Bring the beach into your Mediterranean garden
I It is the ultimate dream of the south: a house right on the beach or overlooking the sea. Perhaps you’ll have to stick with the view of the more or less distant sea. But even if your garden on the Côte d’Azur is a few kilometers from the beach, you can still easily create a special garden that brings the feeling of beach, summer, sun and salt on your skin to your private home.
If, on the other hand, you are the happy owner of a garden by the sea, there are a few things to keep in mind for your garden to work. Already the meager soils and the heat of the summer are quite stressful for non-adapted plants. But even the winter weather here on the Côte can result in quite some stress for your plants. Winter storms, fierce winds and salty air are special conditions. It is important to select the right plants.
Regardless of the location however, it’s the very low care this kind of a garden will need, that makes the beach our subject. Because of the choice of materials and plants, there are many aspects that make a garden easy to maintain. Lawns, fruit trees, classical perennial borders and generally fruits and vegetables do not work well on the sea. They are not only a problem in sandy soils and the marine climate, they also do not look good in a “seaside garden”.
Great materials for such a beach garden are of course sand – horticultural sand, not building sand, of course – large finds of bleached, sanded driftwood, as you will find it after winter storms everywhere on the beaches here and large stones with warm colors: pierre rocaille lets us think about coral reefs and the Caribbean. With these rugged and open-pored stones, you can not only skillfully set accents, so they look chic even with newly buit ultramodern villas. You can also mark different garden areas with them, create water features, set up a densely planted rock garden or build the foundation for hills that, for example, properly planted, form your property boundary and give you privacy.
Wood planks are the ideal surrounding for your pool in a seaside garden and will suggest the feel of footbridges or beach walks. Slightly tilted, low fences made from roughly sawn or hewn wood not only add accents, but help to protect your terrain. Shadow zones that you can create with spanned sailcloths in different places of your garden are not only tremendously effective and less susceptible to wind than umbrellas, they are also much more atmospheric and almost give your beach garden, when combined with thicker ropes or maybe even a small bar, the feeling like you’re at Tahiti Beach or Necker Island. Well, there you have it, now only a hammock is missing, right?!
Now, in this easy-care summer paradise, which turns your garden into an open-air living room, you only need the right plants. What fits and what looks good?
Basically, you should decide whether you are stylistically rather in the barren, so to speak Californian-Australian-Mediterranean direction, or whether you would rather prefer more lush plants, with large leaves, strong-colored flowers and voluminous growth forms. Then everything fits, which makes you think more of the Caribbean, Cuba and Florida. For today I’ll stay with the even more barren version, which is particularly well tolerated by the local, native plants.
Of course, palm trees should not be missing, otherwise no Robinson Crusoe will want to get lost in your paradise. On the Côte d’Azur Phoenix canariensis, Trachycarpus, Washingtonia or – depending on the situation – even Coco will work. But also Chamaerops, Sabal and Areca are a feast for the eyes of a beach garden. You will be amazed at how much better your palms look when they are not in a meadow but surrounded by sand and decorative stones!
By the way, completely new results from southern Spain show that a therapy with the fungus “Beauveria bassiana”, already suggested in this blog, actually works at this point and does not only offer itself as an ecological solution, but actually helps as an inoculation, against the palm weevil and the palm moth. Good news!
Of course, many eucalyptus species are recommended as trees, but be careful: they draw a lot of water from the bottom and some species make a lot of filth in the wind, through leaves and bark. Stylistically, Casuarinas or, of course, Cupressus macrocarpa are good for you, if your garden is closer to the cliffs of the French Riviera and you love the look of a little bit of California, think of Big Sur and Monterrey. Pinus radiata and Pinus torreyana would reinforce this impression and are exciting additions to the native umbrella pines.
As shrubs many Dodonaea species (e.g., D. viscosa) come to my mind; have a look at Oceania’s Dodonaeas: they are a great and sometimes downright funny alternative to oleander.
Not only because of their humorous side, but also because of their bee-friendliness and their style, of course, all Grevilleas and Callistemons are a very good choice. They are always an eye-catcher, render your garden attractive even in the winter months and are extremely variable, when it comes to whether you prefer rather rugged and shrubby looks, or natural, or even neatly educated looks of your plants, so you might think of a well-kept beach resort. Hakeas fit well and cast great shadows on stones and sand; they are a magnificent way to reflect any pine trees above.
Many Melaleuca species are similar eye-catchers as their counterparts, the Callistemons; especially Melaleuca nesophila, if you plant them near your robinson bar, they will cause admiration, astonishment, maybe conversations.
Juniperus conferta is ideal as a low-growing shrub and barrier on the property line against unwanted visitors in the garden, as well as for securing slopes – and as a change to the ubiquitious Rosmarinus, which also likes it close to the sea.
Numerous species more are suitable for very special gardens by the sea, or those green spaces that give us the feeling of summer, sun and beach, (if we have to make do with our pool while we still work on the beach house). A beach garden should never be too crowded. It should be loose and naturally planted and avoid symmetries. Wide, open spaces with sand are important, so the shadows can play on the sand, leaving room for a round of beach volleyball before we hit the barbecue.