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11 Garden Ideas to Steal from the Coast of Maine

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11 Garden Ideas to Steal from the Coast of Maine

July 14, 2020

The rocky coast of Maine is known for being a little weather-worn, with Down East charm: old gray Adirondack chairs, hardy plantings that can stand the salt air, and outdoor showers for washing off the sand. It might be because of Maine’s down-to-earth people, or—more likely—because little needs to be added to its spectacular natural landscape of beaches, craggy coves, and quiet marshes, but Maine gardens are best let be. Still, there are a few classic components to a Maine coast garden to steal for your own. Here are a few.

Rosa Rugosa

All along the Maine coast, in gardens, on rocks, and along the little pathways down to the beach, you&#8\2\17;ll find Rosa rugosa, also known informally as beach roses. Plant them instead of fences along property lines for privacy. An added bonus? Their sweet smell will remind you of the beach when you walk by. Photograph from Tales from Truro: An Untamed Landscape Channels Thoreau’s Cape Cod.
Above: All along the Maine coast, in gardens, on rocks, and along the little pathways down to the beach, you’ll find Rosa rugosa, also known informally as beach roses. Plant them instead of fences along property lines for privacy. An added bonus? Their sweet smell will remind you of the beach when you walk by. Photograph from Tales from Truro: An Untamed Landscape Channels Thoreau’s Cape Cod.

Weathered Shingles

The quintessential cladding for the Maine seaside cottage? Well-weathered shingles, the grayer the better. Photograph from Landscape Architect Visit: Clamshell Alley on the Coast of Maine.
Above: The quintessential cladding for the Maine seaside cottage? Well-weathered shingles, the grayer the better. Photograph from Landscape Architect Visit: Clamshell Alley on the Coast of Maine.

Adirondack Chairs

The only outdoor furniture you need: a pair of Adirondack chairs—first created in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, but now an iconic Maine garden feature. They&#8\2\17;re necessary for reading in the early mornings and taking in the view come evening. Photograph from Tales from Truro: An Untamed Landscape Channels Thoreau’s Cape Cod.
Above: The only outdoor furniture you need: a pair of Adirondack chairs—first created in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, but now an iconic Maine garden feature. They’re necessary for reading in the early mornings and taking in the view come evening. Photograph from Tales from Truro: An Untamed Landscape Channels Thoreau’s Cape Cod.

Ad-Hoc Outdoor Shower

A Maine summer necessity: an unfussy outdoor shower for washing off sunscreen and sand at the end of the day. It can be simple: an exposed pipe and some slatted wood to stand on, as shown here, will do. Photograph by Matthew Williams for the Gardenista book, as seen in \10 Favorites: Outdoor Showers.
Above: A Maine summer necessity: an unfussy outdoor shower for washing off sunscreen and sand at the end of the day. It can be simple: an exposed pipe and some slatted wood to stand on, as shown here, will do. Photograph by Matthew Williams for the Gardenista book, as seen in 10 Favorites: Outdoor Showers.

Granite Pavers

Maine coastal gardens are neither dainty nor precious. The hardscaping material of choice? Granite or fieldstone pavers that look as though they&#8\2\17;ve been there all along. (And some have been: granite was long a main export of the state.) Photograph from Landscape Architect Visit: Clamshell Alley on the Coast of Maine.
Above: Maine coastal gardens are neither dainty nor precious. The hardscaping material of choice? Granite or fieldstone pavers that look as though they’ve been there all along. (And some have been: granite was long a main export of the state.) Photograph from Landscape Architect Visit: Clamshell Alley on the Coast of Maine.

Scruffy Pines

The Pine Tree State has plenty of the hardy, scraggly trees, even along the coast, where they smell good mixed with the salt air. See more in The Ultimate Indoor-Outdoor House on 36 Acres in Coastal Maine.
Above: The Pine Tree State has plenty of the hardy, scraggly trees, even along the coast, where they smell good mixed with the salt air. See more in The Ultimate Indoor-Outdoor House on 36 Acres in Coastal Maine.

Handy Kayak Storage

Mainers are apt to opt for the paddle-it-yourself sort of boat (unless it&#8\2\17;s a lobster boat). All the more reason to devise a smart storage solution. When I was little, my dad built a two-in-one log shed that could accommodate three kayaks on the back. Or, take this solution from Outbuilding of the Week: A \190-Square-Foot Writer’s Studio in Maine, with a canoe tucked beneath the waterside cabin.
Above: Mainers are apt to opt for the paddle-it-yourself sort of boat (unless it’s a lobster boat). All the more reason to devise a smart storage solution. When I was little, my dad built a two-in-one log shed that could accommodate three kayaks on the back. Or, take this solution from Outbuilding of the Week: A 190-Square-Foot Writer’s Studio in Maine, with a canoe tucked beneath the waterside cabin.

