Windbreaks for the coastal garden

Seaside Landscaping – Windbreaks

Seaside gardens need protection fromt he wind

Seaside gardens need protection from the wind

Do you live near the shore? Are you finding it difficult to keep things alive because the nearby ocean breezes seem to be killing off your plants in your yard or are ruining your enjoyment of your property? The constant sea breezes and salt laden winds may be part of your problem. Designing windbreaks to keep the ocean winds at bay is an important design element in coastal gardens.

Seaside gardening can be a big challenge. The plants and landscape must be able to tolerate strong winds, salt spray, occasional salt water inundation, poor dry sandy soils, baking heat with full sun and drought conditions. But there are ways to create a more favorable environment for your plants so that they can thrive, enhance your property and you can enjoy the beautiful views. Integrating windbreaks or a hedgerow into the garden can help to ensure its success. The scenery is the focal point so any windbreaks should not obscure the landscape and should be designed to accommodate the best views to the water. A Landscape Architect can help design your seaside garden to take advantage of the views while creating a comfortable space to enjoy all year long.

Dune plantings protect the coastal gardens in New Jersey

Breezy conditions along most coastal areas are a constant and winds can be in excess of 50 mph so it is critical to design your landscape with this in mind. The constant prevailing winds will dry out the planting beds and remove the moisture from the plants more quickly, so it is important to install plants that are tolerant of these conditions to start with. A windbreak can protect the beds and shelter shorter more delicate plants from the direct effects of the wind.

A coastal windbreak by Danny Lipford

 Some design options for wind breaks in particularly windy locations are salt tolerant hedgerows, sturdy fencing, walls or other structures. These windbreaks will block most of the salt spray from the constant breezes, storms or high wind events to allow you to plant less salt tolerant plants on the downwind side of the hedgerow. As a general rule, the denser the hedge, the better protection. It is estimated that the wind speed and turbulence are reduced on the leeward side for a distance of thirty times the height of any type of windbreak. It is also more effective to have a windbreak that is not solid, since solid fences or walls tend to create more turbulence on the leeward side and can break during storms. Breaks in the barrier will allow the wind to go thru and reduce the chances of being leveled in a strong storm. It is vital to make sure if you install a structure (fence or wall) that it is tough enough to handle the anticipated winds in your area and anchored well enough that the shifting sands will not damage the windbreak. Permeable fences like picket, board-on-board, lattice, louver designs or stockade fences work best and help by slowing the wind down by approximately 80 percent.

A coastal backyard by LA Thomas Rainer

A coastal backyard by LA Thomas Rainer

 Vegetated windbreaks come in several sizes.  A low windbreak which allows views over it can be created with several kinds of shrubs to create a formal or natural appearance.  This will provide protection for lower perennials, annuals and smaller shrubs.  A taller windbreak can be implemented with a row of medium to tall trees, then a row of lower growing shrubs and finally a row of really low or dwarf shrubs closest to the residence. This tiered effect offers good wind protection for the garden and any structures on the property. In particularly fierce storm events, like Hurricanes, this may not provide enough protection for the more sensitive plantings and should only be considered where the design of the garden allows for such extensive plantings and the garden requires them. A Landscape Architect can select the best plants for an effective hedge style windbreak with natural defenses to salt and wind tolerance for your garden.

A clear fence creates a great windbreak while still allowing views to the water

Shelter is the essence of garden making which helps define the natural areas from the designed spaces. Terraces, decks, patios and other outdoor entertainment areas should have some protection from the wind and blowing sand. You do not want to have your evening ruined by sand or blustery winds.  Creating some protected areas with a windbreak or hedgerow will allow you to enjoy the outdoors. Sunken patios enclosed by fencing or terraces surrounded by retaining walls and screen plantings on top can help create an oasis from the wind.  The goals are to buffer the winds rather than blocking them, screen any unpleasant views, frame good views and provide shaded space. The layout of the wind breaks can be an effective means of organizing the garden.  The linear nature of the windbreak creates a strong design element which needs to relate to the buildings and structures. This will help to create suitable outdoor gathering spaces, create circulation patterns that work well and provide sheltered gathering spots with unobstructed views to the water.

Dune plantings and a sand fence protect a New Jersey garden

In shoreline environs there is a need to balance views and shelter.  Providing protection for plants and people without sacrificing the open views to the water is the fundamental challenge for landscaping by the shore. One has to remember that the view is the dominant design element. It is important when designing and implementing a windbreak that views to the water be maintained or enhanced. The view needs to be framed not obscured. There also needs to be smooth transition from the foreground of the garden spaces to the distant scenery and water. A Landscape Architect can help design your seaside garden to take advantage of the views while creating a comfortable space to enjoy all year long.

Not, sure how to start planning your seaside garden. Give us a call at 203.268.6979 or email us for a complimentary one hour consultation. Visit us on the web at for more information.

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