Coastal Gardens

Common to all coastal gardens is the coastal humidity and its salt content. A shelter belt protects the garden from drying winds. Arctostaphylos' roots soon become established in sandy soil, quickly covering large areas. Colourful annuals are unrivalled for shallow soils. Many palms or sword-leaved plants tolerate an occasional flooding. Often succulents survive the best. All fulfil an important stabilization function.

Acacia, many

When evergreen mimosa (their common name, not Mimosa) flower in winter, they are a dream come true. Requirements are a somewhat acid soil, perfect drainage, sunniest position. Soft growth, encouraged by over-watering or fertilizing, is liable to wind damage. Useful as rapid, soil-binding cover. Prune after flowering, even severely, for compact growth.

Aloe arborescens

Succulent, drought-tolerant aloe is among the least demanding plants grown in Mediterranean climates, but good drainage is essential. Practically maintenance-free, aloes happily cover difficult areas.

Calendula officinalis

The good-natured, annual marigold, useful in new or in beginners' gardens, cheerfully flowers all year with little water in any sunny soil.


Evergreen, drought-tolerant bottle-brushes like well-drained, sandy soils in sun.

Chamaerops humilis
mediterranean fan palm

The only palm native the European continent, it grows in sandy or rocky soils in full sun or dappled shade from seashores to high altitudes. It even tolerates snow. Single-trunked or in clumps, it slowly reaches 4 metres, in gardens occasionally more. Amber inedible fruits follow creamy spring inflorescences. Leaf petioles are spiny.

Cistus, all
rock rose

In sun, spring bloom covers rounded, evergreen shrubs, which thrive in adverse conditions of poor, stony soils in regions dry in summer. Fibrous shallow roots are good for erosion control, but drainage and mulch are vital. Pampered plants do not live long.

Cordyline australis
cabbage tree

This evergreen rosette plant with sword-like leathery leaves and scented, creamy flower panicles in early summer, grows single-trunked to 2 - 3 metres, from where branching starts. Appreciates sunny locations, deep soil, ample mulch and summer watering.


Useful, drought-tolerant annuals or evergreen perennials with summer to autumn bloom, mostly yellow. Cutting down after bloom gives a second flush of flowering. These plants suit coastal gardens with well-drained light, sandy soil in full sun.

Eucalyptus ficifolia
red-flowering gum

The evergreen, drought-tolerant gum species are legion. Juvenile leaves often differ from mature ones. Best in deep sandy soils and full sun with good air circulation. Eucalyptus tolerates short-term frost, more so with age. Highly appreciated for fast growth, some trees increase 2 metres a year. Select carefully, little comes up below their canopy.

Freesia refracta

Well-known freesia delights passers-by with exquisitely scented spring bloom. Plant corms 5 centimetre deep in porous, well-drained garden soil in a raised bed in well-aerated, sunny location to keep flowers dry. Leave to bake in summer.

pincushion tree

Easy evergreen pincushion trees with attractive winter or spring flowers suit many difficult conditions. They tolerate poor, dry soils, coastal wind and salt spray, inland heat or cold. They require good drainage, as do most drought-tolerant plants. If conditions suit them too well, several may turn invasive, requiring careful control.

red hot poker

The flowers of this perennial stand torch-like above slender tufted leaves. Tuberous roots like an open sunny aspect, humus-rich soil, excellent drainage and ample mulch. Clumps increase gradually until crowded. Divisions flower the second year.

Laurus nobilis
sweet bay, true laurel

The aromatic sweet bay may reach tree-size, but shrubby 3 - 6 metres are more likely. Shiny leathery leaves of kitchen merit are typical of hard-leaved evergreen woodlands. It tolerates coastal conditions, but appreciates mulch and well-drained soil in sun or shade.

Lavatera maritima
tree mallow

Easy lavatera tolerates poor summer-dry soils. Invaluable in coastal gardens and among rock. Light pink flowers arise from grey felted leaves.

Lonicera, most

Mostly undemanding climbers in full sun or half shade, often scented. All have wide temperature tolerances, varying water demands and transplant readily.

Phoenix canariensis
canary date palm

The magnificent wide-spreading canary date palm is very drought-tolerant once established. Although slow growing, it ultimately reaches 9 - 12 metres. It assumes its architectural role the moment it is planted.

Phormium tenax
new zealand flax

An easy evergreen perennial, appreciated for its giant, sword-like leaves. Towering flower stalks, magnificent silhouettes against a blue Mediterranean sky, carry red to yellow flower clusters. Any mulched soil will suit.

Quercus ilex
holm oak

The evergreen holm oak in times past covered most Mediterranean lands. They grow in small stands on northern slopes, with age spreading 15 - 20 metres, wider than tall. Near-horizontal branches on oldest trees carry an enormous weight. Roots go deep and spread widely. Holm oaks grow on poor even rocky soil, gradually enriching it with decaying foliage.

Rosmarinus officinalis

An often-used Mediterranean native, the aromatic rosemary is variable. From autumn to early spring in the wild you will find many flower shades, also pink or white. Rosemary is never a problem, if planted on hot sunny ground, sharply drained. Fertilizer and summer watering do more harm than good.

Succulents, many

All cacti are succulent (Latin for "juicy") but not all succulents are cacti. Succulents have an enormous potential to survive long droughts due to their ability to store water in fleshy leaves and stems. We never water our agaves, all they get is the winter rain. Succulents are mostly tolerant of dry, poor ground and prefer excellent drainage. All benefit from dry mulch, gravel. Succulents need a dry resting period. The only maintenance they require is an occasional clean-up. Some tolerate pruning.

Viburnum tinus

The evergreen drought-tolerant laurustinus grows wild in open sunny thickets or coastal oak woodlands.