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Exposed Coastal Garden

By Argyll and Bute based garden designer Rachel Bailey. A coastal garden in West Scotland that settles the garden into the wider landscape of the Cowal Peninsula and the Kyle of Bute. Rachel won the ‘planting design under £20K’ category for her garden in the Pro Landscaper UK ‘Small Project, Big Impact’ Awards 2020.

Exposed Coastal Garden by Scotland based garden designer Rachel Bailey

The brief for Rachel Bailey Garden Design was to create an informal garden that is on the lower end of the maintenance scale though with lots of planting to soften hard surfaces and settle the house into the landscape. The design was to make the most of the garden’s location.

Exposed Coastal Garden by Scotland based garden designer Rachel Bailey

A large part of the garden comprised building rubble from the previously demolished extension to the house with a thin (50 mm) layer of topsoil mixed in. This soil was alkaline in pH and was a stark contrast to the rest of the garden, which was acidic and stony, typical of the area. To add to this challenge, the garden is coastal, exposed to south-westerly winds and being on the West Coast of Scotland, the area is subjected to high rainfall. On a positive note, because the site is coastal and on the West coast of Scotland, the climate is relatively mild.

Exposed Coastal Garden by Scotland based garden designer Rachel Bailey

Rachel worked with the 'substrate' as she found it, carefully selecting plants that would thrive in a low fertility, alkaline medium, would be happy in an exposed location, and would enjoy the sharp drainage afforded by the material. Whilst she could not draw upon the exact plant species of the local hills (ie, Erica sp. and the grass Molinia caerula, which both require acidic soil), she looked at their qualities, texture and colouring to influence the planting scheme of the clients garden and to meet their brief.

Exposed Coastal Garden by Scotland based garden designer Rachel Bailey

A pared-down list of plants including a matrix of three grasses, which are seen was repeatedly used throughout the front garden and planted so that one interweaved with another - similar to the plants in the hills.

A matrix of grasses was selected to hold the scheme together, to offer movement and energy to the garden and a foil for flowering plants.  

Exposed Coastal Garden by Scotland based garden designer Rachel Bailey

As a result, foliage texture, colour and shape/size (nothing too tall was wanted in the front garden) played an important role in the planting scheme and have more prominence than flowers.

Exposed Coastal Garden by Scotland based garden designer Rachel Bailey

The front and side gardens, which had very different soil, were linked using plants that were similar in colour and/or form, but would thrive in the different soils.

The main plants were repeated throughout the front garden and were anchored with the evergreen shrubs and large boulders sourced from a local quarry, so they matched the local stone.

Exposed Coastal Garden by Scotland based garden designer Rachel Bailey

Together, the low height planting with lots of grasses add movement and cope well with the exposed location.

Exposed Coastal Garden by Scotland based garden designer Rachel Bailey

Plant list:

Dryopteris erythrosora
Rosa glauca
Origanum laevigatum 'Herrenhausen'
Pulsatilla vulgaris 'Alba'
Choisya x dewitteana 'Aztec Pearl'
Polypodium vulgare
Hylotelephium 'Matrona'
Eurybia divaricata
Bergenia 'Silberlicht'
Salvia nemorosa 'Ostfriesland'
Persicaria vacciniifolia
Escallonia 'Donard Seedling'
Saxifraga x urbium
Lonicera periclymenum 'Graham Thomas'
Juniperus communis 'Repanda'
Campanula portenschlagiana
Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'
Salix lanata
Persicaria bistorta 'Superba'
Limonium platyphyllum
Santolina pinnata subsp. neapolitana 'Edward Bowles'
Coreopsis verticillata 'Moonbeam'
Achillea 'Anthea'
Hebe pinguifolia 'Sutherlandii'
Helianthemum 'Wisley Primrose'
Dianthus carthusianorum
Sedum album 'Coral Carpet'
Hebe 'Emerald Green'
Cotinus coggygria 'Golden Spirit'
Cenolophium denudatum
Salvia rosmarinus
Sporobolus heterolepis
Skimmia japonica 'Kew White'
Arabis alpina subsp. caucasica 'Schneehaube'
Calamintha nepeta subsp. nepeta 'Blue Cloud'
Prunella grandiflora 'Alba'
Deschampsia cespitosa 'Schottland'
Sesleria autumnalis
Viburnum tinus 'Spirit'
Cotoneaster salicifolius 'Gnom'
Geranium 'Dreamland'
Geranium 'Dusky Crug'
Armeria juniperifolia 'Bevan's Variety'
Stachys macrantha 'Rosea'
Centaurea montana 'Carnea'
Acaena microphylla 'Kupferteppich'
Vinca minor f. alba
Amsonia 'Blue Ice'
Achillea x kellereri
Carex divulsa
Prunella grandiflora 'Loveliness'
Kalimeris incisa 'Blue Star'
Carex remota
Designed by Rachel Bailey