I’ve recently been asked about plants and solutions for a windy garden.
Even if you don’t have a windy garden, you probably have a windy spot. Our walled garden gets windy in the middle, which is quite common.
I’ve made a mistake with planting a young tree there by buying one that was too tall. We’ve secured it with several stakes. But it gets pushed over again when the wind changes direction. I actually chose the right type of tree – a Liquidambar – for a windy spot, but I should have bought a much younger, shorter tree.
Check the gardens in a windy town
And not long after being asked about plants for windy gardens, I went to the charming beach town of Southwold.
Southwold is a delightful former fishing village on the Suffolk coast, and it dates back hundreds of years. But Suffolk is quite flat near the coast. And all seaside towns get their fair share of wind.
A garden in Southwold is definitely a windy garden. So as I was visiting in midsummer, I thought I would see what was flourishing in the Southwold gardens, and along the beach.
The RHS on trees and shrubs for windy gardens
One important thing to understand about wind is that it whips up a solid fence or wall, and then drops down creating turbulence on the other side. That’s why hedges and shrubs, which break up the wind rather than block it, are better than fences and walls.
And a very thick line of evergreens can act more as a fence or block rather than a filter, so the RHS recommend choosing a mix of deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs.
Trees and shrubs won’t grow as tall in windy conditions but they are so important for breaking up the wind. The RHS has a page of recommendations for trees and shrubs that do well in exposed sites. These include some pines, hawthorn, Norway spruce and holm oak, all of which I love. Good shrubs include black elder and pinus mugo (dwarf pine).
Expert advice on choosing windy garden plants
First I spoke to Rosy Hardy of Hardys Cottage Garden Plants. Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants is one of the leading plant nurseries in the UK.
Rosy had three pieces of very useful advice as well as suggestions for plants.
‘Choose shorter varieties of your favourite plants if your garden is windy,’ she suggests.
‘Or you can choose plants which are meant to blow about in the wind, such as grasses or gaura,’ advises Rosy Hardy.
Sue Marling and Fay Sweet, whose garden is featured here, have created a successful garden near Southwold. They have found that salvias, Phlomis russeliana and fennel have all done well in their garden. They are all plants that can sway in the wind.
And they also have Alchemilla mollis, which fits into Rosy Hardy’s ‘low-growing’ category, as do the asters all over Southwold beach.
And thirdly,’ says Rosy: ‘Plant trees and shrubs dotted about the garden to break up the wind. Don’t plant in a line.’
Specific plants she recommends for a windy garden include hardy geraniums, especially the Oxonianum ‘Lace Time’. Amongst the grasses Stipa Tenuissima always looks good’, she says. And she also recommends the long slender stems of Gaura Rosyjane, which is an elegant flower with a picotee petal.
Japanese anemones are also tough enough to survive windy conditions, and Rosy suggests you try an unusual variety such as the ruffled ‘Swan’ series.’
Hardys Cottage Garden plants stock all these.
Roses do well in a windy garden
One thing that really surprised me as I walked round Southwold was how well roses were growing. They seemed to be blooming in every garden.
So I contacted Michael Marriott of David Austin Roses. He confirmed that that roses often do very well in windy places. Some original species roses came from quite inhospitable places – Rosa rugosa came from Northern Japan and Siberia, for example, and the spinossisima roses (often called ‘Scotch roses’) are basically coastal plants.
Roses in windy gardens won’t grow as tall, he says, and you do have to pick and choose your varieties, but they are a great plant to add.
But choose your rose carefully
When choosing roses for a windy garden, Michael suggests you firstly think of the flowers – single flowered or semi-doubles will be better than big showy blooms of hybrid teas.
And think about how the plant grows – a rambling rose will create a lot of body which can be buffeted in the wind. The stiffer and more individual stems of a climbing rose will give the wind much less to blow about. And keep tying a climber in if you have a windy garden.
Break up the wind for a sheltered spot
In terms of a sheltered spot to sit in, consider a broken screen rather than a solid one. There is a terrific range of laser-cut screens around these days, such as this one from Stark & Greensmith.
And I’ve seen some great screening ideas at the garden shows this summer. For example, I like this slatted wooden screen inscribed with poetry from The Oak & Rope Company.
Sue and Fay have created a wildlife-friendly screen by building a curved wall out of inexpensive roofing battens. It filters the wind, and offers a hideaway for insects. Fay built it herself, although she admits it was quite hard work.
And here is another easy DIY broken screen. These wood posts and strips of corrugated iron shield a washing line in this Australian coastal garden, while filtering the wind beside a seating area.
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