Seaside garden design for courtyards & patios

Martyn Cox / 01 December 2011

Don’t despair if you have just downsized and inherited a tiny, uninspiring courtyard garden. The most unpromising of spaces can be given a new lease of life and it won’t cost you a fortune. Martyn Cox looks at simple ways you can transform a tiny space, whether you want a leafy jungle or a classical formal garden.



You don’t need to live beside the seaside to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of a coastal garden - all it requires is a sun-kissed courtyard, the right plants and a bit of imagination. Apart from looking good, this type of garden is fairly low maintenance, perfect if you have lots of commitments that prevent you from gardening as much as you’d like.

Plants

There’s no shortage of plants that will evoke the look of a coastal garden. Eleagnus, griselinia, escallonia and coprosma are ideal if there’s room for an evergreen hedge, while pittosporum, cistus, olives, hardy fuchsia, lavender, hebe, Convolvulus cneorum, bottlebrushes and Choisya ‘Aztec Pearl’ are perfect shrubs, either in pots or the ground. Under plant these structural species with grasses, such as carex, miscanthus and stipa, along with agapanthus, crocosmia, kniphofia and other herbaceous plants. Those wanting something a little more exotic could include agaves, aeoniums or an architectural phormium.

Surfaces

Ensure that you don’t spend any time mowing a lawn, sweeping a patio or weeding, by spreading a weed suppressing membrane across the courtyard, then covering with a thick layer of gravel. To make the surface more interesting, add informal drifts of larger grades of gravel, along with pebbles or sand, to provide a textural finish. Dot piles of sea shells in several places or use as a mulch for the tops of containers – these are easily found in bags at coastal resorts or can often be bought from garden centres. A small deck would make the perfect place to sit out and is perfectly in keeping with the beach theme.

Finishing touches

A coastal garden wouldn’t be complete without the sight or sound of water. Avoid anything too formal and go for a simple barrel fountain, a bubble fountain that rises out of the ground or a tiny pond, making sure you build a peninsular of pebbles into it to allow frogs, toads and other wildlife easy access.

Now all you have to do is put out some traditional stripy deckchairs and you can enjoy a seaside break whenever you want to.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.