Tag Archives: marine

Rock and Gravel Garden Feature

Sloping seaside gardens provide the opportunity to include a rock and gravel garden feature.   This cottage garden by the sea in Ventry, Kerry, Ireland, includes species plants which are close cousins to those that occur naturally.   The rocks are mainly local sandstone with a few with white quartz.

Slope for Rock and Gravel Garden

The previous garden had an irregular sloping lawn. The garden was re-landscaped to have a gently sloping lawn and a steeper but even slope for the rock and gravel garden feature.   We took care to arrange the rocks in a natural way and use them to retain pea shingle.   Moisture retention is crucial with drying salt winds and sandy soil . The pea shingle is therefore laid over geotextile to provide a mulch and weed barrier for low maintenance.

Rock and Gravel Garden

Local rocks arranged with pea shingle and marine plants

Plants for Seaside Rock and Gravel Garden

We chose Eryngium planum (tall blue sea-holly), silene schafta ( pink sea campion), armeria maritima ( sea thrift), different thymes, lavender and stipa tenuissima as the main plants.   It gives a lively and natural feel to the rock and gravel feature. They are all salt tolerant and low maintenance.

Lavender, grasses and sea holly

Lavender sets off the rock garden below.

Selecting Trees for Your Garden

Acer japonicum 'Aconitifolium'

Red purple flowers and soft green spring foliage of Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’

This is a good time for selecting trees to provide special interest in your garden. If you plant them now in late winter, they will establish well.  Choose those which have at least two seasons of interest. This can be spring foliage and flowers, autumn colour and winter structure.




Cornus Species

Cornus alternifolia 'Argentea'

Tiered layers of variegated foliage of Cornus alternifolia ‘Argentea’

There are several Cornus varieties which are great – alternifolia ‘Argentea’ has tiered branches with white variegated leaves.  Cornus kousa ‘Venus’ has pale pink long lasting bracts and Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’ – the wedding cake tree is spectacular. Underplant them with narcissi, alchemilla and astrantia to have flowers from early spring through summer.



Betula Species

Betula utilis var. jacquemontii

Stunning white bark of Betula utilis var. jacquemontii

Stunning bark and an open habit make birch trees a good choice.  They can be multi-stemmed and perhaps the most used in contemporary gardens is Betula utilis var. jacquemontii for its bright white bark.  Underplant them with contrasting purple bergenias, snowdrops and spring bulbs.





Trachycarpus fortuneii

Large fan leaves of the hardy Chusan Palm

For a tropical feel in a sheltered spot, think about the hardy Chusan palm, Trachycarpus fortuneii which has large fan shaped leaves. It is good in town gardens and here by the sea, it has some protection from the wind provided by phormiums and a rose hedge. After bad winter storms, it gets tattered but recovers again with new shoots from within. The Dwarf fan palm Chaemerops humilis is a good choice for a sunny sheltered border but is frost tender.  Cordylines are great in mild coastal areas and come in a range of reds and greens, starting as small shrubs and growing to a tall cabbage palm tree. A much hardier palm is the Chilean wine palm, Jubaea chilensis with a large trunk and striking large silver green leaves.

Vertical Accents

Juniperus communis 'Hibernica'

Slow growing blue-green Irish juniper provides a strong vertical accent.

Fastigiate or narrow vertical tree forms provide interesting accents to plant borders.  Juniperus scopulorum ‘Skyrocket’, Juniperus communis ‘Hibernica’, and the Italian cyprus, Cupressus sempervirens ‘Green Pencil’ can be used singly or in striking groups.  Japanese yew, Podocarpus macrophyllus and Irish yew,Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’ are slow growing and can also be used to emphasise gateways and entrances.



Acer Species

Acer palmatum 'Atropurpureum'

Rich purple foliage of Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’

For purple foliage, Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’ is hard to beat.  Acer palmatum ‘Shaina’ is a lovely rounded tree with pinkish red foliage. Acer negundo ‘Flamingo’ is a larger tree but can be pollarded to give the best pink-flushed variegated leaves.  For good bark try the snake-barked Acer davidii ‘George Forrest’.

Marine Border – Planting Design

Marine Border – Planting Design


Grasses, Achillea, Loosestrife and Bees Balm in the long border

Grasses, Achillea, Loosestrife and Bees Balm in the long marine border

The planting design for this 20 metre long marine border in Kerry has arcs of different species of plants separated by bands of upright Karl Foerster grass which provides structure from spring to late winter.  Provided there is shelter from prevailing winds, many herbaceous perennials are suitable for seaside locations. 

The planting is interspersed with Euphorbia characias subspecies wulfenii and Euphorbia martinii. The marine border has lots of sun and good drainage as it is on a sloping bank between the lawn and driveway. The plants are loved by bees and butterflies which buzz and flutter through adding their own colour and interest.


Two species of Achillea are grown here – Achillea millefolium ( ‘a thousand leaves’ ) and Achillea filipendulina ( ‘like meadowsweet’).  Both yarrow and meadowsweet grow prolifically in this Kerry location so these garden equivalents are good bets.

Several deep pink colours of Achillea millefolium 'Cerise Queen'

Several deep pink colours of Achillea millefolium ‘Cerise Queen’

The ‘Cerise Queen’ was grown from seed 9 months ago and has produced several different pink coloured heads which look gorgeous together. The foliage is very soft and feathery.





Achillea filipendulina 'Gold Plate'  contrasts with grasses and pink loosestrife.

Achillea filipendulina ‘Gold Plate’


‘Gold Plate’ provides eye catching bright yellow plates of flowers and contrasts with the tall grasses and pink loosestrife. Its foliage is deeply cut and a bright green.



Monarda / Bergamot

Purple Monarda  'Prairienacht' -  Bees Balm

Purple Monarda ‘Prairienacht’ – Bees Balm

Monarda ‘Prairenacht’ has rich violet- purple whorls of flower up its stem,  smells delightfully of bergamot ( as used in Earl Grey tea) and is a haven for bees justifying its common name of ‘Bees Balm’.

It is also in  the picture below with the loosestrife and crocosmia.



Lythrum / Loosestrife

Lythrum salicaria 'Robert' - pink loosestrife with Crocosmia 'Canary Bird'

Lythrum salicaria ‘Robert’ – pink loosestrife with Crocosmia ‘Canary Bird’

Pink spires of Lythum salicaria ‘Robert’ look attractive through the summer. It is a cousin of the native purple loosestrife which grows abundantly with the native orange Crocosmia or montbretia.  Here it is planted with a pale tangerine Crocosmia ‘Canary Bird’ as a natural companion.




Salvia vertillicata

Salvia verticillata 'Purple Rain'

Whorls of flowers on the dark stems of Salvia verticillata ‘Purple Rain’


This ‘Purple Rain’ variety of Salvia verticillata has a long flowering season to display its red-purple stems with its whorls (hence ‘verticillata’ which means whorl) of purple flowers.




Catanche caerulea

The prettiest blue flowers of Catanche caerulea

The prettiest blue flowers of Catanche caerulea

Delightful pale lavender-blue flower heads with dark blue centres (hence ‘caerulea’ which means dark blue) on grey-green wiry stems catch the sea breeze and are a very pretty companion for grasses.   Papery buds and seedheads are attractive too, but their heads are cut as they die to prolong the flowering for as long as possible. The bluer patch of the border is introduced by junipers and heathers and spring colour is provided by narcissi, tulips and alliums throughout.


The planting of this marine border was started in September 2012 and is looking good less than a year on.  It is planted through weed control fabric mulched with gravel which also retains moisture, deters slugs and provides protection from drying winds.