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Gardens are never static. Constantly changing and transitory in nature, they offer various forms of beauty throughout the seasons. As summer fades and the sun falls lower in the sky, the foliage dies, the leaves and stems turn a russet color, and the flowers go to seed. But plants can be quite beautiful in death, evoking many moods and emotions as they transform. Think of how the low autumn light shimmers off the clustering flower heads of fading perennials and warmly illuminates the lingering straw-colored stems of tall grasses. Think of the brilliant colors and rustling sounds of deciduous tree leaves stirring up a sense of nostalgia for time passing. Think of the first frost covering the remaining plants and transforming the landscape into a scene of cool tranquility. By planting trees, shrubs, perennials, and grasses that offer beautiful color, texture, light, form, and movement, you can create a dynamic character and mood to your coastal garden throughout the year. The plants listed below are all native to Massachusetts and were specifically selected for their capacity to endure the conditions at coastal sites (but most are suitable for inland sites too). When choosing a plant, please check its growing requirements to make sure it will thrive in the temperature, soil, light, and water conditions of your yard.
Though the colors of fall and winter are not as diverse as those of the spring and summer, the low-angled sunlight beautifully highlights the colors that do dominate the landscape. The warm red, orange, and golden shades of autumn leaves are particularly effective at intercepting this low-angled light and creating an appealing glow. The bright-colored berries, seed heads, and stems of other plants that remain through fall and winter provide a striking contrast to the cool and cold elements of those seasons. You can maximize this effect in your own garden by planting particular trees, shrubs, grasses, and perennials that are renowned for their colorful displays. The following plants offer warm fall and winter colors:
During the spring and summer months, green foliage is all around us—verdant, lush, and encompassing the majority of the landscape canvas. However, in the fall and winter, green becomes more of a focal point due to its relative scarcity. Planting evergreen trees, shrubs, and groundcovers can give you an enduring contrast to the earth tones that dominate the fall and winter landscape. Various evergreens can also act as a hedge and/or wind barrier, provide structure and form to fill an otherwise barren landscape, and effectively catch and drape freshly fallen snow. In addition, evergreen trees and shrubs provide valuable cover for birds, and their twigs, leaves, and seeds offer important wildlife food. For an ever-green and diverse landscape, try the following plants:
Grasses have become quite popular in the landscape for good reason—they are reliable, have a long season of interest, and can tolerate a wide range of environments, including harsh coastal conditions. Much of their interest lies in their unique textures, their graceful arching forms, and the way they catch the light with their feathery plumes. In addition, the stems and seed heads that persist through the winter provide visual interest year round. Their form and texture, in combination with light and wind, can offer a visual impression of a more naturalistic garden, elegant but less fussy. Grasses also provide bountiful seeds for wildlife and stabilize soils with their deep, fibrous roots. The following are a few grasses that are hardy enough for the coast while offering attractive texture and form to the fall and winter landscape:
Gardens grown on the coast are subject to the whims of the wind. And while the sea breeze can be detrimental to many plants, it can be a positive influence on others. Particular grasses and perennials respond to and move fluidly with the winds, while various shrubs and trees withstand the battering effect to flourish with an expressive and interesting growth habit. If you would like to maximize the effects of the sea breeze in your garden, try planting:
Looking for more plants for your coastal garden? Visit these websites to find additional information: