Sand dunes are one of the most challenging environments you will find, yet can translate into a garden – where appropriate – with considerable success. Certain grasses and perennials like Euphorbia, Eryngium and Achillea can achieve a natural dune look, even if we don’t use exact native species. Substrate is crucial here; don’t expect to achieve this in a nice fertile border! Rock or rubble-based aggregates and free drainage are essential.
The pictures are from the sand dunes in West Wittering in West Sussex. Dominated by marram grass but interspersed with perennials like sea holly (Eryngium maritimum – second picture) and sea spurge (Euphorbia paralias).
Interpreting the beautiful but hostile environment of dunes into a garden is challenging and requires a different approach to that of the average garden. Below is a render of a current MLD design project where the house, near the sea, is raised 2 metres above ground to prevent flooding. The ground will be banked and built up from old house rubble overlaid with a sandy subsoil-type substrate. Nutrient poor and very free draining, it replicate dunes in structure but is more sheltered and so gives opportunity for a wider plant palette.