Strong, often salt-laden winds, icy gales in winter and drying winds in summer that scorch foliage present a challenge for planting in coastal gardens but there are plants that will tolerate this sort of situation but by providing windbreaks or shelterbelts in the form of hedges, trees or netting you will expand the range of plants that can be grown and living in the South West also helps as the climate is usually warmer and more forgiving than the North or Scotland. Hedges, trees and shrubs are much better windbreaks than solid walls; walls create turbulence, whereas plants filter and slow the wind down.
Windbreak or Shelterbelt?
Windbreaks: consist of a line of defence such as a hedge, fence, single or double row of trees and can, therefore, be created in most gardens.
Shelterbelts: are formed of tall trees and shrubs (over 4.5m/14½ft) planted in three or four staggered rows and are therefore only suitable for larger sites so we will concentrate on windbreaks.
Suitable Windbreak Plants
Planting is best done in early autumn, winter or spring with bare root hedging being a good option. It really is surprising what a difference they make and these are some of the best plants to choose.
Elaeagnus x ebbingei
English Yew (Taxus baccata)
Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
Italian alder (Alnus cordata)
Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides)
Small-leafed lime (Tilia cordata)
Sambucus Nigra (Elder)
Prunus Spinosa (Blackthorn)
Once you have planted your windbreak further planting can be done in two stages, first, choose plants that will cope with full exposure while the windbreak is growing plus some plants for slightly back from the sea that will tolerate some exposure, then finally stage two is the plants to go in when the barrier is established.
These are just a few suggestions so please ask us if you would like something specific but are not sure of its suitability.
Trees that will tolerate full exposure
Acer platanoides (Norway maple)
Alnus glutinosa (common alder)
Populus alba (white poplar)
Trees for slightly back from the sea
Cercis siliquastrum (Judas tree)
Betula pendula (silver birch)
Cordyline australis (cabbage palm)
Laurus nobilis (bay)
Syringa vulgaris (lilac)
Sorbus aria (whitebeam)
Shrubs that will tolerate exposed sites subject to salt spray
Prunus spinosa (Italian buckthorn)
Sambucus nigra (elder)
Shrubs for slightly back from the sea
Arbutus unedo (strawberry tree)
Phlomus chrysophylla (Jérusalem sage)
Shrubs for planting after a windbreak is established
Cotinus coggygria (smoke tree)
Helianthemum (rock rose)
Rosemarinus officinalis (Rosemary)
Climbers that will tolerate coastal sites include
Hedera helix (Ivy)
Lonicera periclymenum (honeysuckle)
Suitable hardy perennials
Eryngium maritima (sea holly)
Lychnis Coronaria (rose campion)
Stachys byzantina (lamb’s ear)
Suitable annuals & half hardy perennials
Papaver somniferum (opium poppy)
Suitable ornamental grasses/palms