Coastal Garden Design

Melbourne Coastal Garden design

Melbourne Coastal Garden design, depends heavily on selecting the right plants for the conditions. Coastal garden plants have to endure salt spray, wind and often not very fertile sandy soils. If you have a home in one of Melbourne's beachside suburbs these home gardening tips will help you establish a great garden.

The coast is an area of land that connects the mainland to the sea and is continuously changed by the sea, wind and other natural factors. A coastal landscape is a region of coastline with various coastal characteristics, some of which are erosional and some of which are depositional. Compared to other coastal landscapes, it is distinguished by the dominant traits that shape the coastline there.


Coastal Landscapes - Reds Landscaping & Design
Coastal Landscapes naturally consist of shifting sands blown by the wind.


Coastal landscapes are simple, they flow, and their design speaks volumes by enhancing the natural beauty of their location.

Coastal gardens

Coastal and seaside gardens are areas of attractiveness, beauty and fascination where you can relax and enjoy the beauty of the sea. Natural factors along the seaside might produce an unfavourable atmosphere for the garden plant. Harsh wind, salt spray and sandy soil are the factors that might affect the growth of the landscape plant. Due to all these factors, coastal gardening is always a challenge for the gardeners and even the most skilled.

Coastal garden designs

As mentioned above that, coastal gardening is always a challenge for gardeners. The first challenge that comes to mind is what to plant. The key point in designing the coastal garden is selecting those plants that can handle and tolerate the strong wind and salt spray. Fortunately, if carefully selected, many ornamental flowers and plants can survive and thrive in such kinds of conditions. These plants can help you to design the perfect coastal landscape. Consider planting native coastal plants, flowers and grasses. These hardy plants are well suited and have the added benefits of helping to control erosion and providing a beaker from blowing sand.

Coastal garden designs ideas

Bringing all the important and suitable elements into your coastal design. The harsh elements of the Australian coast can be used to highlight the natural raw beauty of the Australian coastline. First of all, never forget to use suitable native plants and resilient materials in your garden to increase the overall look of the garden and survive in the salty air. This will enable you to spend more time relaxing in your coastal garden for many years and less time in maintenance.

Choosing the proper constructing materials for coastal garden design is very important to ensure that it achieves the style and can also resist the harsh conditions of Australia because the normal construction materials decay three times quicker in saline air. So use a hardwood like spotted gum for fire and moisture-resistant to prevent fading.

To enhance durability and reduce the environmental effect of the coastal garden design, many builders now propose decking materials manufactured from recycled plastic over natural timber because the natural timber decks deteriorate much quicker on the coast and require re-oiling quickly than the recommended time.

To fit the rough nature of the garden, you should always use raw natural materials as a feature of a beautiful coastal garden design. Huge blocks of sandstones, granite and large containers with seasonal flowers are carefully located all around the garden to create an earthy, coastal atmosphere. The addition of entertaining and dining spaces, seats, and fire pits can help you invite guests and friends with whom you can spend time in your coastal gardens.

Australian coastal Garden Designs

The Australian coastline is a harsh and remarkably attractive feature of the country’s natural landscape. Unlike a tropical garden, Australian coastal gardens are not lush and overgrown; instead, they are delicate and strong-willed and typically Australian in nature. Coastal gardens in Australia should be designed to tolerate the salty air and hot climate. Australian native plants have evolved to tolerate hard Australian conditions and are an important element of any coastal garden. The uniqueness of the Australian coastal gardens has a distinct character that is both harsh and extremely beautiful. They do not require lots of water or maintenance and don’t confuse with tropical.

Gardening on Sandy Soil

As we know, the coastline's soil is mostly sandy, which contains a maximum proportion of sand particles with little silt or clay. The sand particles are much larger, and the gaps between them are bigger, due to which water flows away quickly. They are dry and warm in spring. In sandy soil, most nutrients are washed out quickly. Phosphorus is usually retained, but nitrogen and potassium go easily. Due to these factors, gardening on sandy soil is challenging but not impossible. Here are some tips to improve the health of the sandy soil and grow a beautiful and lush green garden on it.

