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Frontline Coastal versus Coastal. Growing position is important.

Coastal trees are trees that are tolerant of the typically sandy and salty conditions associated with living along the coast. But only a select few can be called Frontline Coastal.

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Knowing how close you are to the coastline is important. For planting right on the beach, deemed ‘Frontline coastal’, trees and plants need to have an in-built propensity to tolerate salt-laden winds.  This vegetation often has fine foliage, and trees are dense in form to control erosion and provide an effective wind barrier.

Think of the low-laying scrub and tea tree you see at the beach! The vegetation that exists there hugs the ground as much as possible so that the harsh coastal, salty winds can scoot over the top. Within these microclimates, you will find tough growing conditions too where salt residue combines with sandy soil making establishment very difficult. But trees and plants will grow there.

In high winds, trees with narrow foliage such as Allocasuarina verticillata is considered an appropriate selection as their thin leaves offer less friction and resistance to harsh wind. This is a good coping mechanism in a frontline coastal position. In another example, the broader leafed Banksia integrifolia and the narrower growing Banksia integrifolia ‘Sentinel’ also copes well due to a waxy coating on its foliage. It is this hard, rubbery attribute that allows them to withstand the absorption of salt. Consider too, succulents such as Kalanchoe that have fine hairs on their leaves that act to slow the velocity of the wind, thereby minimising water loss. 

When it comes to coastal it is best to talk to horticulturists who can draw on their experience and training to know what works best. From a tree perspective Allocasuarina verticillata, Banksia integrifolia and Leptospermum laevigatum are true frontline warriors and sit at the top of our list.

However, walk back 500m or a couple of streets and there exists a broader list of trees for planting in coastal suburbs. These include:  Laurus nobilis (Bay Tree), Acacia melanoxylon, Agonis, Corymbia ficifolia - but not the grafted form, Olives, Ulmus parvifolia (Chinese Elm), Fraxinus griffithii, Callistemon, Prunus lusitanica (Portuguese Laurel), Juniperus chinensis ‘Spartan’ and Cupressus sempervirens ‘Glauca’ (Italian Pencil Pine). Another, Elaeocarpus reticulatus  will tolerate sandy coastal soils but not salt-laden winds.

All of these have the potential of being burnt by salty winds, so it is a good idea to plant them out with other vegetation for combined protection. And make sure to improve the soil where possible with the addition of quality organic compost, additional imported screened soil and wetting agent. Don’t forget to mulch to a depth of 80mm.  There is a lot of aquaphobic or water-repellent coastal soils around Melbourne so soil improvement is a must to ensure tree establishment in this challenging environment.

For a broader list than what has been provided here, please click here.

For more information, please contact us

A medium sized bushy tree that has a rounded head. It has weeping dark green branchlets that produce brown male flowers from winter to early spring. These trees when young can look rather sparse and scraggly but this changes with age. They sound like the ocean when the wind blows through their leaves. 40cm/27L 50cm/52L
This distinctive native tree is found on the east coast of Australia. It has rough patterned bark and long green leaves with a silver underside. Pale yellow, cylinder-shaped flowers can be seen in summer to winter and can be up to 12cm long. The seed pods stay on the branch for long periods and look very ornamental. 40cm/27L 50cm/52L 100L
This is a small shrub with medium frost tolerance for use as a dense narrow flowering screen. Prefering full sun to light shade it produces upright lemon brush-like flowers from late summer to winter. Responds well to pruning. 40cm/27L

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