Auckland Landscape Design – Plants for Coastal Sites
In Auckland, many landscape design projects I have worked on have had stunning coastal backdrops. With these gorgeous views, comes the challenge of putting together a landscape of plants or ‘plant palette’ that can cope with the salt laden winds of our exposed Auckland coastline.
Agapanthus aside, there are plenty of plants that are hardy to salty breezes and that will thrive in the humid Auckland climate. This blog focusses on the larger plants (trees, shrubs and hedges) you might find suitable for your Auckland landscape design project. A second blog on smaller plants will follow.
Coastal Auckland Landscapes – Wind tolerant trees and shrubs
Every landscape design needs at least one tree for scale and impact. Iconic Auckland coastal trees such as Cabbage Trees (Cordyline australis) and Pohutakawa (Metrosiderous excelsa) are excellent coastal choices.
If you like the Pohutukawa look but don’t have space in your Auckland garden for a 10m+ tree, then consider one of its smaller cousins such as shrubby Metrosideros ‘ Tahiti’, which flashes its brilliant scarlet-orange flowers from mid-winter through spring and makes a great coastal hedge when clipped.
Another showy flowering shrub / small tree perfect for use in an Auckland coastal landscape design is Callistemon (bottle brush). Prized for their striking flowers and great if you are wanting to attract birds to your garden, new modest sized cultivar’s perfect for the smaller Auckland plot include Callistemon ‘Little John’ and C.‘Macarthur’. These can be used as small trees, large shrubs or hedged.
Manuka and Kanuka are fast growing ‘pioneer’ plants that can also provide shelter for other establishing plants. Ranging from 4m+ trees to rounded, sprawling shrubs, there are plenty of forms to choose from, with showy displays of red, pink or white flowers.
Leucadendrons and Proteas have spectacular flower bracts that are popular in floral design as well as being an easy-care landscape option. These South African beauties are not as well suited to our humid Auckland climate, however can sometimes be seen flourishing if localised conditions are just right, so don’t discount them.
A good flowering tree option, especially for the more petite Auckland garden, is the bird attracting Kowhai. It has a lovely, airy form that can look amazing just underplanted with soft grasses for a very simple, coastal landscape design solution. Sophora longicarinata is a one of the smallest tree-form Kowhai, which has a graceful weeping form and a mature size of 3m – 5m.
Auckland Landscape Design - Coastal subtropical
A popular Auckland landscape design theme is ‘coastal subtropical’, a glorious mix of large foliage plants and tough palms. Many of our lovely New Zealand native trees and large shrubs are particularly well suited to this design idiom, as well as being suitable for the coastal Auckland landscape.
Puka (Meryta sinclarii) is a stand-out landscape feature tree, with distinct oversized glossy leaves just perfect for a sub-tropical design. It needs space to spread though and as we know the Auckland garden can often be spatially challenged.
If your landscape space is limited, take another look at many of our popular NZ native shrubs as with a little shaping, many of these bird-attracting shrubs can also be grown as small landscape trees. Plants families such as Pseudopanx (fivefinger) and the faster growing Coprosma (karamu) and Griselinia (kapuka) all have a multitude of big leaved, wind tolerant cultivars to choose from. These all also make ideal landscape hedges, if your design has a formal element or you need a windbreak or privacy solution.
Showy Hibiscus are popular in sub-tropical landscape design and with a little shelter from the harshest winds can also be suitable in a coastal design. With so many to choose from it’s hard to know where to start. For the Auckland landscape, consider New Zealand-bred varieties by Jack Clarke, known as Clarke’s Hybrids. These are a cross between Fijian and Hawaiian hibiscus and are ideally suited to Auckland conditions. Hawaiian hibiscus are also suitable for the Auckland landscape, preferring a warm, sheltered, sunny spot.
Lemon scented Michelia gracipes and Michelia yunnanensis are tough plants much used in Auckland landscape design. Members of the magnolia family, they are great shrubs for the coastal garden. Ideal as a hedging plant, Michelia can also be grown as a small specimen tree - perfect if you like the look of larger Magnolia trees such as M.‘Little Gem, but don’t have the space. Like magnolia, michelia have glossy leaves with a furry brown coating on the under side that is great for repelling salt laden winds.
In addition to plants mentioned already, consider Pittosporum and Corokia for windswept Auckland landscapes. Some cultivars make better hedging plants than others and for the coastal Auckland garden best hedge design outcomes are achieved with those than have tighter forms such as Pittosporum ‘ Stephens’ Island’ and Corokia ‘Geenty’s Green’.
One could go on, as there is an abundance of plants which are suitable to coastal positions and that could be included in your landscape design. Whatever you eventually decide on, give it the best chance of flourishing by ensuring the plant also fits other site conditions, such as soil type, drainage and sun aspect. This will save you a lot of time and effort in the long run and reward you for years to come for a gorgeous coastal garden.
Stuck for ideas?
Just get in touch and we will help you create a personalised plan for your own Auckland Coastal Landscape Design.