My tiny coastal garden is a quiet haven in the bustling seaside town of Broadstairs. It’s packed with subtropical plants and dominated by foliage of all shapes, sizes and textures. Exuberant flowers introduce drama and colour through the spring and summer. Sheltered on four sides, it’s a perfect place for entertaining guests and home to lots of wildlife.
I use the outdoor kitchen all through the year, even in winter. The garden is what greets visitors to The Watch House and provides the picture I enjoy daily beyond my windows. It’s calming, invigorating and uplifting all at the same time. Without my garden there would be no green between The Watch House and the English Channel and that’s one of many reasons why I love it.
Location:Broadstairs, Kent, on the east coast of England.
Aspect: East facing. Completely protected from the west. Exposed to southerly winds. Surrounded by high walls and fences creating a sheltered microclimate.
Soil: Imported topsoil (alkaline) over solid chalk. The main terrace sits directly over vaulted cellars or “undercrofts”, hence the profligate use of pots and troughs.
Weather: USDA Zone 9a. Relatively dry and warm for the UK. 2011 max temperature 32°C, min temperature -1.4°C. Frosts and snow are rare, but do occur. Subject to strong, cold easterly winds in the winter.
Plants: Follow this link for a full list of plants I grow.
Like my grandmother, who lived in Cornwall, something about gardening on the coast has always appealed to me. Perhaps it’s the challenge of battling the elements, but a stronger attraction has to be the opportunity to grow plants which might struggle further north or inland. Broadstairs exists in a microclimate, enjoying higher than average levels of sunshine, very few frosts and low rainfall. This suits many plants from New Zealand, South Africa, California, Tasmania and the Canary Islands.
Tender evergreens such as Agapanthus africanus and Melianthus major flourish, as do evergreen trees such as Lyonothamnus and Phillyrea. In exposed sites the wind can burn tender leaves and stunt growth. I am fortunate that my garden is protected on all sides, but when it blows, it really blows. The sea air has a balancing effect, keeping the garden slightly cooler than inland during the summer and reducing the likelihood of frost and snow in winter.
Rightly or wrongly, my style is ‘more is more’. I like to pack the plants in and allow them to mingle. Nothing offends me more than plants which have evidently been controlled preferring to rejoice in their natural habit.
Of course there has to be some intervention, otherwise I would disappear beneath all the crazy foliage. I try to let things ‘be’ as much as possible. By August there’s barely sufficient room for me to move around, let alone the National Garden Scheme visitors who love to get lost in the foliage. So far, everyone’s come out alive and smiling.
In June 2015 I acquired a neighbouring property known as Polegate Cottage. By May 2017 I had knocked through from The Watch House to create a library, two more bedrooms, a bathroom (with another to follow) and a garden room. With the cottage came a small yard measuring 20ft x 20ft, complete with derelict greenhouse and concrete paving. Although tiny, the wonderful thing is that this garden faces south west, enjoying sun from 11am until the end of the day.
My original plan was to create a Mediterranean garden here, filled with aromatic plants. What has actually happened, as you can see from the photographs taken in August 2018 by Marianne Majerus, is that it’s started to become jungly too, although I think it has a very different atmosphere. Plants flower more abundantly here than in the Jungle Garden and the greenhouse provides useful shelter for seedlings, cuttings, succulents and tender plants. My first crop of tomatoes in the summer of 2018 was so bountiful that it even surprised me.
Now dubbed the Gin & Tonic Garden, because it’s where I like to end the working day with a drink in my hand, this space remains a work in progress. I expect it to evolve as time and money allows. In the meantime it’s somewhere I can experiment with new ideas and house more plants. They just keep coming and I have no desire to stop them. TFG.
Read more about how the garden was made by following this link.
Main Image Credit: Marianne Majerus
40 comments On "My Garden"
Neat! Does it surprise you that I kind of envy you the intimate scale of your garden? 😉 Jack
Well, it has its benefits. I don’t think I could have done a lot more this weekend. I feel like I’ve done 6 rounds this morning. It called for a hearty breakfast!
