Landscaping Near the Sea
If you live near the shore and have tried some gardening, you know that it has some unique challenges. Salt spray, very sandy soil and very bright sun can make gardening by the sea seem futile, but it's not at all. With the right shelter you can have an outstanding garden. As you may suspect, the soil at the shore may be mostly sand. Nutrients and water filter through very quickly with very little resistance. Improve your soil and you will improve your garden. Compost is one of the best ways to do this. Many municipalities are recycling their green waste into "black gold" or compost. It's usually free, just bring your shovel and bucket and dig in. Add about three inches of this simple amenity to your garden beds and see what a difference it makes. If you are right on the beach, you may have to make micro-environments for your garden. Level the sand and make some raised beds. If you are near the beach, but not on it, you will be working with sandy earth. This situation is easier to work with.
Don't underestimate the damage to plants that can be done by shore breezes. Thick shrubs have been broken off at the base just by the power of the wind. Why take a chance? Build a windbreak or shelter before you start gardening or your wonderful plants may just blow away! Erosion is a big problem at the store. Your plants will need a god anchor for their roots to hang onto or have the soil they are in not be disturbed. This challenge can be addressed in two ways. Weigh the roots down with plenty of compost and and cut down on wind damage with shelters in the form of screens. These can be something you make yourself or something you buy. It doesn't really matter, just so long as the screens are very sturdy. Screens can be made from virtually anything durable and can act as a support for a natural "green" screen. Materials for screens can include bamboo, woven reeds, solid wood slats, metal, wrought iron, or wood fencing. Fences can be either open or closed. An open fence will allow you to see through the open parts of the fence to the other side. A closed fence can be either solid, woven or slatted and will not leave enought space between the slats or woven parts to see through to the other side. The closed fences offer more wind protection, so make your choice of fence screen based on how close to the shore you live. Trees can also be utilized as a natural barrier and screen which will protect your smaller plants and add an architectural element to your property. When putting in trees, buy them as older plants, otherwise they will not be sturdy enough to hold up to the wind gusts.
After you have installed your garden shelter, you can start to think about the character of the garden Would you like it to be zen like, a victorian garden, or more in line with the cottage themed gardens? An obvious first choice of course would be sun loving plants, but don't ignore the type of soil you have. Most likely, unless it has been improved, your soil will be sandy which means it will drain very quickly. A good choice of plants would be drought tolerant plants that also will be hale and hearty to the effects of salt spray. Some natural choices include all sorts of ornamental grasses. They can range in colors from a lovely golden to reds, purples and greens. Good design elements are universal for any garden including size (how large are the plants in comparison to their surroundings), color, texture, growth rate, and growth habit; does it grow straight up, spread or kind of do both? You may want to put some foundation plants down, first, including pine trees and some ornamental grasses. There are specific pine trees which love the shore environment.
Depending how close you are to the ocean, you may have to do a lot or a little to create a gorgeous garden. I don't believe in fighting the nature of what I have to work with. Work with hardy plants and you will have few problems. Some American prairie flowers work really well in these areas. They are at once heat tolerant and tough; they are used to winds blowing across open land from their prairie days. Try Rudbeckia 'Nutmeg'. These daisy like flowers look like they have a suntan with their copper orange petals and dark chocolate centers. Daylilies are another option. They bloom everyday, love the sun and look great with ornamental grasses. Drought tolerant grasses are a great choice, and most ornamental grasses have naturally evolved to be drought tolerant. The tall ones can act as a windbreak to smaller plants, some ornamental grasses grow to six feet in height. Keep in mind the element of movement while designing your garden and harness the wind for your advantage. Miscanthus sinsensis varieties look beautiful swaying in the windl As the breezes pick up, the grasses dance and shimmer in the sun. They also add yearlong beauty. Beauty doesn't just belong in the summer. As the grasses mature they produce "flower" heads which are interesting in their own right. By winter, the grasses have gone to silvery gold and blend right into a beach environment. So, harness that wind power and allow nature to leave her stamp; just don't let her level your garden!
For more about naturally occurring pine trees go to :http://www.nurserytrees.com/Shore Pine.htm
If you are situated on the east coat you may want to visit this news thread: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/10/AR2005061000949.html
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