Enjoy a Beach House Landscape No Matter Where You Live
Living near the Atlantic Ocean presents unique landscape design challenges. Plants must tolerate forceful storm winds and hot summer temperatures. Salt from sea spray, that mist you feel when near a crashing wave, can affect plants close to the shoreline. Salty ocean water carried by hurricane winds can travel inland for miles according to the North Carolina Nursery and Landscape Association. A careful selection of trees, flowers and shrubs will help ensure plant survival in a seashore landscape. Most plant selections suitable for houses at the beach will capture the allure of a seashore landscape at any home within the recommended USDA planting zones. I used to live at the beach. When my Christmas list included an inflatable raft to soothe nervousness about storms that flood (those nor’easters are wicked!), it was time to move inland. Now, I live, away from the salty air and the fear of ocean water reaching my front door. However, a part of the beach came with me since the landscaping plants I enjoyed at the beach are now a part of my cottage landscape away from the beach.
Sun loving annuals such as marigold, petunia, geranium, sunflower, vinca, coleus, cornflower and sweet alyssum are suitable for a beach house landscape. As annuals, they should grow in most USDA zones. Grow the plants in pots, if desired, to relocate the flowers to a protected area during a storm.
Daylily (USDA zones 3 to 10) has varieties that can reach 4 feet tall. Common yarrow (USDA all zones) reaches about 3 feet tall. Candytuft (USDA 3a to 9b) grows about 6 inches tall can be used for a border or to fill gaps between plants. All these flowers (and more) comprise my cottage garden.
Tall grasses are a common sight near the beach. Ornamental grasses can bear the heat and salt, and still keep coming back year after year. Options include salt tolerate grasses like pampas grass (USDA zones 7b to 10) that grows up to 10 feet tall, maiden grass (USDA zones 5 to 9) that grows up to 8 feet tall, and fountain grass (USDA zones 5 to 9) that grows to about 4 feet tall.
Deciduous trees add spectacular fall color before the tree’s leaves drop. During the heat of summer, trees offer shade to the house or patio. Trees hardy in USDA zones 4a to 9b include: red maple that grows 60 to 75 feet tall, sycamore that grows up to 100 feet tall, and river birch that grows 50 to 70 feet tall.
Leafy evergreen trees include American holly (USDA zones 5a to 9b) that grows up to 40 feet tall and southern magnolia (USDA zones 6a to 10b) that grows up to 80 feet tall. The leaves of magnolia can become a nuisance on the ground because their size and rubbery nature makes them difficult to rake. And American holly easily self-seeds, creating a forest of sprouts requiring removal. Still, I have grown both trees and enjoy their evergreen qualities for the landscape plus clippings for Christmas holiday decorations. For needle evergreens, try Japanese red pine (USDA zones 3 to 7) that grows up to 60 feet tall or eastern red cedar (USDA zone 2 to 9) that grows up to 40 feet tall.
Creeping juniper (USDA zones 6 to 8) reaches about 6 inches tall as it spreads to cover the ground. Southern waxmyrtle (USDA zones 7b to 11) is a fast growing evergreen shrub that grows to 15 feet tall.
Flowering deciduous shrubs
Bigleaf hydrangea (USDA zones 6 to 9) grows to about 4 feet tall and rose of Sharon (USDA zones 5 to 8), can reach about 10 feet tall depending on variety. The shrubs provide weeks of continuous blooms. The hydrangea is my favorite shrub, with large blooms suitable for cutting to enjoy indoors or dried to use in crafts.