Coastal landscaping has its challenges, as salt spray, wind, heat and sand are intolerable conditions for many plants. The key is to mitigate these factors with windbreaks and the use of protected areas, such as the inland side of the house. Incorporate native plants into the landscape, as they are naturally salt-tolerant and are already adapted to the environment. Landscaping may be easier inland, but inland locations don't have the light off the water or the view.
Near the Water
Cottages on the beach have special landscaping needs. Use plants that can be directly planted in sand, such as American beach grass (Ammophilla breviligulata) which comes in bundles of single plants that are best planted in the fall. A front "lawn" of beach grass catches the light and adds texture and motion to the landscape. Ground covers such as creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis), bearberry (Arctostaphyllus uva-ursi) and beach wormwood (Artemesia stelleriana) provide erosion control.
Soften the brunt of the ocean by creating a windbreak. The University of Massachusetts Extension suggests a succession of plants, beginning with the beach rose (Rosa rugosa) and native bayberry (Myrica pennsylvanica). Next, plant a row of the native Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana). Plant strategically to preserve the view. According to the Washington Post," a fence can create an effective windbreak as well."
Inside the Windbreak
Choose salt-tolerant plants for protected areas facing the ocean. Disease-resistant shrub roses, such as the trademarked knockout roses, work well and thrive in the strong light. Plant lavender, catmint (Nepeta),white 'Becky' daisies (Leucanthemum 'Becky') and everblooming daylilies (Hemerocallis) intermixed with the roses. Hydrangeas can take the elements, but may need some shade. Try groupings of heath and heather, and arrange plants in a border or island bed.
Hydrangeas in full bloom, especially the mophead types, can be stunning as a foundation planting. Low-growing junipers and mounding grasses, such as Pennisetum, give year-round interest. Plant one type or intermix them. A mixed perennial border with salt-tolerant plants, such as the Montauk daisy (Nipponanthemum nipponicum), are also options. Put up a rustic fence in front and plant a red 'Blaze' climbing rose.
Landscaping on the Lee Side
Plant on the side of the house facing inland (provided the house isn't set on pilings and subject to flooding). Shrub roses and clematis will be protected and still get the benefit of the light off the water. Plant a weeping cherry and underplant with a circle of pink dianthus. Delphinium and coneflower (Echinacea) add height in a border, but plant them out of the wind. When choosing plants that may be more vulnerable, check gardens in the area to see what thrives.