How to improve Sandy Soil?

The best sandy soil amendments increase the ability of the sandy soil to retain water and increase the nutrients in the soil as well. This can be done by improving the condition of the sandy soil, and the best way to do this is to frequently and regularly add organic matter to the soil. Layer in compost, wood chips, composted manure straw, shredded leaves, grass clipping and other mulches helps to improve the organic matter content of your soil. Studies showed that the addition of bio-fertilizer to sandy soil significantly increased the physical and chemical properties of the soil and the availability of the nutrients in the soil.

Soil Moisture - Reds Landscaping & Design
The ability of your lawn soil to provide moisture will depend on the soil structure and the amount of organic matter.


You can also improve the sandy soil by converting them into sandy loam soil. The sandy loam soil comprises 50-70 % sand, 20 % clay and 10-30% organic matter. Sandy loam soil is a very desirable soil for planting garden plants. This type of soil is popularly known for its excess water drainage property and nutrients contents.

Irrigation of sandy soil

Irrigation of sandy soil must be considered carefully. Irrigating sandy soil requires great attention to the timing and amount of irrigation water applied, which are crucial decisions for each operator. Because the water storage capacity of the sandy soil is low and the infiltration rate is high. Therefore regular but small irrigation is necessary for the sandy soil, mostly when it is shallow. Under sandy soil, drip and sprinkler irrigations are more suitable compared to surface irrigation. Because in these irrigation systems, water is applied more to the places of the plant root area, which increases the efficiency of water.

Drought tolerant plants

Some plants are drought resistant and can tolerate and enjoy the sandy soil. Usually, any plants native to coastal areas are a good option to try. Here are some best plants for your coastal garden because these plants thrive and survive in sandy soil.


Xanthorrhoea, or Grass tree, is one of the most well-known symbols of the Australian bush Australian coastal garden. It is a particularly Australian plant that represents the Australian landscape. It is drought resistant. This plant likes well-drained soil and full sun, which is ideal for a coastal garden.

Xanthorrhoea - Reds Landscaping & Design
Xanthorrhoea growing naturally on a Coastal Landscape.


Xanthorrhoea is a slow-growing plant that can grow up to 25 mm in one year. It is also known as a great pot plant. The grass tree is a great feature plant with a harsh beauty that is typically Australian.

Kangaroo Paw

Kangaroo Paw is one of the fascinating Australian plants due to its unique flowers and different colours. They grow from an underground rhizome and produce lovely flowers on long stems, usually during spring and summer. Kangaroo paw enjoys the harsh dry arid condition due to which this plant is ideal for sandy soil and coastal garden.

Anigozanthos humilis Kangaroo Paw - Reds Landscaping & Design
Kangaroo Paw prefer sandy well drained soil.



Lomandra Plant, commonly known as mat rushes, is a perennial, herbaceous monocot in the

Asparagaceae family. It is an elegant native grass growing in large rounded open tufts, like a green fountain or firework. This round, symmetrical shape makes them an ideal plant for gardening. This plant can thrive perfectly in coastline gardens. This plant can grow in most soils, from sandy to clay and is drought and cold tolerant.

Lomandra Longifolia Bush - Reds Landscaping & Design
Lomandra are salt tolerant, performing well in coastal gardens


Australia's diversified geography provides the ideal basis for a wide range of beautiful gardens. Australia is blessed to access a diverse range of unusual plants, whether on large national estates or in a well-planned and planted urban area.

Despite the harsh climatic condition, Australian loves gardening. They utilise their backyard with different landscaping ideas and convert it into beautiful gardens. Outdoor dining spaces, pergolas and evergreen plantings are just a few examples of these suburb gardens.

Melbourne Coastal Garden plant selection

Limonium Perezii

Limonium Perezii, features beautiful flowers and foliage which can be hacked back to reshoot. This plant flowers nearly year round with minimal water and care. Limoniums handle Australia’s coastal garden conditions and climate well and are an absolute must have for any ornamental garden.  As you would expect for a plant native to the Canary Islands, these plants handle the coastal garden conditions very well, preferring a well-drained soil and full sun. These plants will also tolerate a moderate frost. The more than 120 plant that belong to the genus Limonium are often referred to as marsh rosemary or sea lavender, but they are not related to either lavender or rosemary. The small papery flowers can be dried and used in flower arrangements.

