Designing and Building Coastal Gardens

Designing and Building Coastal Gardens

Designing and building coastal gardens is all about strong layouts and easy maintenance. Find out more in this blogpost.

Whether you live near the coast or you want to feel as though you do, a coastal themed garden is a joy. It draws you outside, relaxes you and is a great place to entertain. Coastal gardens need key features such as

  • Easy Maintenance
  • All weather surfaces
  • Shelter and Shade
  • Lighting to extend those summer evenings
  • Space for al-fresco dining
  • The sound of moving water
  • Robust and hardy planting
  • Great views

Coastal Gardens for easy maintenance

The British seaside is all about relaxing and feeling good. For me, that’s all about fresh air, peace and quiet, plenty of space and no work. For you, it might be about bright colours, people, pure fun and no worries. Either way, the prevailing theme is less stress and minimal graft.

A low maintenance garden coastal themed garden is perfectly achievable. It’s about choosing the right surfaces and installing them properly. Plan the layout and the structures around the way you want to use your garden. Then pop in some seaside style plants and accessories.

I’ve made it sound simple haven’t I? But the key here lies in the installation. It’s the bits you don’t see, the sub-base, the drainage, electrics, choice of materials and plants that decide how easy your coastal themed garden will be to maintain.

Surfaces and structures for coastal gardens

When I think “coast”, I think of excellent sunshine, strong breezes, watery sounds, good drainage, natural surfaces and hardy plants. Strong colours come from man-made structures like seating, shelters and sunshades.

For a seaside themed surface, pebbles are an obvious choice, but they’re not to comfortable to walk on – especially barefooted. How about buff coloured pavers eg sandstone, or perhaps some decking?  Use them to create paths, and seating areas and then bring in some aggregates for a contrasting texture.

back garden makeover with coastal garden features

This back garden uses natural stone pavers and chunky timbers to give a seaside feel. It will be finished with some lower maintenance planting and a coastal colour scheme

Next comes shelter. If you live near the sea, you’ll know how important it is to be able to escape from chilly salt-laden winds. On the other hand, you don’t want to compromise one square centimetre of that sea view.

Where will you place your outdoor eating area? How about the hot tub? Advance planning ensures that your garden won’t end up looking like a mish-mash.

There are lots of options available. Pergolas are great. Choose from timber built or more modern materials. Again, the secret is to have them properly installed with strong foundations so that they can stand up to winter storms.

Why not make use of a reclaimed boat? They may good planters, or, you could upend it and make it into an arbour seat.

old boat being used as a planter in a coastal garden

I seek inspiration wherever I go. This boat makes a great planter for a coastal garden.
Personalise it with a base to suit the size and style of your garden and some of your favourite plants – or even a water feature………..


If you need ideas for your own coastal garden, the garden designers from our sister company Tapestry Design Studios offer a range of garden design packages.


Lighting up your coastal garden

Are you attracted to the bright lights of seaside attractions or do you prefer a more subtle, relaxed feel for evenings?

Almost anything is possible with well-designed landscape lighting. But please be considerate to your neighbours!

Any garden lighting needs careful planning and for best results it should be installed at the same time as the rest of the structure.  That way you won’t be distracted by ugly wires strewn around your outdoor space. If you’re really clever you can have recessed lights sunk into your deck or your patio. They’re subtle, stylish and cast a gentle light at any time of year.

recessed lighting in coastal garden

Bringing water into your coastal themed garden

Very few householders are blessed by being able to see or hear the sea from their gardens. But of course, no coastal themed garden can be complete without the sound of moving water.

water feature with underground reservior

This large back garden has an intimate coastal themed section. Simple planting, a pebble surface and soothing sounds from the central water feature make it a truly relaxing space

The team at Holland Landscapes have lots of experience at installing water features. Large ones, small ones, raised ones, child-friendly ones – you name it, we’ve probably done it. If you need ideas or inspiration, don’t be afraid to give us a call.

More about water features

Plants for coastal gardens

Once all of the surfaces and structures are in place, it’s time to bring the garden to life with some plants.

Brightly coloured bedding plants are great for vibrant coastal gardens. They really do bring a pop of colour and joy into the space. They can easily be battered by strong winds though, so choose their positions wisely if your garden tends to be a bit blustery.

Hardy perennials need minimal care and attention. Take a good look at the kind of plants that thrive on the dunes. They tend to be either low-growing or have flexible and flowing with the wind. Leaves are small and tough, often with waxy coatings to protect against salty sea spray.  Think grasses, low growing sedums, stachys, woody herbs, broom. Colours tend to be subtle with hints of blue, grey, purple and pink.

If you are coping with seaside conditions, ask a garden designer for help choosing suitable plants for the conditions. For inland coastal themed gardens, you have more choice but should still take your inspiration from the beach.

grey-blue planting

Great use of colour and texture to bring a coastal feel to this back garden in Boxted

Finally, a word about the view beyond your garden

This section really should come first, it’s something to consider while you are positioning your garden features. If you can see the sea from your garden – embrace that, do what you can to frame the view and lead the eye towards it.

If your garden looks out onto countryside, imagine you are on a beach looking inland. Use those big skies and rolling fields to your advantage.

For a garden that is overlooked by neighbours then a good garden designer will be a great investment. With careful positioning of features, and some tasteful and original you are on holiday all year round.

decking area with sea views

Keeping it simple. A sheltered decking area with stunning sea views.

For more ideas about themed gardens

Garden Inspiration – patios, paths and decking

Low maintenance garden ideas

Outdoor living – creating a seamless indoor-outdoor space 

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