Plants to try in exposed area
Properties along the coast or on exposed hillsides survive quite well between April and November (excluding hurricanes), but the weather can create havoc in the garden during the winter.
As well as physical damage, such as broken branches and leaf burn, which can be the start of secondary infection, resurgence of new growth should be a primary concern to re-establish a good top and root growth. Designing for exposed locations should include consideration of soil depth, wind impediments and gradient of slope/land. Avoid increasing problems by having rock faces that can create wind issues for surrounding plantings and severe slopes.
Plant selection will be dictated by location, which still offers the opportunity to be diverse and creative using leaf, bark, architectural outline and flower/seed.
Hardy plants usually have thicker, tougher leaves which are more resilient to wind and salt spray and thus suffer less leaf burn. In very exposed areas consider using lower-growing plants, especially on rocky areas, with the size of the planting hole paramount to good growth.
Ideal trees for such areas include baygrape (Coccoloba uvifera), which has roundish leaves, fleshy seeds and, when pruned correctly, forms a good solid large shrub.
Calophyllum inophyllum, although designated by some as invasive, is also tough in exposed areas as can be seen in Dockyard — they have a compact head and produce lots of seed, which is simply a maintenance exercise.
If a larger tree is required and the area can accommodate such growth, use Pittosporum viridiflorum, which attains a height of 30ft-plus.
In the selection of hardy shrubs, Japanese pittosporum (pittosporum tobira) is king. It is evergreen and has a fairly tight growth habit.
Elaeagnus pungens is also a very hardy shrub, which has a tendency to send out whips — it has a silver and brownish sheen with tight growth and is excellent as a screen or windbreak.
Ochrosia elliptica (kopsia) is generally considered a compact evergreen with a height of 8ft plus, with small flowers followed by red almond-shaped seed. It is a great contrast plant, especially when full of seed.
Conocarpus erectus (buttonwood) is also very hardy, as is conocarpus erectus sericea, which has grey foliage.
Clusia rosea (autograph plant) grows well against a wall and has very thick leaves that withstand wind and salt spray. Its flowers are a curious square shape.
If you are looking for a very slow- growing, compact plant, raphiolepis umbellata (yeddo hawthorn) fits the bill. It has white flowers followed by black seed, is very slow growing and compact in habit.
Westringia rosmarinifolia (Australian rosemary) is similar in appearance to rosemary but with a greyish hue to the foliage. It attains a height of 3ft.
Cacti and succulents are underused in the landscape, especially in exposed areas. They are architecturally interesting and found in green, grey, yellow and blue hues and flower.
Prickly pear (opuntia dillenii) is found in coastal areas and is very useful in exposed areas with its pads of spines. It has yellow flowers followed by red fruits.
Agave franzosinii with large, grey foliage with black tips is very attractive, making a bold statement on its own or in a group. Other varieties of agave have variegated foliage with a variance in height. Aloes are also worthy of consideration in exposed areas.
The common sago, cycas revoluta, is also a contender for exposed areas, having dark green foliage with male and female flowers on separate plants. Nolina nelsonii, which has a bluish tinge to the foliage with a more upright habit, will also tolerate exposed areas and is a good contrast plant.
Exposed areas usually have a view of the ocean, which creates a wow factor. Creative plant selection can creates a landscape of interest even in an exposed area.