Love living on the beach, but despair at the thought of trying to garden in sand dunes? Take some advice from Barbara Peters, a beachfront homeowner on Fenwick Island, Delaware. The landscaped garden at her home in Baltimore is "ordered and serene," but Barbara wanted to go "a bit wild" with her landscape.
That daring spirit meant experimenting with new plants and color schemes on what began as a blank canvas: sand, beach grass, and yucca plants.
Dune gardening requires creativity, but thoughtful enhancements to local plants and some simple tricks can make all the difference in the world.
Barbara's encouragement of tenacious native plants has bulked up the dunes and visually links them to the grassy expanse beyond. Local yuccas "may look exotic, but they're native to the beach, and very hardy," Barbara assures. Their strong, deep roots help stabilize the dunes and anchor them against storms.
The weathered Adirondack chairs were built from salvaged lumber and invite visitors to linger, gazing out over the yucca-covered dunes and beach grass.
Sandy soil doesn't limit your gardening options to yuccas, however. For plants that prefer non-sandy soil, such as blue fanflower and snapdragons, Barbara uses black plastic pots that she sinks in the sand, then brings in for winter.
This innovative idea can be adapted for any nonhardy landscape specimen. At left, hardy perennials (including ice plant, lavender, ornamental grass, and feathery artemisia) supply diverse textures and tones. Another key is knowing which nurseries have the latest and rarest plants.
Barbara also pays close attention to the area around her home itself, where diverse flora set off walkways and the main entrance.
Here, Rosa rugosa, cotton lavender, purple verbena, and other drought-tolerant additions embroider the sand.
In a place where land is so valuable, sprawling gardens are an impossibility.
Undeterred, Barbara crafted the plant stand at left by cutting a hole in the seat of a chair; she paints the chair each year to match what's in the pot (here, blue fanflower). She uses free-standing containers with equal flair.
Eye-catching glazed pots accent the entrance, while simple terra-cotta pieces elevate harmonious arrangements out of her luxuriant beds.
Any gardener needs space to do potting work and store tools, so why not have a little fun with it?
Made from architectural elements and inset with a porcelain pan to hold soil, Barbara's potting bench is as eclectic as her garden. Artistic touches, including the painted table, reflect Barbara's daring and creative personality. Above all, she believes gardening should be fun.