Came across your blog by happy accident. I’m about to design a garden in my new home. The space is tiny and at present, has the look of a walled in dog pound. I’m taking inspiration from your joyous gardening endeavors. Thank you.
[…] Our Coastal Garden […]
This is very impressive. I hope that it brings you much pleasure!
Thank you, it does, especially when the sun shines!
AWESOME!!! What a great place to entertain!
Stunning! And lovely to see it being enjoyed too.
That is gorgeous. Your echiums boggle my mind!
I am from the USA, but your garden is beautiful!!!:-)
What a delightful story and beautiful garden you have created. I will enjoy revisiting the garden through the pages of this blog. Thank you too for following my blog. All of Australia has become my garden of delights.
I have saved this as a Favourite, as a passionate gardener, entertaining often outdoors in my own garden, lover of garden design, this coastal garden is the best, best small garden I have ever seen. I will follow the designer.
Thank you for the lovely comment Sharon. Don’t forget to follow the blog too 🙂
[…] Photo above is from The Frustrated Gardener blog. He also has a whole section on coastal gardens which would be interesting for over half […]
The garden looks great it’s been a while since I last saw it, and you’ve turned the courtyard into a wonderful little oasis. Love the rotisserie! We missed you at Marwood Hill gardens, we got lost in the rhodos, then the shop, as did you I hear?
Yes, I did make a few sneaky purchases, most of which are now back in Broadstairs. You should pop by next time you are down 🙂 I must write up our visit to Marwood Hill – we really enjoyed it.
[…] more about a variety of plants whilst we really enjoyed seeing the progress of his own gardens in Kent (we’re green with garden envy, you’ll quickly see why) and North London. Pop by when you’re […]
I love the idea of an outdoor kitchen! Maybe someday. Right now my husband and I enjoy eating dinner and feeling the ocean breeze on our porch. Good to know that plants in your area are ideal for the Southern California climate. I see you have some fuchsias. We have some hanging from our balcony. Thank you for sharing!
What a beautiful space Dan, it looks fantastic and I love the outdoor kitchen.
Cheers Matt. Love your site. I’m not in that world, but it looks incredibly professional. You clearly know your stuff!
Gorgeous garden! Loved reading this post, so much colour and thought in the placement of everything in the garden!
Thank you Mike. It needs constant adjustment and re-thinking, but thankfully plants in pots are easier to move than those in the ground!
Your garden is gorgeous… and that outdoor kitchen, swoon-worthy. So excited to have discovered your blog via the wordpess discover feature. Congrats and hello from Nashville.
Thank you and hello from Broadstairs! The outdoor kitchen is lovely, but it needs some repair work this year to keep it going for another decade.
Well, repairs aside, lucky you for having such a fun cooking nook. My garden is a city balcony with just enough space for a cafe table, two chars and ten pots:) One day I hope to have a similar set-up like yours. Dreams grow nicely around this place.
Love, love, love the garden.
Now all it needs is me and a good book.
You would be more than welcome. I like it to be well used!
Hi. I love your little garden. It gives me hope. My plot is small too, and I live in Kent too. In the second photo above (ignoring the diagram), you have a very tall, slim plant at the back, near the middle of the photo. Can you please tell me what its name is. Thank you. Kind regards.
Thats an Echium pininana Mandy. I had a few seedlings for sale at my open weekend. They are extremely easy to grow from seed but not very hardy. They grow a leaf rosette one year and then flower the following year. After flowering the whole plant dies. At the moment the sparrows are enjoying eating all the dry seed.
