How Does a Seaside Garden Grow?

Living near the sea or in a coastal region may exemplify your dream lifestyle, but it's no doubt that the harsh and particular conditions of the sea-side landscape make it hard for things to grow. But, plant growth is certainly not impossible - you'll just want to know what grows best in the land of salt and sea before you embark on your landscaping plans. You'll also want to pay particular attention to layout, and hardscape elements that can really help pull your landscape design together.

You'll first need to determine what type or types of soil's you're dealing with. If it's predominately sand than you'll have to accept that you'll be limited to what you can plant and grow - unless you're industrious enough to want to lay yards, and yards of top soil. Remember that even though certain plants will grow in sandy soils you'll have to be on top of watering like never before.


In sandier soils some plants to investigate include: bearberry, yucca, memorial rose, trumpet vine, fragrant sumac, beach plum, rose rugosa, Austrian pine and tamarisk. One recommendation might be to do an image search of these plants on the internet - you can then start to get a visual picture of what you like. Begin by building a folder that you can use as a resource when you're ready to purchase and plant.

When you do begin planting, try not to plant everything at once. Experiment, and try some species to see how they adjust and grow. You'll start to get a good idea of what has potential to thrive in your soil and in your environment. In all cases, you'll always want to work with the elements and not against them. This is key to making your seaside landscaping a success. You really can't fight with the ocean... so "go with the flow" is a good rule for a seaside "green thumb".

Another good tip is to explore your neighborhood and to make a list of what you like and what grows well. Talk to your neighbors and discover their seaside gardening trials and tribulations. Consult books and ask specialists before you purchase your plants.

Generally plants that have a silvery gray color like Russian Sage and lambs ear are able to better tolerate sea spray and wind.

If you have an area further away from the elements of sand, sea, and wind, you can move into some more colorful choices like hydrangeas, Montauk daisies, and butterfly bush. These plants are still quite hardy and can tolerate some exposure, but they shouldn't be planted right on the shoreline.

Here are some other suggestions for hardy seaside plants to discover and explore in your landscaping plans:

Ceanothus: This evergreen sports attractive blue flowers and does best in rather dry soil.

Cypress: Very suitable as a wind-break or privacy screen.

Pines: Good evergreens for screening or wind-break options. Can be cultivated or left to grow willy nilly.

Mugho Pines: These are well adapted to salt water areas and they offer a unique texture to your garden.

Arbutus Unedo: The broad evergreen leaves of this tree make for an attractive textural element. The tree will also flower and be followed by a decorative fruit reminiscent of strawberries- hence its common name, "strawberry tree".

Azalea Mollis: This is a deciduous azalea that requires some protection from direct salt spray. It blooms brilliant flowers in white, pinks, and in many different shades of red. This is a lovely spring time color addition to any seaside garden.

English Lavender: This is one of the hardiest and most widely planted species. It has fragrant light to dark purple blooms and comes in many varieties.

Rockrose: This is a shrub that boasts showy spring to summer flowers in white or lavender.

Once you've chosen some plants and an area to landscape, you can begin to think about adding hardscape elements. Meandering stone or crushed sea shell pathways, well placed river rocks, sandstone, or granite, an arbor built of drift wood, a glass ball- these sorts of additions will tie in your landscaping and help to create height, dimension and texture. Think about placing a bench somewhere to take advantage of a beautiful view. You might even add some silver bells and cockle shells... This is where you can let your inner artist explore.

Take your time, have patience, educate yourself on all the seaside garden possibilities and you'll be sure to create a lovely haven by the sea.

Illustrated Properties is a Jupiter FL Homes Search company with professional, effective services to help you succeed in the local market. Visit for information on local neighborhoods like Jupiter FL real estate, and to see listings of homes for sale.

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Seaside Gardening

Gardening along the coast presents even the most skilled gardeners with challenges not encountered elsewhere. Natural conditions along the coast create a very hostile environment for garden plants. Wind, salt spray, dry sandy soils as well as actual sea water can make gardening along the coast difficult. All of these factors can cause problems for landscape plants and effect how they grow. In fact, few plants can survive full exposure to the ocean so site preparation and plant selection is perhaps even more critical here than anywhere else. Despite these difficulties, however, there are techniques and guides you can follow to create a more favorable environment for your favorite plants.

Building windbreaks as protection from the elements is essential to creating hospitable garden spaces along the coast. Windbreaks should be planted with indigenous seaside plants. Here in Massachusetts, Rosa rugoas, bayberry and eastern red cedar have developed along the coast and have proven their ability to survive the harshest of seaside conditions. They also create more diversity in the garden as well as a habitat for native wildlife. Find out what grows naturally in along the coast in your area and use those plants to create a protected garden space. Begin the screen with a planting of lower growing shrubs such as the above mentioned bayberry and rosa rugosa. This will be the first line of defense against the ocean winds and salt spray. Next, plant rows or massings of taller evergreens such as eastern red cedar, this will dampen the winds even further. Though the goal is to provide protection and create a retreat and from the harsh seaside winds, design a planting plan which still allows for beautiful views.

Along with wind and salt, dry and sandy coastal soils can present gardeners with a challenge. Sandy soils are very well drained and don't hold enough moisture to satisfy the needs of most plants. This holds true for some distance inland as well. In order to remedy this situation till the soil and add a fairly large amount of compost, manure and peat moss. This will help the soil retain the moisture necessary for plants to survive.

Follow standard planting practices. Dig holes for trees and shrubs about twice the diameter of the root ball and just as deep. Place the plant in the hole being careful not to disturb too many of its roots. Also, always plant so that the top of the root ball meets the existing grade of the garden. Planting too high or especially too low will result in early plant decline. Begin backfilling the hole, at about half way fill the hole with water and let it settle. I usually do this twice to make sure there are no air pockets. Finish backfilling the hole then create a saucer around the trunk of the plant, mulch well and water again.

When planting a lawn along the coast the sandy soils create the need for extensive site preparation. For lawns to thrive the soil requires a certain amount of water retention. For best results, begin with 6" of topsoil. Topsoil holds moisture well, provides necessary nutrients and will prevent the leaching of fertilizers. When seeding, use a mix of Kentucky bluegrass, fescue and rye. However, use a higher percentage of the drought resistant varieties of turf such as fine fescue, red fescue and hard fescue. Be sure to water your lawn deeply. Shallow, frequent watering leads to weak root systems which remain close to the surface. An alternative to a vast lawn is to allow native grasses to grow into a meadow, just be sure to mow them at least once each season to prevent trees and shrubs from taking hold.

With proper planning, tree and shrub selection and planting technique, seaside gardens can thrive. Gardeners along the coast will find the work involved in overcoming difficult site conditions well worth their time and effort, after all the greater the challenge the greater the reward.

Tim Birch is the owner of GardenLeap, a garden magazine for garden enthusiasts.

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