How to create a Nordic coastal garden at home for pure Scandi chic vibes

Close your eyes and you'll almost be able to hear the ocean...

Spring flowers on west coast of Norway.
(Image credit: Getty)

It's official: the outrageously beautiful Nordic coastal garden just rocketed its way to the top of our list of must-try garden ideas

Honestly, can you blame us? Ever since we spotted Dawn French's interpretation of Sweden's pelargonsjuka trend, we have dedicated our Pinterest boards entirely to truly gorgeous Scandi garden design ideas.

Still, we've always associated the Scandinavian landscape with dark winters, snow-covered mountains, and all things hygge – which means we've been missing out on some incredible summer garden inspiration. 

New Nordic Garden | Sjöbris: a coastal garden inspired by The Hamptons

(Image credit: Annika Zetterman/New Nordic Gardens)

'The Stockholm archipelago is a collection of some 30,000 islands off the coast of Sweden that attracts summer and year-round residents,' says garden designer Annika Zetterman.

Annika Zetterman's headshot
Annika Zetterman

Annika Zetterman is a Swedish garden designer and writer, whose work is characterised by sensitivity to natural materials, with a design approach where the natural landscape is reflected and interpreted in the arranged space. She has deep understanding of horticulture and masters reading the natural light, which plays an important role in Scandinavia.

Annika is also the author of the book 'New Nordic Gardens: Scandinavian Landscape Design', the founder of Zetterman Garden Design, and gives lectures on garden design in both Sweden and abroad. 

With this in mind, Annika asks us to picture 'the silence and freshness of a seaside garden after a warm summer's rain'.

And just like that, we're hooked on the idea of creating a Nordic coastal garden of our very own, right here in the UK. Obviously.

The Nordic coastal garden

When it comes to creating a Nordic coastal garden, simplicity is key.

You're aiming to emulate a 'gorgeous garden with stunning sea views where blue colours of plants match perfectly with the cloudy sky,' says Annika, offering up a garden she designed for clients on the island of Värmdö in the Stockholm Archipelago as an example.

For this multi-level garden, Annika took inspiration from the sea, the surrounding vegetation, and even New England. She also worked with nature rather than against it, sourcing native plants that can cope well with mild climates, dry summers, and strong winds.

'I dedicated the most sheltered part of the garden to a love of colours, and perennials,' says Annika, describing the result as a 'vivid composition of blues, purples and pinks during the summer'.

She also included a gravel garden, with plenty of low planting around stepping stones, and made sure to blend a very pale colour palette with ornamental grasses, to ensure everything moved beautifully in the ocean breeze.

How to get the Nordic coastal garden aesthetic

Charmed by the idea of a garden that instantly transports you to a spot beside the sparkling blue Nordic coastline? Of course you are.

Thankfully, it's actually quite easy to recreate the look for yourself at home (sans the oceanic views, sadly).

1. Keep things simple

A coastal garden inspired by ”The Hamptons” of white wood structures, situated in the archipelago.

(Image credit: Annika Zetterman/New Nordic Gardens)

If you’re planning to give your garden the oh-so-chic Nordic look then consider focusing on minimalistic, functional and clean designs.

'Simplicity is the key when it comes to the Nordic aesthetic, so avoid cluttering, stick to neutral tones and embrace natural beauty in your garden,' says Chris Bonnett, founder of 

2. Choose your plants wisely

'The coastal climate can be tricky and comes with many challenges, such as strong winds, sea spray, dry summers, and poor soil,' says Annika.

'However, there are actually a great many plants that love this particular environment,' she adds, noting that plants such as lavender, thyme, salvias, astrantias, and gypsophila will 'thrive and grow with strength'.

'And calamintha is a great bee garden idea, creating a great vibe and a buzz all summer!'

Annika's favourite plants to use in a Nordic coastal garden include:

  • Salvia ostfriesland
  • Astrantia major
  • Gypsophila 'Festival Pink Lady'
  • Lavandula Munstead
  • Thymus serpyllum
  • Agastache 'Blue Fortune'
  • Rosa White Fairy
  • Briza media
  • Sesleria autumnalis
  • Allium 'Millenium'
  • Calamintha nepeta
  • Miscanthus 'Morning light'
  • Calamagrostis Overdam

Chris adds: 'Try incorporating some Scandinavian native plants into your garden, such as ornamental grasses, pine or birch trees, ferns and heather.'

Lavender 'Munstead'| from £7.99 at Crocus

Lavender 'Munstead'| from £7.99 at Crocus

This compact lavender produces dense spikes of fragrant, bluish-purple summer flowers above slender, aromatic, grey-green leaves. Perfect for edging paths and borders!

3. Use natural materials

Gravel garden and terracotta wall

(Image credit: Future / Rebecca Knight)

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Scandi garden design is all about using and respecting natural materials – such as wood, stone, and plants – in the best way possible. 

With this in mind, Chris suggests that you 'use natural materials such as wood, stone, and gravel for pathways, borders, seating areas and accessories'. 

Annika adds that you might want to consider implementing a gravel garden, 'planting thyme as low ground cover amongst stepping stones, to blend with the surrounding nature'.

4. Add a water feature

Water bowl at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

(Image credit: Heather Young/Future Publishing Ltd)

If you can't have the ocean itself, why not incorporate water by some other means?

'Water feature ideas are a great option for adding some Nordic charm to your garden,' says Chris. 'I'd consider adding a small pond or a bubbling fountain to your garden as a focal point.'

5. Keep it sustainable

Scandi gardeners are very fond of pretty rain harvesting methods, and so the same is true of a Nordic coastal garden.

'Sustainability and eco-friendliness are some of the key elements of Nordic design,' explains Chris, 'so try implementing rainwater harvesting systems, composting areas, and using recycled materials wherever possible.'

We can almost hear the ocean...

What is a Scandi garden?

Scandi gardens are usually defined by their focus on clean lines, use of native plants, pale pastal colour palettes, sustainable gardening methods, and emphasis on natural materials. 

How do you make a coastal garden?

Once again, it is all about working with nature when it comes to planting a coastal garden. Look for those plants that can withstand mild climates, strong (and salty) winds, and free-draining soil. A gravel garden, with plenty of low-level planting within it, is also a brilliant option.

Kayleigh Dray
Acting Content Editor

Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.