West Coast Garden Style: How To Garden By The Beach

Summer is in full swing, but the deserved year-end holiday is still a few weeks away. And I’m in the office just dreaming of where I would rather be…on a beach, in the sun, not far from home with mussels for lunch and fish potjie for supper. Well, then why not let’s look at the West Coast of the Southern Cape and discover what makes West Coast garden style and the garden plants and elements you will need for gardening by the beach.

DESIGNER West Coast Garden OR ‘AL NATURALE’

The secret tip to designing a West Coast garden is… wait for it …don’t design it! The charm of most beach houses and their outdoor spaces is that nature is untouched. Leave your coast garden wild and free and tousled in the salty air as it should be. It’s very hard to manicure your garden by the coast. The salt-laden winds, hot heat, glare off the sand, and little shade make it a harsh environment. In fact, most garden plants won’t like these conditions.

Forget having a lawn, please!! My pet peeve is going to seaside towns where everyone has a horrible patch of dry, brown lawn at their empty holiday house. Their pooches and kids only run around it once or twice a year. A lawn needs regular watering and mowing. Most folks on holiday don’t like doing lawn maintenance at all. Moreover, lawns creep into neighbouring wetlands and Fynbos areas where the soil retains more moisture. Soon, they choke out the myriad of indigenous plants growing there.

WOOD, STONE, SHELLS

It goes without saying that the beach house should blend with its natural surroundings. Ideally, you should construct your beach house with local materials. Furthermore, stick to local building methods. This will truly give it that holiday feel. A few towns along our West Coast have some houses that are wonderfully right in the West Coast garden style. Paternoster, Churchhaven, Elands, and Grotto all have some beautiful examples. Here, the outdoor spaces are treated as ‘minimally’ as the interior.

Natural woods, stone, shells, thatch and whitewashed walls lend a Mediterranean simplicity. Moreover, this simplistic styling is very appealing and calming.

Taking a Cue from the West Coast Flower Season

The West Coast is home to the most beautiful indigenous plants, including Fynbos. Every year, in springtime, when the West Coast flowers bloom, thousands of visitors flock to see the veld turn into a rainbow of colour. The brackish, slightly alkaline sand supports a wide array of plants. For that reason, lowering groundcovers, shrubs, perennials, and even trees can all be used in the West Coast garden.

West Coast Flowering Season at the West Coast National Park

GROUNDCOVERS are essential for a West Coast Garden

When establishing a new garden by the beach, you will need to deal with shifting sand. Therefore, the first thing to do is to plant fast-growing groundcovers and scrambling plants. Since these plants cover soil quickly, they will stabilise the shifting sand. Most of these groundcovers are used to being ripped apart by strong winds. Therefore, they propagate very easily from cuttings. Good choices are Carpobrotus dimidiates and edulis, Scaevola plumeri, Arctotis auirculata and stoechadifolia flower with bright lemon yellow to bright orange blooms as well as Gazania rigens with its black striped markings.

Other ones that do very well by the coast are Cliffortia feruginea, Geranium incanum, Helichrysum petiolare and cymosum, Jordaaniella dubia, Lampranthus roseus, Monopsis lutea, Pelargonium capitatum and Ruschia macowani with their pink jewel-like succulent flowers.

WINDBREAKS & SUCCULENTS

Creating a buffer from the wind is important for protecting your beach house. Furthermore, wind buffering is also essential for establishing more tender plants. At least until they can tolerate the harsh environment.

Good trees for buffering the wind are the Dune Guarrie (Euclea racemosa), the Wild Olive (Olea europea subsp. Africana), Salix hirsuta, the iconic Milkwood (Sideroxylon inerme) and the Camphor bush (Tarchonanthus camphoratus). Scrambling shrubs that grow big enough to buffer the wind are Chrysanthemoides incana and monilifera, Metalasia muricata, Rhus crenata, Brachyleana discolour.

There are lots of wonderful flowering succulents for the beach garden in South Africa. Good choices include Cotyledon orbiculata (grey and green varieties), Euphorbia mauritanica, Lampranthus aureus, Othonna cylindrical, and dentate.

PERENNIALS & BULBS

Of the flowering perennials, favourites include Arctotis ‘silver lining’, Eriocephalus africanus and racemosa, Felicia amelloides and heterophylla, Limonium perigrinum, Monopsis lutea, Osteospermum fruticosum, Orphium frutescens, Pelargonium betulinum, Salvia lanceolata, Scabiosa incisa.

Beautiful bulbs for the West Coast garden include Amaryllis Belladonna, Babiana Stricta, the amazing Candelabra Flower (Brunsvigia orientalis), Chasmanthe Floribunda, Lachenalia Bulbifera, Watsonia marginata with its pale pink blooms and Zantedeschia aethiopica.

When putting it all together, look to nature to see what grows in the sand around your beach house. Copy its palette with a few spring-flowering bulbs and summer perennials to ensure your garden is pretty when you are there in the summer.

West Coast Garden ACCESSORIES

The simple charm of the West Coast garden style can incorporate crushed beach shell pathways. Sun-bleached river rocks amongst the groundcovers work well. Moreover, driftwood pieces used as sculptures or table adornments look just fine. Furthermore, use old buoys to tie to your gate post or old boat rope to mark parking areas. In addition, you can also use old boat ropes as fencing.

Gum latte screens, pergola or awning, timber and whitewashed furniture all add to the character of your beach property. Beach pebbles and collected beach glass art can also be used.

Keep what you put together to a limited selection and combine the simplicity of white and pastel colours with natural materials. Wicker and the new range of plastic wicker outdoor furniture work well for the beach house feel. Combine these with hard-wearing canvas materials for sun shades, windscreens, day beds and chair cushions.

Decking, either real wood or the faux version, makes the best patio and deck surfaces for the beach house. What’s great is that it can age to a silvery grey, and it is not too hot underfoot in the harsh sun. Real stonewalling works very well for this style. Ideally, local stone should enhance the braai chimney, built-in seating, or fireplace surround if you are ‘accessorising’.

Forget the little twirly seagull on the gate. Leave your slip slops on or off and let the real seagulls and smell of the sea into your heart at your seaside getaway. If you like the beautiful beach house images pictured in this blog and want to visit this piece of paradise, research the Perfect Hideaways website for their Churchhaven accommodation choices.

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Let’s plan your landscaping project together!

We plan, install and maintain award-winning landscapes for our commercial clients and project partners. Clients who wish to add function, value and inspiration to their outdoor spaces and properties.

Our roots are in Cape Town, but our footprint stretches deep into southern Africa.