||Coastal trees and hedging
If you are planting trees or shrubs specifically to reduce the wind speed as it hits your garden, you should try to choose subjects that are ‘fit for purpose’. In other words, they should be happy growing in the most exposed of places. Garden hedging plants
do not need to be quite so wind-tolerant, but they do have to be good wind filters, so the density of the branches and leaves becomes very important.
Plants for windbreaks and hedges
This chapter covers which trees and shrubs are suitable for providing a windbreak and which are good for making formal and informal hedging and path edging.
Where a windbreak is concerned, the plants chosen – whether they are trees or large shrubs – will become effective only once they have reached a mature size. Therefore, do not expect the wind speed to be broken by small, young or underdeveloped plants.
In the biting wind near the cliff edge or shoreline, any rough vegetation will be welcome protection for a newly planted windbreak or hedge.
Native moorland plants (see page 117) as well as brambles, grasses and hardy bamboos, may be left on the windward side of the plants, if there is space for them. These plants will be tattered and singed by the wind, and are unlikely to reach their optimum height and decorative standard, but they are not there to be looked at – in fact, if they are on the seaward side of a windbreak, you may not get to see them at all.
There is not a great deal of choice when it comes to trees to form a shelter belt by the sea.
The most effective are evergreen types, which will give protection all the year round, but there are
also some very fine deciduous trees worth considering. These will be at their most efficient
as wind filters when in full leaf, but in the winter
they can still reduce wind speed on the leeward
side significantly. Fortunately there is a much greater range of seaside shrubs that can be considered for use as windbreaks and hedges.
All of the plants included in this chapter will not mind being singed by salt spray. They will also tolerate high winds and, provided they are planted well and firmed and staked when young, should remain upright and firm at the roots.
Trees for large gardens
Black gum, or tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica AGM) This tree will grow up to 50ft (15m) in a sheltered position, but nearer 30ft (9m) in an exposed spot. Leathery, dark green leaves turn brilliant orange and red in autumn. It tolerates drought, but also grows well in wetlands. USDA Zone: Z3
Chusan palm (Trachycarpus fortunei AGM) This evergreen palm has 3ft (90cm) wide, fan-shaped leaves, making it an ideal specimen tree for large lawns. It can reach 33ft (10m). Large heads of tiny, yellow flowers appear in late spring, sometimes followed by blue-black berries. USDA Zone: Z9
Cider gum (Eucalyptus gunnii AGM) Most forms of Eucalyptus have attractive bark, handsome foliage and many-stamened white flowers. E. gunnii can reach 100ft (30m) or more, so in smaller gardens it is best coppiced, or grown as a multi-stemmed bush to 10ft (3m). USDA Zone: Z8
False cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana) This species of evergreen conifer has produced hundreds of forms, many of which are dwarf or slow-growing. The main species makes an excellent specimen tree with its narrow habit and dense foliage. It also makes a good, dense hedge, but can be clipped only into live foliage. USDA Zone: Z5–8
Norway maple (Acer platanoides AGM) Most maples form large trees, or at least large shrubs. They make wonderful structural plantings, both for their foliage and bark. This form can reach as much as 80ft (24m), but usually nearer to 50ft (15m) if windswept. Salt-tolerant. USDA Zone: Z3
Wattle (Acacia spp) Wattles like open sites in full sun and a well-drained soil, but not shallow chalk. They will die in extremely cold weather, but they do tolerate wind and salt well. Acacia dealbata AGM has silvery-green leaves and yellow flowers. USDA Zone: Z8
Trees and shrubs for windbreaks
Escallonia (Escallonia spp) These evergreen shrubs and small trees have pretty, small tubular flowers in pink, red or white. They withstand wind well, but are even better if given shelter. Excellent hybrids include ‘Apple Blossom’ AGM (pink and white flowers) and ‘Donard Brilliance’ (crimson). USDA Zone: Z7–9
Oleaster (Elaeagnus pungens) The flowers of this evergreen shrub are not overtly decorative, but they are heavily fragrant. It is fast- growing and tolerant of wind. Elaeagnus x ebbingei is larger-growing – up to 5m. USDA Zone: Z2–10
Pittosporum (Pittosporum tenuifolium AGM) In colder climates, some pittosporums can be damaged during hard winters, but they are excellent for coastal sites. P. tenuifolium is most frequently seen, but P. tobira AGM is also common. USDA Zone: Z?
