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Landscaping: 8 Ideas for Practical Seashell Surfaces

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Landscaping: 8 Ideas for Practical Seashell Surfaces

July 3, 2018

“A great alternative to gravel, crushed clam or oyster can be used on paths, patios, courtyards, driveways, and even bocce ball courts (the shells don’t hold water or imprints from shoes and balls),” writes Janet. “As the shells are walked on or driven over, they break into smaller pieces that disperse evenly, creating a stable surface that’s not prone to the ruts and holes you get with crushed stone toppings.”

In additional to being practical, seashell surfaces are environmentally friendly—and stylish. We’ve rounded up some of Gardenista favorites to make the case.

Parking Pads

Having grown up in Maine, the Massachusetts-based landscape architect Matthew Cunningham immediately knew seashells would be the perfect material to pave a parking area at the end of a driveway in Lamoine, Maine (a three-hour drive north of Portland). Photograph by Matthew Cunningham.
Above: Having grown up in Maine, the Massachusetts-based landscape architect Matthew Cunningham immediately knew seashells would be the perfect material to pave a parking area at the end of a driveway in Lamoine, Maine (a three-hour drive north of Portland). Photograph by Matthew Cunningham.

For more of this project, see Landscape Architect Visit: Clamshell Alley on the Coast of Maine.

Herb Gardens

A seashell surface doubles as walkway and mulch in an herb garden where lavender flourishes in one of Landscape Architect Edmund Hollander’s Grand Estate Gardens.
Above: A seashell surface doubles as walkway and mulch in an herb garden where lavender flourishes in one of Landscape Architect Edmund Hollander’s Grand Estate Gardens.

A sense of scale and proportion can elevate a humble surface material in an estate garden.

Garden Paths

Seashells from the nearby Chesapeake Bay are used on the paths at Colonial Williamsburg. Photograph by Justine Hand.
Above: Seashells from the nearby Chesapeake Bay are used on the paths at Colonial Williamsburg. Photograph by Justine Hand.

See more at Garden Visit: Secrets of Another Century at Colonial Williamsburg.

Garden Gateways

On Cape Cod, a split-rail fence marks the boundary between the clamshell driveway (which gets a refresher layer every two to three years) and the entryway to the garden. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Gardenista.
Above: On Cape Cod, a split-rail fence marks the boundary between the clamshell driveway (which gets a refresher layer every two to three years) and the entryway to the garden. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Gardenista.

See more of this garden at Gardenista Book Sneak Peek: The Architects’ Studio on Cape Cod.

Cottage Gardens

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Above: “Few would dare to work with the acid yellow of Patrinia, but against this chocolate door on Cape Cod it really works,” says Justine. “In this clamshell driveway, where this perennial self-seeds to wild effect, designer Tim Callis paired Patrinia with fennel and oregano.” Photograph by Justine Hand.

See more in 10 Garden Ideas to Steal from Provincetown on Cape Cod.

Side Courtyards

When visitors step inside the front gate, at a white clapboard captain’s villa and boathouse on the harbor in Fjällbacka, a remote resort town on the western edge of Sweden, the first surface they encounter is seashells. The shell-paved courtyard creates a sense of separation between the house and the nearby road. Photograph via Anna Ski.
Above: When visitors step inside the front gate, at a white clapboard captain’s villa and boathouse on the harbor in Fjällbacka, a remote resort town on the western edge of Sweden, the first surface they encounter is seashells. The shell-paved courtyard creates a sense of separation between the house and the nearby road. Photograph via Anna Ski.

For more of this garden (and for a closeup view of the seashell ornamentation on the front gate), see From Sweden with Love: A Romantic Captain’s Seaside Villa.

Bocce Courts

Photograph via Myco Supply, which sells Bulk Crushed Oyster Shells for bocce courts.
Above: Photograph via Myco Supply, which sells Bulk Crushed Oyster Shells for bocce courts.

For a DIY bocce court, first spread a three-inch layer of drainage rock. Next add a weed barrier (such as a layer of landscape cloth). Then spread a three-inch layer of crushed rock, fine gravel, or decomposed granite. You can also top dress the surface with a special bocce court blend of crushed oysters; for information, see Myco Supply.

For more, see Hardscaping 101: Bocce Courts.

Ribbon Driveways

Photograph courtesy of Bridgehampton, New York–based Stelle Lomont Rouhani Architects, members of our Architect and Designer Directory.
Above: Photograph courtesy of Bridgehampton, New York–based Stelle Lomont Rouhani Architects, members of our Architect and Designer Directory.

If you’re designing or resurfacing a path or driveway, start with inspiration from our curated design guides for Driveways 101, Pavers 101, and Sustainable Surfaces.

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