While a cottage by the sea is many people’s idea of a dream home, the reality can be a challenge when it comes to creating a dream garden. The sandy soil by the coast is low on nutrients and doesn’t hold moisture well, and many traditional garden plants develop burned foliage or dieback from constant salty winds. Yet, there are a number of beautiful selections from the Mediterranean and beyond, which are already perfectly adapted to these conditions, and not only thrive, but have a “beachy” appearance that looks just right next to the ocean.
Chef’s Choice® Rosemary
Most Mediterranean herbs are an easy win for a coastal garden, because the well-draining, lean soil by the beach actually helps them to produce better oil content and therefore achieve better flavor. Not that ‘Chef’s Choice’ Rosemary needs the help! This variety naturally has a spicier flavor and a higher oil content than other varieties, and due to its compact size – it grows a sedate 18 inches tall and 12 inches wide – it can even be kept in a pot right outside your kitchen door.
Thriving in full sun, this water-wise pick is wind-tolerant, deer-resistant and doesn’t suffer from any pests. The light blue blooms in spring and summer are a boon to beneficial insects, and will draw honeybees and native bees to your kitchen garden to pollinate tomatoes, peppers and squash. In the landscape, mass them near colorful perennials and ornamental grasses for a casual appearance, or in a more formal kitchen garden, prune them into a loose cone or ball and elevate them in a classic Tuscan planter. They grow easily in Sunset zones 4-24.
If your idea of coastal paradise is an island in the tropics, then the classic gardenia fragrance from Jubilation™ Gardenia is the special touch your garden needs. The tropical fragrance brings to mind barefoot walks in the sand, syrupy island cocktails and a casual flower tucked behind the ear before a romantic dinner.
Though you may have tried Southern gardenias in the past and been disappointed, this new variety is a cold hardy, easy-care plant, which blooms heavily even in cooler climates. The rich green leaves have a waxy coating, which makes them more resistant to coastal wind, and this compact shrub, growing only 3 to 4 feet tall and wide, blooms from spring all the way through fall. It grows well in Sunset zones 6-24, and even zones 4-5 with protection. Give it a try in sun to part shade, and see if it doesn’t fill your spirit with jubilation.
‘Little Miss Sunshine’ Cistus
Rock roses are the workhorses of the garden and can survive in poor soil, drought, wind, salt and heat without a whimper or complaint, and ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ Cistus is no exception. Though many rock roses are prone to outgrowing their space and flopping ungraciously on other plants, this little variegated charmer stays a compact 12 inches tall by 18 inches wide, so it fits into any setting with ease.
White flowers cover the shrub in spring, and the gold edging on each leaf means ‘Little Miss’ shines on year-round, even after the flowers fade. Blue flowers make a classic contrast with golden foliage, so add a drift of ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ Cistus in the foreground of ‘Black and Bloom’ Salvia for an eye-catching combination. It does best in full sun, and is hardy to 20 to 25 degrees F.