Privet (Ligustrum spp) The privets can be either deciduous or evergreen shrubs and trees. Ligustrum ovalifolium is actually semi-evergreen, with mid-green leaves and clusters of tiny, white, fragrant flowers in mid summer. One of the best for a show of blooms is the deciduous L. quihoui AGM. USDA Zone: Z3–9
Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides AGM) This is an easy-going plant, thriving on sandy soil and in coastal gardens. It often fruits well, retaining its orange berries long after the silver, willow-like leaves have fallen. It is a useful plant where height is needed – it can grow to (or be kept to) anything between 3-30ft (1-9m). USDA Zone: Z3
Tamarisk, or salt cedar (Tamarix ramosissima) These hardy, deciduous shrubs, native to Europe, Asia and Africa, are practically synonymous with seaside planting. Their pale to mid-green feather-like foliage looks delicate but can withstand heavy wind. Small rose-pink flowers are carried on spikes in late summer. The form ‘Rubra’ AGM has red flowers. USDA Zone: Z2
Broadleaf (Griselinia littoralis AGM) This is an upright, fast-growing evergreen shrub or small tree of dense habit, grown for its apple-green leaves. These leaves are waxy-coated, making them resistant to wind and salt. Young growth can suffer in bitterly cold wind and frost. It grows best in full sun and a well-drained soil. USDA Zone: Z7
Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus AGM) This vigorous, wide-spreading evergreen shrub or small tree, if left untrimmed, can reach up to 20ft (6m). The leaves are leathery, glossy, green and oblong, and the flowers come in white heads in mid-spring, followed by purple-black fruits. USDA Zone: Z7
Holly (Ilex spp) The common holly (Ilex aquifolium AGM) has numerous hybrids and cultivars. The species itself has dark green leaves and red berries. ‘J.C. van Tol’ AGM has narrow leaves with few spines and red berries; ‘Golden King’ has variegated leaves and red berries. USDA Zone: Z5–6
Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus AGM) The common hornbeam is a graceful tree which can grow to more than 50ft (15m) high. In gardens it is best clipped as a hedge, where it makes an excellent wind filter. The green, ribbed and fluted leaves turn bright yellow in autumn. USDA Zone: Z5
Sweet bay, or bay laurel (Laurus nobilis AGM) An aromatic, hardy, evergreen tree or shrub, from the Mediterranean, this plant usually forms a dense, pyramidal bush up to 20ft (6m). In mild, coastal regions it can be more tree-like. Small yellowish flowers appear in mid-spring. Bay is subject to browning in hard winters. USDA Zone: Z8
Yew (Taxus baccata AGM) Yew will tolerate dry soil and reasonably dense shade, and can be clipped into a formal hedge. Go for the straight Taxus baccata, with mid- to deep green foliage and bright red berries. If left, it will make a large tree. All parts of the yew are poisonous. USDA Zone: Z6
Dwarf white-striped bamboo (Pleioblastus variegatus AGM) Most bamboos grow larger than this form, which reaches only 6ft (1.8m). It has broad leaves of apple green marked with wide cream bands. It can spread, but not excessively, and makes a fine hedge. ‘Tsuboii’ has the best colouring. USDA Zone: Z7
Forest flame (Pieris formosa var. forrestii) This shrub is at its best in spring, when displays of white, bell-shaped blossoms appear, followed by young shoots in fiery reds or delicate pinks and creams. This new growth can be easily scorched by frost, so it is best suited to gardens where late frosts are rarer. Pieris need an acid soil. USDA Zone: Z5–7
Hardy fuchsia (Fuchsia magellanica) Fuchsias are perhaps best known as pot plants or summer plants, but F. magellanica is a hardy form that can stay outside all year round. It may be harmed in a severely cold winter. Flowers are long, slender and red and purple. USDA Zone: Z6
Laurustinus (Viburnum tinus) A bushy, evergreen shrub, this durable plant has oval, mid-green leaves. White, pink-budded flowerheads are carried from late autumn through to late spring. Plants will grow to 6–10ft (1.8–3m) in height. ‘Gwenllian’ AGM and ‘Eve Price’ AGM are two excellent forms. USDA Zone: Z7
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) Rosemary makes a fine aromatic plant in a sunny spot with a free-draining soil. It grows to around 5ft (1.5m) in height and has narrow grey-green leaves and clusters of small, pale blue flowers in spring and early summer. More upright in habit is ‘Miss Jessop’s Upright’ AGM. USDA Zone: Z6–8
Wild hedging rose (Rosa rugosa) Wild shrub roses are good for difficult seaside areas. Rosa rugosa flowers first in late spring on 6ft (2m) high canes, with deep, leathery foliage, then repeatedly throughout the summer. A very hardy species, it can tolerate salt spray, poor soil and drought. USDA Zone: Z2
Box (Buxus sempervirens AGM) Box is perfect for training into low pathway hedging or even into topiary shapes. It is shade-tolerant, but variegated forms need full sun. USDA Zone: Z5
Common myrtle (Myrtus communis AGM) The myrtle is an aromatic, evergreen shrub from warm regions. Against a sheltered, sunny wall it can reach a height and spread of 8–12ft (2.4–3.5m). White, fragrant flowers appear in summer, followed by black berries. Smaller, with finer leaves, is M. communis subsp. tarentina AGM. USDA Zone: Z8
Euonymus (Euonymus fortunei) This species of Euonymus may be a trimmed to a shrub or left to grow into a small tree. The three most frequently seen forms are ‘Emerald’n’Gold’ AGM (with green, gold and pink leaves), ‘Emerald Gaiety’ AGM (green and cream leaves), and ‘Silver Queen’ (leaves with white edges). The waxy-coated leaves are good for repelling salt. USDA Zone: Z5
Lavender (Lavandula spp) To many, lavender epitomizes dry soil and a sun-drenched climate. The old English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) has pale blue flowers on long stems. There are many other excellent varieties, including ‘Hidcote’ AGM (violet flowers) and ‘Hidcote Pink’ (with pink flowers). The French lavender (L. stoechas AGM) has dark purple flowers topped by distinctive bracts. USDA Zone: Z5–9
Skimmia (Skimmia ‘Rubella’ AGM) Skimmias are grown mostly for their rich, evergreen foliage and berries. Both male and female plants need to be grown to get the bright red berries. The flowering exception is ‘Rubella’ AGM, which has clusters of tiny, red flower buds. USDA Zone: Z7
Spotted laurel (Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’) This evergreen shrub grows in the most shaded and difficult of places. Rounded, evergreen leaves are richly coloured with cream and yellow spots. Aucuba japonica ‘Picturata’ has pointed leaves, whilst A. japonica ‘Crotonifolia’ AGM has more yellow in the leaves and produces berries freely. USDA Zone: Z7