decking for a seaside garden

5 Clare Road replaced lawn with shingle and decking.

Use shingle instead of lawn

The garden at The Guinea, a converted pub in Whitstable.

At The Guinea, a converted pub, Sheila and David’s garden was just lawn and a drive. They changed it into gravel, with lots of pots and planting, plus a stone terrace.

Delightful seaside garden ideas

If you do have grass, think dunes.

Paint everything white…

At 5 Clare Road, all the garden fittings are painted white. The shed, the fence, the house walls and even the bin store…

Paint walls and fencing white for a beach look

White walls at 5 Clare Road – painting everything one colour also helps disguise the fact that some of the boundary is marked by fencing and the rest by wall – a common issue in town gardens.

Paint your bins, sheds and fence white

White-painted bin store at 5 Clare Road. With a sedum green roof.

Create a seaside theme with white walls

There’s lots of white at The Guinea, too…

Although black is also a ‘seaside garden’ colour…

The black wooden fishermen’s huts and workshops are a distinctive element along the Whitstable beach. At The Guinea, Sheila and David have echoed the traditional look by painting the back extension roof and also their storage huts in black.

Black wooden huts are typical of fishermen on the coast.

Echoes of the black wooden fishermen’s huts and workshops in The Guinea’s garden.

Derek Jarman's seaside garden

Derek Jarman’s garden further down the coast at Dungeness is the classic ‘beach garden’, and also echoes the local black fishermen’s huts.

Plant into the gravel, stone or shingle…

Your gravel or shingle will be laid on a membrane, but you can cut through it to plant. Plants on a beach grow directly out of the sand or shingle, so scattering plants through the garden rather than having ‘beds’ will create a seaside garden feel.

Sea kale on Joy Lane Beach, Whitstable

Sea kale on Joy Lane Beach, Whitstable

Plant directly into shingle

And a salvia growing directly out of the shingle at 5 Clare Road.

Or use raised beds…

Raised beds, edged with weathered wood, are very ‘seaside garden.’ If you’re directly on the beach, it’s the only practical way to grow vegetables or flowers.

Use raised beds in a seaside garden

Raised veg beds at Clare Road.

Garden writer Francine Raymond is also opening her garden for Whitstable Open Gardens. She uses a mix of raised beds, agricultural feeding troughs and recycled galvanised bins and tubs as raised beds for her vegetables.

Use bins and raised beds to grow veg

Francine grows veg in raised beds, galvanised agricultural feeding troughs and recycled zinc bins.

You can buy agricultural troughs from farm suppliers

Francine’s agricultural trough.

Or pots…especially in recycled containers

Pots are very seaside garden. That’s because a garden on the beach won’t have soil or will have very poor soil. You’d need to plant most things in pots.

Use lots of pots in a seaside garden

Pots on a table at The Guinea.

Re-use tins and containers for seaside pots

An old shelving unit and recycled containers for pots at 5 Clare Road

Choose beach garden themes

A fishy theme on a pot at The Guinea.

Use recycled pots in a seaside garden

Kathie and Stuart’s beachside Ocean Cottage has a roof garden, planted with recycled pots of all kinds.

Kathie and Stuart’s garden is on a roof overlooking Whitstable Beach. It’s a punishing environment for plants. Kathie says that the combination of wind and salt air means that plants often die suddenly. However, they sometimes bounce back.

The roof is covered in pots of various sizes. Some are recycled tins – for example, the olive tins she gets from a friend with a deli. As it’s difficult to eat enough olives to empty a good-sized planter, the idea of asking deli owners for old tins is a good one.

Roof garden pots by the sea

Kathie says that she replants plants from other gardens or grows quite common plants because there’s ‘no point in planting something valuable when it’s so vulnerable.’

Experiment with cheap and common plants

Kathie tries common and easily available plants out in the roof garden – there’s no point in spending lots of money on precious specimens as it is a harsh environment.

There are more recycled containers here in 10 ways of bringing the beach back to your garden.

Be a beach-comber…

It’s time to channel your inner beach-comber. Although you’re more likely to be combing junk shops, car boot fairs and vintage shops than the beach. But the principle is the same. A seaside garden will have things in it that other people have thrown away.

Add atmosphere to a seaside garden

Objet trouves, shells and pots of various sizes, along with an old sink.

Use recycled tins for seaside pot planting

Succulent in a pot at The Guinea.

Layer pots on shelves

Pots are layered on shelves all up the sides of the roof. They include an agricultural feeder (top right), old olive tins, terracotta pots, galvanised troughs and lots more.

Especially shells, of course…

A seaside garden has lots of shells.

How to display seashells

Seashells and stones at Clare Road, dangling from an old lampshade.

However, you are not legally allowed to take stones, pebbles or other material from the beach. I don’t think this is very fiercely enforced, but at least one woman has been prosecuted for gathering stones and shells for her garden.

You can buy shells and stones, however, from garden centres or online here (affiliate link)

Succulents make good beach garden plants…

Succulents are everywhere at the moment. I haven’t seen a garden without a regulation of pot of succulents for years. But they do work well in a seaside garden context.

Succulents work well in seaside gardens

Succulents displayed on a painted ladder at The Guinea

A seaside garden display of succulents

A display of succulents at 5 Clare Road on a recycled table.

Vintage furniture…

The salty sea air and the wind weather paint quickly. So even if your furniture is newly painted, a few months on the beach will batter it about.

Choose weathered furniture for a beach garden

A metal chair at 5 Clare Road.

Or paint furniture in shades of sea, sky or sand…

Good ‘seaside garden colours’ include all the shades of sea, sky or sand – although bright colours also have seaside cred, too. Think of decking stripes or cheery checks.

Paint furniture in faded beach colours

Or choose tin furniture in faded beach colours. Table and chairs at 5 Clare Road.

Upcycled ladder display for pots

Table, chairs and upcycled ladder display painted in soft lavender blues at The Guinea

You can buy ‘bistro style’ or ‘pavement style‘ folding metal chairs here. That’s an affiliate link, so you can click through to buy. I may get a small fee if you do, but it doesn’t affect the price you pay.

Add sculpture with a coastal theme…

Pheasant Farm is also open for the NGS on several days this year, and also for private groups by appointment. It’s open today (14th May) and although it’s not a ‘seaside garden’, it overlooks Oare Creek, so there are maritime elements to it, such as this stunning seabird sculpture.

Pick a coastal theme for your garden sculpture

A beautiful seabird sculpture at Pheasant Farm, Oare.

Try a gravel garden for a seaside look

The gravel garden at the front of Pheasant Farm.

Add an old sign to your shed and display pots outside it

The garden shed at Pheasant Farm has an old railway sign on it to seaside towns, such as Birchington and Herne Bay.

And finally, don’t forget Faversham Open Gardens & Garden Market Day, on June 25th 10am-5pm. There are no seaside gardens, but there is almost every other sort, plus plants and gardenalia to buy. Hope to see you there!

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12 tips for a delightful seaside garden


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