There are many hardy and attractive Australian native plants which do well in coastal situations. Coastal plants have to contend with salt-laden winds and new growth may be burnt by such winds even though the older wood is not affected. Once a windbreak or protective screen is established round the garden, less tolerant species can often be grown successfully inside the boundary. Some initial protection may be necessary and perhaps some staking, until the plants become established.
Agonis flexuosa is also known as the Willow Myrtle or Willow Peppermint. It is a widely cultivated, small to medium tree. It is hardy to most conditions with the exception of heavy frosts. It has long, narrow leaves and produces clusters of small, white flowers along the branches from September to January.
Allocasuarina verticillate or Drooping She-oak is an attractive tree with an erect trunk and dark, furrowed bark. The narrow foliage is long and pendulous. Yellow-brown male flowers are produced between March and December. It copes with a wide range of situations including exposed coastal sites. It likes well-drained soils, but will tolerate wet periods. It was previously known as Casuarina stricta.
Atriplex nummularia has the common name of Old Man Saltbush and is endemic to the inland areas of all Australian states except Tasmania. It is a dense shrub with bluish-grey foliage. Small, creamish male and female flowers are borne on separate plants during most of the year. It is a hardy variety, grown mainly for its attractive foliage. It is also fire-retardant and frost resistant. If pruned occasionally, it will retain its bushy growth. It is also useful for screening and windbreaks.
Banksia serrata or Saw Banksia has toothed leaves to 16cm long. Greenish-yellow flower heads are produced from August to April. It is an adaptable plant which occurs naturally in protected or exposed coastal situations. Birds are attracted to this banksia.
Callistemon pallidus or Lemon Bottlebrush is a dense shrub with grey-green to dark green leaves and silvery or reddish new growth. It produces cream to yellow bottlebrush flower spikes from September to January. It is hardy, withstanding winds, frost, periods of waterlogging and moderate coastal exposure. Most callistemons are attractive to birds and this is no exception.
Casuarina equisetifolia is also called the Coastal She-Oak or Horsetail She-Oak. This is a very graceful tree with drooping branches and fine, she-oak foliage. The flowers are relatively insignificant. It is best suited to tropical and subtropical regions and is useful for sand-binding and sand erosion control. It is impervious to frost.
Correa alba or White Correa is a dense shrub with oval, green leaves and sometimes rusty new growth. Starry white (sometimes pink) flowers appear mainly during November to May. It is a hardy plant, tolerating moist to dry, well-drained soils, frost and exposed coastal situations. It prefers full or partial sun.
Hibbertia scandens, also known as the Climbing Guinea-flower, is a vigorous climber with long, trailing stems and shiny green leaves. Bright yellow, open-petalled flowers about 7cm diameter are produced almost throughout the year with the main flowering season being from November to January. It can be initially slow-growing but then becomes more vigorous. It can suffer from frosts.
Eucalyptus conferruminata is a Western Australia native also known as Bushy Yate or, sometimes, Bald Island Marlock. It is a dense small tree with widely spreading branches, smooth greenish bark and large clusters of yellow-green flowers mainly during July to December. Green decorative buds precede the flowers. It is useful as a screen or windbreak plant. It is a favourite with birds.
Leptospermum laevigatum or Coastal Tea-tree is a bushy shrub or small tree, often with a twisted and gnarled trunk. White flowers appear mainly from September to December. It is an excellent choice for exposed coastal situations and popular with birds as a suitable nesting tree. The papery bark also provides good nesting material. It is not affected by frost.
These are just a few of the low-maintenance, water-wise Australian native plants which will enhance a seaside garden. Your garden centre will be able to suggest other varieties.