When deciding what kind of plants you would like in your garden, most people forget that you have to take into consideration the location of your property and whether it is affected by strong winds. Winds in themselves can damage delicate plants, especially in their early months, while gardens near the sea can be even harder hit by salt water or cold temperatures in the air. Constructing a windbreak can protect the plants in your garden, as well as creating a sheltered area around your property.
Windbreaks do not necessarily need to be solid walls – in fact, these can often create more problems than they solve – as it is more effective to filter the wind, slowing it down to avoid damaging the plants in your garden. Solid buildings force the wind in another direction and rather than decreasing the likelihood of structural damage in your garden, they can actually increase the chances that a windy day will leave your beautiful plants dead and lifeless.
However, use plants themselves as a windbreak and the wind which would normally be damaging your property will be filtered, slowed down and less gusty – leading to a much more sheltered garden area where you can have any plants and shrubs that you want, without worrying about how the local weather might affect them.
Before you start planting your windbreak, it is essential to do your research and make sure that you put it in the right place; for some properties, such as those by the coast, the direction of the most damaging winds is obvious, but other gardens may need to be monitored for a few weeks to establish where a windbreak will have the most beneficial effect.
The most effective windbreaks use trees to create a natural shelter. Plant one row of taller trees
sandwiched between two rows of smaller trees or hardy bushes to increase the filtering and slowing effect at the same height as most plants in your garden area. Your larger trees don’t even have to be that tall to have a dramatic impact on the wind levels in your garden; experts claim that a windbreak will actually stop the wind up to a distance of at least five times the height of the tallest trees.
For inspiration when it comes to choosing plants, the best trees and shrubs to use are those which are thriving in your local area If they can survive in the wild, despite the strong winds, then they will make an ideal addition to your windbreak. Don’t worry too much about how the trees and shrubs will look, as they will be tucked away on the edge of your garden; the plants’ ability to filter the wind and survive in your garden’s natural environment is more important than aesthetic concerns.
Remember that many native British trees lose their leaves in the winter, when the strongest winds usually affect the UK, so make sure you plant at least a few evergreens in your windbreak; a good choice is the durable Australian Pine, which can survive in most soil types and is unaffected by salt in the air.
If you live near the sea, there are several options when it comes to the lower level bushes and shrubs; these include Griselinia, Holly, Arbutus and Hebes. Many of these plants won’t survive in colder climates, where shrubs like Eleagnus, Euonymus, Myrica, Rhododendron and Mahonia are better options.
Don’t be tempted to stake a newly planted tree too high, or the trunk will not be strong enough to support the weight of the branches as it grows taller. Stake new trees closer to the ground to keep the roots in place, also allowing the upper branches and trunk to flex in the wind and build up strength; rather like exercising and developing muscles in the gym.
Patience is important in developing an effective windbreak for your garden; it won’t happen overnight, but if you plant the right trees and shrubs they should protect your garden for many years to come.