Urban gardener, Cleve West: Do the strand

My mother's small garden at Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex is a simple affair. A rectangular patio (I prefer the word terrace but this is too grand a claim) and the rest laid to gravel where a mix of grasses, a couple of trees and a few perennials create a pleasant enough view come mid-summer. I built it before I really considered myself a designer, and at a time when there seemed to be more time for family and friends, who (as most garden designers will tell you) can be very useful guinea pigs.

The trouble is that now, every time I look at it, I know I could have done better. The proportions of the patio could have been more generous if I'd taken the trouble to remove a defunct concrete coalbunker, but it had been built as an integral part of the neighbouring wall and the whole lot would have needed replacing. I fudged around the issue suggesting that the bunker might be adapted to make a barbecue. It has yet to see its first charred veggieburger, but is much appreciated as a food station by the local bird population, including vagabond seagulls that are quick to finish off any snails that have the misfortune to be roaming its surface.

Aside from the fact that my knees are too creaky to do such things myself anymore it somehow doesn't warrant a full makeover. A new gate at the back wouldn't go amiss and the threadbare stem of a cypress tree (denuded due to its close proximity to an apple tree) looks ugly and could be replaced. Originally, a green backdrop of elder in the road behind accentuated the garden's intimacy, but these were removed by the council in one go, catching the garden with its pants down and leaving it exposed to a row of cottages. I tried creating a diversion by way of a shed. A tall one with elm weatherboard and a sedum roof. It worked to a point and, due to its tall, thin shape and dark colour, it also added a coastal flavour, much like the quirky fish-net drying sheds on Hastings beach. A mile or so from the sea itself, it can't really be classified as a seaside garden. Housing and fencing give it more than enough shelter from salty, drying winds. All the same it seems to resonate well enough with what you'd expect in a coastal town.

Salty sea-dogs have their work cut out in the garden if they follow the rule book that tells them to create shelter first. Trees (tamarix, hippophae, whitebeam) or hedging such as griselinia (a fine hedge anywhere), escallonia, euonymous or eleagnus. These will act as a buffer and allow you to indulge in shrubs and perennials that may struggle if left on their own. This is all well and good. Gardens like Inverewe, slap bang on the west coast of Scotland, have thick buffers of pine allowing a wonderful range of half hardy and even tender exotic plants to be grown.

Many gardens, however, don't have this luxury. Derek Jarman's garden at Prospect Cottage near Dungeness on the Kent coast is a classic example of planting that has been chosen because of its resilience to the lack of shelter. Put yourself in the plant's place and imagine the sort of protection you'll need from the harsh conditions. Grey foliage (eleagnus, rosemary, sage) to reflect the sun; thick, fleshy leaves or glossy foliage (yucca, hebe, euonymous, griselinia) to protect the plant from salt spray, as will slender, tough shoots (kniphofia, spartium, genista); small leaves or stunted form (armeria, sedum and alpines) that hug the ground to evade the worst of the weather.

If you do need shelter then stick with hedging if you can, rather than solid fencing, as this can make conditions even more tricky with the wind cavorting and vortexing its way over the solid obstacle and ripping through plants like a tornado. Some shelter might be necessary for the hedging in the first year or two. Fine mesh that wind can penetrate is best. Unsightly, yes, but only temporary - and much better than wasting time and money on plants that don't even make it through the first winter.

A useful book for coastal gardeners struggling on dry windy soil is 'The Seaside Gardener' by Richard Mortimer, priced around 10

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Sport
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all