Coastal gardens: Ideas and Inspiration July 21, 2016 14:26

If, like me, you spent your childhood in Kent, chances are you had to endure the obligatory school trip to Dungeness Power Station. The science trip was wasted on me. I'm non the wiser on nuclear technology. But the bleak beauty of Dungeness has never left me. 

Far more talented visitors than me have enjoyed this haunting (and at times, howling) coastline. About the same time as I was yawning my way through my
school trip, painter, film maker and designer Derek Jarman headed out on a day trip to Kent and spotted the beautiful Prospect Cottage. Having admired it on previous visits, this time around he and Keith Collins found the cottage was up for sale. The opportunity to buy it was too good to miss and there began the start of Derek Jarman's garden: a magical, now famous garden on this desolate stretch of coastline. 

Derek Jarman's garden has been inspiring gardeners ever since, including Guy Watts from Architectural Plants. Having grown up on the nearby sussex coast, Guy has been gardening since he was eight years old and is very familiar with the tough, tricky conditions that seaside planting can pose.

We picked his brains for tips on creating a successful coastal garden. Here are his top tips: 

  • Start small: Choose plants that on paper are suited to the conditions of your coastal garden. Plant them, then wait and watch. See how they respond to their surroundings. 
  • Go beyond Grass: Grasses are the obvious choice for coastal gardens, but there are other amazing, structural plants that are tough enough to thrive in the trickiest of coastal conditions. Phormium tenax (New Zealand Flax) is a firm favourite - a spiky, tropical plant that over time can add real height and impact to your garden. 
  • Creative Cutting: Eleagnas ebbengei (Ebbinge's silverberry) is best known as a stalwart of suburban hedging. It is such a shame because it has so much more to offer. Eleagnas benefit from attractive, waxy leaves which can be clipped to create lots of interesting shapes in your garden and is another tough plant that can withstand the elements. Just add a little creativity to provide it with a new lease of life.
  • Party Plants: Euphorbias are the ultimate 'party plant' of the coastal garden scene. Once established they will spread around; providing a mass colour and a touch of the exotic to any spot.  

Guy is Commercial Director at Architectural Plants, the exotic evergreen specialists based in Sussex. For more information please visit: or to contact Guy call 01798 879213