Coastal Care

Photograph by Julie Bidwell
Above: A Shippan garden designed by Diane Devore

If you own a place along the water in one of Stamford’s shoreline neighborhoods, you already know that not every plant and shrub can survive wind-driven salt spray.

Indeed, Diane Devore, an award-winning Fairfield County landscape architect who has designed many projects along the Connecticut Gold Coast, has seen the effects of saltwater on a man-made landscape, and offers some pointers based on her experience.

Whether you’re working on a new plot, or just replacing some withered specimens on your shorefront greenery, here’s her take on coastal garden guidance.

A Shippan garden designed by Diane Devore; Photograph by Julie Bidwell


“I do think by planting native you can be assured that the plants will withstand the salt and wind. I would suggest that property owners take their cues from nature.”

There’s a reason you see “masses of beach grass” close to the coast, says Devore. “They can tolerate the most abuse. As you begin to move in toward the land (and away from some of the spray and wind) you start to see more shrubs and trees appear.”

Not all perennials are created equal. Though some will grow along the coast, few tolerate salt spray successfully. Among Devore’s favorites for the shoreline are seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) and sea lavender (Limonium carolinianum).

Goldenrod; Photograph: © –

Devore recommends University of Connecticut’s information regarding shore planting. They have a helpful coastal landscaping guide at Scroll down to the clickable tool. The guide identifies perennials, shrubs and trees that are salt tolerant.

Make beach grasses your friend, and plant these closest to the shore, says Devore. “Interestingly, after [Superstorm] Sandy, the native grasses and iris held on,” she says, suggesting homeowners make the following part of their landscaping design plan: American beach grass (Ammophila breviligulata), big bluestem (Andropogon erardii),sweetgrass (Hierochloe odorata) and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum).

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