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Using containers to trial plants in a beachside garden

By Nicky Zanen, text and images

Gardening with containers

In this small beachside garden, the owners are using containers to trial the suitability of plants before putting them in the garden.

Designing a small bayside Melbourne garden

In February 2022, I visited a garden in Melbourne that I hadn’t seen before. The garden is located in Hampton, Melbourne, about 800m from the bay.

One of the biggest challenges faced by the owners was that the block had no side access. This meant that every element used in the garden, including an in-ground swimming pool, came through the house or over the roof. Other challenges were the sandy soil and proximity to the sea air and limited planting space.

The designer made a feature of raised walkways to the pool to draw guests deeper into the block. The network of decks also provides a lovely habitat for lizards. In addition, a fire pit encourages natural socialising to occur. Image Nicky Zanen

Giving back to the community

In their description of the garden, the owners state:

“One of the most striking and potentially controversial elements of the garden is the decision to place a very large Angophora costata tree, slap bang in the middle of the space. It provides natural dappled shade to the seating given the northerly aspect and is central to the ecosystem of the garden.

It is also a way for the garden to give back to the local area with the reintroduction of a generous canopy to the skyline. We chose the specific location of the tree keeping in mind its eventual size. We did not wish to infringe on the neighbour’s space. The tree acts to divide the garden and give it a sense of foreground versus background, adding depth.”

small garden in beachside area
Placement of Angophora costata in the centre of the garden, image Nicky Zanen

Site analysis

The garden is on a small block in Hampton, not far from the beach. As stated above, this location creates several challenges:

  • Sandy soils
  • Relatively close to the beach although the garden is generally protected from salt air, and
  • Limited planting space.

Design features

As a result the owners have found that using containers to trial their conditions and suitability of the plants, is an efficient way of assessing which plants to use in their garden.

The following photographs illustrate how effective the use of containers was in this instance.

plants being trialled in containers

Grevillea lanigera in a hanging basket

Grevillea synapheae

Banksia serrata prostrate

Acacia cultriformis

Image Nicky Zanen

plant being trialled in a container

The container holding the Woolly Bush, Adenanthos sericeus, is big enough for the plant to grow into an impressive tree. It will be ideal for Christmas decorations!

image Nicky Zanen

Trees trialled in containers

Two Eucalyptus caesia trees are growing very well in a boxed container. It’s hard to know if their roots are in the ground.

Image Nicky Zanen

Wall garden in a container for a narrow space

In a very tricky situation, a narrow passage that runs parallel to the east side of the house, the owners have installed a vertical garden which is viewed from the lounge.

Image Nicky Zanen

To find out more about what plants grow in Victoria, please see the Australian Plants Society Victoria.