Hydrangea Hedges

Justine has previously lamented the popularity of hydrangea on her native Cape Cod (they feel &#8\2\20;too cultivated, too precious,&#8\2\2\1; she wrote; see Bouquet of the Week: Hydrangeas Gone Wild). It&#8\2\17;s no different along Maine&#8\2\17;s seacoast: Billowy blooms are everywhere, along fences and against houses. But perhaps it&#8\2\17;s the hardy, informal, weather-beaten elements of Maine that keep the flowers from looking too prissy. Photograph by Matthew Williams from Swimming Pool of the Week: Dreaming in Blue at a Stylist’s Hamptons Compound; see Gardening \10\1: Hydrangea Macrophylla and Everything You Need to Know About Hydrangeas for much more.
Above: Justine has previously lamented the popularity of hydrangea on her native Cape Cod (they feel “too cultivated, too precious,” she wrote; see Bouquet of the Week: Hydrangeas Gone Wild). It’s no different along Maine’s seacoast: Billowy blooms are everywhere, along fences and against houses. But perhaps it’s the hardy, informal, weather-beaten elements of Maine that keep the flowers from looking too prissy. Photograph by Matthew Williams from Swimming Pool of the Week: Dreaming in Blue at a Stylist’s Hamptons Compound; see Gardening 101: Hydrangea Macrophylla and Everything You Need to Know About Hydrangeas for much more.

Sand Rinse-Off Stations

No space for an outdoor shower? A simple hose will do for rinsing grass cuttings from feet. Or, place a shallow bucket full of water beside the door for a quick dip. Photograph from Shipshape Cape Cod Cottage Inspired by Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic&#8\2\2\1;, over on Remodelista.
Above: No space for an outdoor shower? A simple hose will do for rinsing grass cuttings from feet. Or, place a shallow bucket full of water beside the door for a quick dip. Photograph from Shipshape Cape Cod Cottage Inspired by Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic”, over on Remodelista.

Hardy New Englander Plantings

To my mother, &#8\2\20;Hardy New Englander&#8\2\2\1; is a prized title for anybody who can weather a Maine winter without complaint. It was a familiar refrain—or rather a challenge—throughout my childhood, whenever we questioned whether we really needed to go out for a walk in the middle of a nor&#8\2\17;easter. But the same is true for plants. Like people, anything that grows on the Maine coast—and gets to enjoy its splendor—must also be able to weather its tempestuousness: sandy soil, salt air, sometimes harsh sun, and even harsher winters. On his property on the rocky island of Spruce Head, Anthony Esteves opted for native plants that would look as though they hadn&#8\2\17;t been planted at all: &#8\2\20;blueberry, bayberry, spruce, many types of wildflowers, moss, and lichens.&#8\2\2\1; Read more in Curb Appeal: A Classic New England Color Palette on Spruce Head in Maine.
Above: To my mother, “Hardy New Englander” is a prized title for anybody who can weather a Maine winter without complaint. It was a familiar refrain—or rather a challenge—throughout my childhood, whenever we questioned whether we really needed to go out for a walk in the middle of a nor’easter. But the same is true for plants. Like people, anything that grows on the Maine coast—and gets to enjoy its splendor—must also be able to weather its tempestuousness: sandy soil, salt air, sometimes harsh sun, and even harsher winters. On his property on the rocky island of Spruce Head, Anthony Esteves opted for native plants that would look as though they hadn’t been planted at all: “blueberry, bayberry, spruce, many types of wildflowers, moss, and lichens.” Read more in Curb Appeal: A Classic New England Color Palette on Spruce Head in Maine.
Another hardy choice: lavender. Read \10 Easy Pieces: Perennials for the Seaside Garden for more resilient options. Photograph from Landscape Architect Edmund Hollander’s Grand Estate Gardens.
Above: Another hardy choice: lavender. Read 10 Easy Pieces: Perennials for the Seaside Garden for more resilient options. Photograph from Landscape Architect Edmund Hollander’s Grand Estate Gardens.

The Untouched Coast

When in doubt, let the existing natural landscape do the work: It needs little added. Photograph from Curb Appeal: A Classic New England Color Palette on Spruce Head in Maine.
Above: When in doubt, let the existing natural landscape do the work: It needs little added. Photograph from Curb Appeal: A Classic New England Color Palette on Spruce Head in Maine.

Plus, two Maine summer essentials that can’t go unmentioned: screened porches and bug repellant. Read more at Mosquito Repellent: 5 Flowers and Herbs to Keep Pests Away10 Easy Pieces: Citronella Insect Repellents, and DIY: Scented Candles to Repel Insects, Not HumansThe Summer Living Room: 10 Airy Screened-In Porches, and Steal This Look: The Perfect Screened Porch.

Browse more ideas to steal from coastal gardens, from Cape Cod and beyond:

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