Gardening by the sea presents special challenges. Our own home is within sight of the ocean but is 1/4 mile inland. We are not plagued by salt spray, intense afternoon sun and gale-force winds. But we walk daily with the labradoodles where I can observe seaside conditions, and it is often not a pretty sight. Ocean conditions can ruin plants, even when they are protected from winds by yews and pines.
Garden design of seaside gardens is important. One has to be careful in planting as ocean views are precious and you wouldn’t want to obstruct views. But framing views and adding a vegetative foreground is necessary to take full advantage of a water view. What about the plants themselves? The plants that can endure a seaside site are a special breed.
There are some common plants that do well in seaside locations. I see lavateras, lavender, and ornamental grasses thriving in ocean front gardens. Escallonia rubra, wallflower, and Euphorbia are also survivors. Rugosa roses, add fragrant flowers to rocky gardens, as well as thyme , santolina, honeysuckle, Mexican sage, and barberry.
On our walks along the shoreline, I see California poppies and oriental poppies, Shasta daisies, irises, blue fescue and yarrow, creating a cottage garden look and tolerating salt spray and winds. And, believe it or not, artichokes and strawberries can survive in difficult situations.
Larger shrubs and trees that do well along the coast are Melaleuca, Myoporum and California laurel. Arbutus unedo (Strawberry tree), Escallonia, juniper, evergreen Viburnum, and Westringia fruticosa are true survivors.
You’ll have to experiment to find the right plants for your location but seaside gardens are not impossible. Once established, you can help your salt-assaulted plants by rinsing them occasionally with water and keeping them well-watered. Also, consult the Sunset Western Garden Book for a list of “tried and true” plants that tolerate seaside conditions.