Plants located near the sea must withstand salty sea spray and high winds. In some locations, like where I live along the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast, heat and humidity may also play a part in the type of plants suitable for creating a seaside garden. If you live along the coast, choose plants like those referenced below that are more likely to survive the salty sea air. These plants also do well inland for gardeners seeking to create a beach theme garden. When choosing perennial plants, check the USDA plant hardiness zone map to ensure the plants can withstand the cold temperatures in your area.
All these perennial flowers grow in full sun. Yarrow (Achillea taygetea) grows up to 3 feet tall and is cold hardy in USDA zones 4a to 9b. The ‘Zagreb’ variety of coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata) with yellow, daisy-like blooms grows to about 18 inches tall in zones 4a to 9b. For warmer USDA zones of 7a to 10b, consider the ‘Miss Huff’ variety of Lantana (Lantana camara) that grow 3 to 4 feet tall and has blooms of orange, red, or yellow. With white, lily-like blooms in the spring, beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis) grows 3 to 5 feet tall in zones 3 to 8.
Shorter perennial flowering plants that grow 1 to 3 feet tall and are suitable for a seaside garden include lavender (Lavandula angustifolia, USDA zones 5 to 8), daylily (Hemerocallis, zones 3 to 9), blanket flower (Gaillardia aristata, any USDA zone), and salvia ‘May Night’ (Salvia x superba, USDA zones 5 to 9).
Hardy ice plant (Delosperma cooperi) displays purple blooms and grows to about 6 inches tall in USDA zones 6 to 10. Shore juniper (Juniperus conferta), hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9, grows to 1 foot tall and spreads to about 6 feet. October Daphne (Sedum sieboldii), an evergreen in zones 6 to 9, grows 6 to 12 inches tall and has blue-green foliage.
Geranium (Pelargonium spp.) grows 1 to 2 feet tall and produces blooms of pink, white, or red. Begonia (Begonia semperflorens) grows 18 inches tall in full sun to part shade and produces blooms in shades of pink. Pot marigolds (Calendula officinalis), with blooms of orange or yellow, grow to 9 inches tall. These annual flowers make excellent container plants, making it easy to take them to a sheltered area when stormy weather threatens.
Special care for seaside gardens
John Bickerton and Graham Clarke explain in their book, Coastal Gardens, that sea breezes can carry salty droplets as much as 30 miles inland. The authors add, “salt spray is most damaging to plants growing within 1,000 feet of the shoreline.” Usually, rainfall or spritzing the plants with the garden hose is all it takes to rinse away the potentially damaging effects of a seaside breeze. Plant an evergreen hedge, such as Indian Hawthorne (Rhaphiolepis indica), as a windbreak if desired.
Source: Seaside Garden 2011, Virginia Tech Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center
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