Good luck with your garden. You will get there! Dan
For those of us in the UK who watch Monty on GW. In the past two years he’s had items on tropical plants being grown in people’s domestic gardens on at least three occasions. Last night it was in Broadstairs, Kent. Each time the hosts explains how their plants are all in pots. It’s very interesting and inspiring BUT, it is never explained how the garden is maintained over winter. Is this because there is an inconvenient truth. ALL the plants will die unless protected from frost and cold winds. Do these gardeners rent enormous greenhouses or warehouse space to move them indoors during the winter months. Or do they wrap every plant in thick insulating bags or cloth sheeting? Perhaps they buy or grow from seed or cuttings new each year. I would love to hear these UK enthusiasts of tropical plant gardening explain how they over-winter their gardens and for Monty to stop saying after each of these items, “It just goes to show how we can all grow tropical plants in our gardens.” Because it’s very misleading, disingenuous and not true. I would hate to see people spend a lot of money on beautiful tropical plants, such as bananas, cannas, bromelia or brugmansia only to see them killed off in winter. does anyone know the answer to the inconvenient truth?
I don’t really feel there is an inconvenient truth Roger. Gardeners in the U.K. have been growing tender plants for centuries and there are myriad books on how to do it. The reason why there are so many enthusiasts is because some of us enjoy the challenges and rewards of this style of gardening.
I’ve written several posts on my blog about how I do it:
– I have a microclimate and therefore rarely experience frosts.
– I store tender plants in a greenhouse, indoors or in my workshop over winter. I don’t like the appearance of fleece so larger plants take their chances outside.
– I accept that not everything will survive.
It’s a choice and not for everyone, I make no bones about that, but many subtropical plants are surprisingly resilient and root hardy. They will not all die, even in unusually cold winters like 2018, as my garden demonstrates.
You may appreciate this particular post:
I’d urge you to give gingers a try. Dan
Hi, Dan. As another coastal gardener (but in the far north, on the edge of the Solway Firth), I love your blog (and try, madly, to grow many of the same sorts of plants).
One tiny query: in your list of ‘artist-photographers’ on the Essential Reading page, might Val Cobbin be a momentary memory lapse for Val CORBETT? That is, darned if I can find a ‘known’ photographer called Val Cobbin but Val Corbett certainly is one – and one of the best.
Here’s to a warm and sunny summer, both down south and oop north, with all of whatever rain does fall falling during the hours of darkness –
I’m so cross that I only just found out about your garden this morning, the day after your open garden weekend! We moved to Broadstairs from Oxford in October, losing a 1/3 of an acre hedge-bound garden to one which is a great deal smaller and getting smaller by the day as we have started to extend the house! Always looking for garden inspiration (and we have now got an allotment here too) and will be virtually starting from scratch in about a month. A quick squint of your blog had me hooked. You are the Nigel Slater of gardening and in my eyes, that’s a great compliment (but I suspect you are neater!)
Look forward to reading more.
Hi Susie. I’m around all this week if you want to pop by to see the garden. Can’t have you missing out! Email me at email@example.com
Hi. I love your garden from what I can see. My partner and I in the process of building a garden office and also create an area with plants in our house in Finsbury Park , London. I love what you have done with the outdoor kitchen and dining area.
Are you up for visitors to your garden. I would to have a look and get some ideas.
Hello Clifford, thanks for your comment. We open our garden once a year for the National Gardens Scheme in August. Between May and the end of September we do often let people come and visit if they ask nicely and the garden is up to scratch! Perhaps let me know if you are still interested in coming in the spring and we can make arrangements. Good luck with your garden project. Dan
Love the imagery in this post! Ee just had our decking done by http://www.kitelandscapes.co.uk/decking/ it looks really nice around our plants not sure how far you are away from them but could be a really nice alternative then slabs.
I’m about to design a garden in my new home. I’m hoping for inspiration from your amazing gardening endeavors.
You are coming to Monkton Garden Club to talk for us. I came to see you when you had a pop up shop in Broadstairs. I’ve only just realised I visited your garden a couple of years ago. I just loved the planting.
I’m adding to my garden and will be asking your advice!
Thank you Susan! You’re more than welcome to ask. I am looking forward to your event on the 17th. Dan