August 29, 2012
I was lucky to have a chance to take a trip to Bethany Beach, DE this summer. Being a landscape designer is always great, but sometimes people say “Hey, you can stay at my beach house for a week if you do a landscape design for me!” and then I think for .25 seconds and agree.
I grew up going to Rehoboth Beach, DE, which is just up the road from Bethany. The landscapes are very similar: lots of state park land that is full of brackish marshes and sandy pine woods, contrasted with beach cottages with manicured gardens. Designing a beach landscape is a very different animal than a suburban or urban garden design. The sandy soils can be good and bad–great drainage, not a lot of nutrients. The sun can be brutal but there can be cooling ocean breezes. The salt from those breezes can be a challenge for many plants. Grasses adapt well to these conditions, as do lots of woody shrubs like Hydrangea.
But that’s in the cultivated gardens–some very exotic-looking native plants have an easier time of it. I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time at Fresh Pond–part of the Delaware Seashore State Park–right behind the house I stayed in. The park offered peace and quiet and a great shortcut to the beach. I also found some wonderful native plants on my walks, including the extraordinary native passion flower (Passiflora incarnata), prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa) (yes, they grow this far north!) and most surprising to me, the graceful Turk’s Cap Lily (Lilium superbum).
The fruit of the native passion flower is not sweet like its tripical cousin, but the flower has a wonderful fragrance–sweet, almost like grape soda.
I’ve never tasted it, but the fruit of the prickly pear is supposed to make a nice jam. I have had prickly-pear-juice sweetened lollipops!
The turk’s cap lily is one of the most brilliant wildfowers I’ve seen.
A special treat for me was evidence of a turtle nest along the path. The depression in the sand at the top of the image is the nest, and the white bits that look kind of like plastic are turtle egg shells. I’m not sure what kind of turtle–I’ll have to find a naturalist to consult.
Labor Day is right around the corner–I can’t believe how fast summer 2012 has gone!