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Praiseworthy Plants for Coastal Gardens
Published: 06/20/2013

Rain, wind and sand can make gardening on the coast challenging, but by choosing the right plants, you can make your garden retreat perform all summer long.

Influenced by nearly constant temperatures of the Pacific Ocean, coastal gardens benefit from a long flowering season. However this moderate year-round climate does present some challenges for even the greenest of thumbs. Exposure to the ocean creates some micro-climate obstacles for coastal gardeners, however if you select plants that match garden design to the coastal climate, gardening by the beach can be rewarding.

Coastal wind and sandy soil is a beach gardener's worst enemy. High winds, salt and moisture can be a lethal combination for plants. So what's a gardener to do? Try choosing plants with smaller leaves: Ocean winds tend to burn foliage, especially larger leaves. Focus on flowers with fewer petals: Moisture collects inside flowers with lots of petals (such as peonies and double roses) causing blossoms to rot. Many coastal soils are sandy and do not hold water. These soils need additional organic matter and frequent watering during summer months.

There are plants that do exceptionally well in these ocean exposures. Consider the lilies and lily-like plants. This group of plants includes the well known common daylily or Hemerocallis. Daylilies are popular for a reason, with extended bloom, compact habit, many colors, and easy growing requirements. The daylily can tolerate wind, poor soil and little moisture.

Agapanthus is another coastal favorite, commonly known as Lily of the Nile. There are few plants on the coast that can tolerate direct exposure to wind, salt and poor soil as the Agapanthus does. Most are shades of blue-violet or white, with the standard variety at three feet tall. Newer varieties offer a more compact habit and shades of bloom color.

Crocosmia 'Lucifer' offers strong focal color in mid-summer. The true red of this clumping flower, with multiples on long arching stems, makes a stunning splash in any perennial bed. The tall spiky green foliage lends a textural accent to a shrub boarder.

If you are truly lucky, you might find your coastal landscape sporting a few native western lilies, like the Trout Lily, the Fawn Lily or the False Lily of the Valley. The latter will often carpet shady areas under trees, if the understory is left undisturbed. As you plan your coastal garden this season consider the lilies, these praiseworthy plants are sure to please.
 - By Ingrid Mueller

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