10 Sep2018

Coastal gardening with Dave

Top tips for coastal sites from our head gardener

Plants in the Dean & Reddyhoff Southampton Boat Show garden
Dave Hill wins Gosport in Bloom

Whatever your location, create a thriving coastal garden

Every year our Southampton Boat Show garden is removed after the show and transplanted to one of our marinas. We won’t waste any plants or materials!

Our head gardener, Dave Hill, has selected readily-available plants that thrive in exposed coastal areas, but will be equally as happy in your garden at home. This year Dave has used:

  • Echeveria shaviana pink frills (large succulent)
  • Sedum spathulifolium cape blanco
  • Sedum sunsparkler (plum dazzled)
  • Armeria rubrifolia (thrift)
  • Erigeron kew profusion
  • Gypsophila repens alba
  • Calocephalus silver sand (scruffy little plant)
  • Miscanthus sinensis gracillimus
  • Anemanthele lessoniana
  • Pennisetum alopecuroides Hameln
  • Carex comans bronze
  • Carex frosted curls

Plant selection

With their often-exposed sites, coastal gardens have microclimates making plant selection even more important. Look for varieties that can cope with salt spray, wind, exposure to sun and free draining soil that can be low in nutrients. 

Agapanthus Peter Pan, Crocosmia Lucifer and a large array of wildflowers including wild poppies thrive in the low-nutrient rich soil. 

Be reminded of the pink haze of summer clifftops by planting thrift (Armeria maritima), its robust nature makes it perfect for dry sunny sites, lining paths, borders or popping into rockeries.  

Echium vulgare is great for adding height. The tall plant has upright spikes of tiny purple flowers, often with bright stamen that bees and other pollinators long. It should also flower all summer and self-seeds so is very low maintenance.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is perfect for a seaside spot and very hardy. Evergreen with pretty blue flowers in summer, it smells fantastic and can be picked all year round – it’s also perfect to throw onto a BBQ. Plant it near paths and around doorways so it releases fragrance as you brush past it.


Creating natural windbreaks is key. Planting around boulders and stones can help anchor plants. Succulents, aloes, palms and cordylines are perfect.

Make sure that plants are pruned regularly and staked accordingly to help avoid wind damage. 

Like the sound of rigging on masts in the breeze, the swish of grasses like Miscanthus or Pennisetum provide natural movement all year around. 

Feeding, watering and weeding

Plants with silver or blue-green leaves are great at holding onto moisture, think Agave and Sea Kale (Crambe maritima). Sea Holly (Eryngium varifolium) has striking silver foliage and architectural blooms adding structure to borders. Bees and insects love it and you can leave it over the winter to add interest.

Using liquid seaweed fertiliser, made from kelp and fresh water, that’s been kept for around two years so that the ammonia has broken down, is a natural way to feed plants. Feed the plants that need it and be careful not to overfeed as some plants prefer poorer conditions!

Hand weed where possible and be careful of overusing chemicals that could leach into the water. In tough climates then if your plants thrive and grow then enjoy where they like to settle!

Get a quote