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Plants for a New Zealand Coastal Garden

Plants for a New Zealand Coastal Garden
Plants for a NZ Coastal Landscape Garden

Auckland - Landscape Design for Coastal Gardens

Auckland landscape design often involves the creation of a planting scheme that will survive the challenges of a coastal setting. Our previous blog on coastal gardens in Auckland focussed on suggestions for landscape trees, shrubs and hedges to use in a coastal landscape design, in the temperate Auckland region.  In this follow up blog, the focus is on lower-growing plants.

In Auckland, landscape design choosing plants that are well-suited to our humid climate is vital to a successful outcome. In addition, coastal landscapes are typically exposed to strong, salt laden winds. To preserve those stunning Auckland harbour or sea views, plantings are often kept low to the ground and the lack of shade results in sun-drenched beds that are often incredibly dry. Add those conditions up and it makes for challenging set of growing conditions.

If you are planning your landscape design, or for those that like to wing it, hitting one of the many Auckland garden centres or nurseries without a formed landscape design in hand, there are plenty of amenity landscape plants that are well suited to such conditions. Fortunately, these plants have helpfully evolved to have a few obvious visual characteristics that can help you identify them.

Silver or glaucous (blue-green) toned foliage.

This is good indicator that a plant is drought tolerant. 

Think lavender and rosemary, both of which are ideal plants if you are wanting to attract bees to your garden. If you are looking for something less predictable, in my Auckland landscape design projects I’ve been using a lot of Salvia leucanthe , which gives a fuss-free lavender-like effect. I also like to use the open and airy form of Verbena boniariensis which also flowers over a long period. 

Silver toned Westringia (Australian box / Australian rosemary) is a useful plant family to get familiar with. Be it for hedges, free form shrubs, mounds or clipped, formal balls – there’s most likely a suitable sized cultivar bred specifically for your desired purpose. It requires a lot less clipping than Teucrium, another great coastal plant which has a similar look but is a vigorous grower and so is better suited to the larger Auckland garden, where it will have room to spread.

Auckland coastal landscape design and Pohutukawa go hand in hand and as anyone who has ever tried to grow plants beneath one of these will tell you, it’s a tough, dry spot. Especially if you have a preference for NZ natives.  Arthropodium is a great colonising groundcover for sun and shade which will cope with dry conditions. With it’s wide grey-green leaves and attractive white flowers, Arthropoium  ‘Matapouri Bay’ is my favouite.  Silver flax-like Astelias are another great option for dry areas (sun or shade). Astelia chathamica has the wide, pale silver leaves and Astlia banksia a narrower, slightly greener leaf.

Furry and / or Waxy Leaves  

Not just pretty to look at, those glossy plant leaves are actually a protective measure. Plants with shiny leaves actually have a waxy coating , which acts as protection against certain environmental factors by creating a barriers between the leaf and the environment. This helps the plant retain moisture in hot environments as the coatings can help deflect the rays of the sun to keep the plant from transpiring too quickly. That’s why these thick leaves, are also often moisture filled. Like the super-popular star jasmine ‘ Trachelospermum jasminoides’.

A huge range of options for size and, colour and leaf form can be found in the coprosma family, some aptly known as ‘mirror plants’. This glossy leaved plant family includes shrubs, hedges and my favourite sprawling groundcover Coprosma repens ‘Poor Knights’.

Ground hugging coprosmas great for scrambling over sunny slopes and large areas, are Coprosma Taiko’ and  Coprosma ‘Kirkii’. These have a low habit and small leaves which are still thick and glossy, so well suited to use in a coastal landscape design. With coverage of up to 3m + for some cultivars, spreading plants are a god-send to the gardener on a tight budget.

Another landscape design plant favourite is ‘five-finger’ (Pseupdonax), with thick glossy leaves in deep green, burgundy and even variegated tones.  

For smaller foliage consider the useful and versatile coastal tolerant Escallonia. With its glossy foliage and fast growth habit it makes a great hedge alternative to buxus but can also be grown as a shrub or clipped into mounds. Pink, white and crimson flowers are subtle but profusive.

The above list is by no means exhaustive,  but does show that there are an abundance of plants which are suitable to coastal landscape use and with their helpful visual clues they are easy to spot, even for the novice gardener. If you are looking for professional help to with your Auckland coastal landscape design, get in touch. We’d love to help.

We are an Auckland based landscape design company. Located in Titirangi, West Auckland we work online providing a range of affordable fixed-price landscape and planting plans to help get your garden transformation underway. 


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