Limonium Perezii for Coastal gardens - Reds Landscaping & Design
Limonium Perezii for Coastal gardens - Reds Landscaping & Design


Limoniums handle Australia’s coastal garden conditions and climate well.


Viola Hederaceae

Viola Hederaceae or Native Violet in an Australian native shrub that is ideal for your coastal garden. As its names suggest this trailing ground cover has violet flowers that can be seen from spring until autumn. This shrub can be used as an alternative to lawn.

Viola Hederaceae - Reds Landscaping & Design
Viola Hederaceae or Native Violet in an Australian native shrub that is ideal for your coastal garden.

Banksia Robur

Banksia Robur or swamp Banksia growing up to two metres in the wild, this plant is a small tree or shrub with large flower spikes and fruits from autumn to winter. Despite its name, the swamp Banksia will thrive in a variety of soils and conditions. The large oval shaped serrated leaves can grow as large as 120mm by 400 mm long. This plant can be planted as a group for screening neighbours or by itself as a feature plant.

Banksia Robur - Reds Landscaping & Design
Banksia Robur or Swamp Banksia in a coastal garden.
Banksia Robur or Swamp Banksia growing up to two metres in the wild, this plant is a small tree or shrub with large flower spikes and fruits from autumn to winter. An ideal plant for your coastal garden.

Xanthorrhoea Macronema

Xanthorrhoea Macronema or Coastal Grass Tree is a grass tree without a trunk but has a creamy flower spike around 1.5 metres long. The flower itself is around 45 to 140mm long.

Bottle Brush Grass Tree (Xanthorrhoea Macronema) - Reds Landscaping & Design
Close-up of Bottle Brush Grass Tree (Xanthorrhoea Macronema) - forest plant native to coastal regions of eastern Australia north of Sydney.
A honey bee enjoying the flower of a Xanthorrhoea Macronema. The Coastal Grass Tree is a grass tree without a trunk but has a creamy flower spike around 1.5 metres long. The flower itself is around 45 to 140mm long. Native to coastal regions in New South Wales and Southern Queensland, this is a wonderful addition to your coastal garden.

Garden Maintenance for your Coastal Garden

Many coastal gardens are very sandy and the soils struggle to hold moisture and nutrients. One solution is to put some clay soil into a bucket of water. Stir this until the clay forms a suspension in the water. Pour this around your plants to help fill the gaps in the porous sandy soil. A fast decomposing mulch like pea straw, as well as organic fertilisers, will help.

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For help with the design and development or your landscaping ideas, contact one of our experienced Landscape Gardeners.

We can help with small garden design all the way up to  Commercial Landscape design.

Our specialties include fast-growing screening plants, plant health and horticulture, garden lighting and outdoor pool landscaping ideas.

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By Callum O’Brien – The Gardener Melbourne Blog



Xanthorrhoea The Australian Grass Tree

Xanthorrhoea is a icon of the Australian bush and the Australian coastal garden. Whether you are designing a small garden, a medium sized garden or a large garden, the Australian Grass tree or Xanthorrhoea is a great choice. For a small garden, it is a great focal point with its dark charcoal coloured truck its green leaves and its beige cream coloured flowers. The impact can be even greater when lite with some well designed garden lighting.

How much do grass trees grow per year?

For small gardens, slow growing plants like these are ideal. With a growth rate of around 25mm per year, it will take a long time to outgrow any garden. In larger gardens, the irregularly shaped trunk and profuse leaves can be used to soften any sharp edges in your design. It is estimated that Xanthorrhoea will live to around 400 years. It is also a great pot plant, but should be repotted at least every 50 years or so. To create an interesting contrast, consider planting some orange, red, or pink Anigozanthos ‘Bush Pearl’ kangaroo paws nearby. Kangaroo paws also thrive in similar growing conditions.

How many species of Xanthorrhoea are there?

