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Connecticut Garden Journal: Seascaping

Mar 23, 2017

Those of us living inland tend to only think about the ocean in summer. But for those 23 million people living within a few miles of Long Island Sound in Connecticut and Long Island, the sea is a daily companion.

Landscaping close to the Sound can be challenging and rewarding. The ocean has a moderating effect on temperatures so you can often grow perennials, trees, and shrubs that others can't. However, salt spray and flooding can cause toxic conditions that kills many common landscape plants sometimes for miles inland.

There are advantages to smart landscaping along the coast and coastal streams. It slows runoff, creates flood controls, filters pollutants, provides wildlife habitat, and screening.

The first step is planting the right plant in the right location. For right along the coast, choose plants tolerant of high wind and salt spray, flooding, and poor soil conditions such as beach plum, beach pea, sea lavender, and American beach grass.

Behind this initial layer of plantings, choose other tough plants that are less tolerant of extreme conditions. These plants include eastern red cedar, black chokeberry, sumac, blueberry, butterfly weed, and bluestem grass.

Finally, the third layer has more protection from wind and salt spray, but still needs to be tough. These plants include hawthorn, black oak, creeping juniper, Joe Pye weed, and baptisia.

To plant, remove invasive plants -- such as Japanese honeysuckle -- and lawn grass. Plant buffers of perennial trees and shrubs and keep them well watered and mulched the first year.

Check out the University of Connecticut's online Coastal Landscaping Guide for more information.

Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about serviceberries. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.