It will surprise many people to learn that there are around 30 species and that these are only found in Australia. As with most plants, it is important to understand their natural habitat to recreate ideal growing conditions.

How do you take care of a grass tree?

In our blog on orchids and vertical gardens we mentioned the symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi helps plants to survive nutrient poor conditions. This means that if you take care of the mycorrhizal fungi, you take care of the host plant. To boost mycorrhizal fungi try diluting 1/2 cup of brown sugar in 5 litres of water. Apply this solution every month.

How did Xanthorrhoea get its name?

Every year of its growth, the Xanthorrhoea species produces a ring of leaves around the trunk. At the base of the leaves are resin secreting glands. It is this resin that gives the plant its name. The names Xanthorrhoea comes from the ancient Greek – Xanthos meaning yellow and rhoia meaning flowing. This resin binds the leaf bases together into a bundle. The glued bundle of leaves forms an effective insulator that restricts air circulation and combustion in the trunk. The resin was used as a glue by the original inhabitants of Australia for making tools and spears. Even if the trunk is destroyed by fire, plants can regenerate from root or stem buds.


Garden design with Xanthorrhoea - Reds Landscaping & Design


Types of Xanthorrhoea

Some species of Xanthorrhoea have been known to reach 6 metres, whilst some others, like Xanthorrhoea gracilis, have a branched trunk. Some species, like the swamp grass tree Xanthorrhoea fulva, have no trunks at all.
In Queensland and northern NSW, a common and widespread species is Xanthorrhoea johnsonii. The nectar rich flower spikes attract birds, bees, and butterflies.

Xanthorrhoea johnsonii. Mareeba, Queensland - Reds Landscaping & Design
Xanthorrhoea johnsonii. Mareeba, Queensland


Xanthorrhoea glauca is another one native to Queensland and New South Wales. The blue grey green leaves give the plant its glauca name. γλαυκός or glaukós, comes from the ancient Greek for "blue-green." When designing your landscape, use contrasting mulch to highlight the rich colour.

The blue-green leaves of Xanthorrhoea glauca - Reds Landscaping & Design
The blue-green leaves of Xanthorrhoea glauca create a great contrast with pebbles or stone mulch.

Swamp grass tree Xanthorrhoea fulva. This species has been know to hybridise with both glauca and johnsonii.


Xanthorrhoea fulva or Swamp Grass Tree - Reds Landscaping & Design
Xanthorrhoea fulva or Swamp Grass Tree.

This compact species with no trunk is great for any sized garden and is more tolerant of heavier soils. Like the other species, it it a great way to attract wildlife to your garden.


Grass trees are great for attracting wildlife including birds to your garden - Reds Landscaping & Design
Grass trees are great for attracting wildlife including birds to your garden.


Grass trees are great for bees and other insects - Reds Landscaping & Design
Grass trees are great for bees and other insects.

Do grass trees need to be burnt?

Xanthorrhoeas have adapted over the years to not only endure bushfires but to thrive on them. Grass trees have evolved to induce flowering after bushfires as this is the optimal time for offspring to germinate. With little to no competition around and with ash present in the soil, the grass tree germination strike rate is greatly improved. It has been said that some people even do controlled burns on their grass trees using chicken wire and newspaper. It is believed by many that this artificial simulation of a bushfire can induce the plant to flower or stimulate new foliage and root growth after transplanting.

Choosing and caring for your Xanthorrhoea

It is very important to only buy your Xanthorrhoea from a reputable garden nursery. Grass trees are often harvested as a food source. This means that they are usually removed from the land and re-potted for sale. They have a Xanthorrhoea Glauca hybrid which is entirely pot grown. It is important to note that it is illegal to remove plants from the bush in Queensland without a permit.
A reputable supplier should always be used in this process to ensure the mycorrhizal fungi are maintained in good contact with the grass tree root system in the potting process. When planting your Xanthorrhoea, ensure you keep as much soil as possible around the roots. These plants prefer sandy, well drained soil and full sun. If you have heavy clay soil, dig out an area equivalent to around 2-3 times the pot diameter and replace the soil with a sandy loam soil. Building up the level of the garden or adding extra sub soil drainage will help.

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