Bunny O’Callahan’s years of gardening on the New England coast have taught her which plants love a seaside setting. Here’s a selection of her recommendations:
WOODY PLANTS Hydrangea macrophylla and Buddleia (butterfly bush) are easy, deciduous shrubs that bloom from July onward. The hydrangeas feature large “popcorn ball” or flat-topped “lacecap” flowers in vivid blue or pink. Buddleia has lilac-like flowers in white, pink, lavender, or deep purple. Bunny prunes half of last year’s growth off hers early each spring. In addition, the twisting twigs of Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’ give rise to its common name: “corkscrew willow.” This tree loves moisture, grows like wildfire, and “it’s so unusual,” says Bunny, especially in winter, when its structure is very visible.
PERENNIALS Soft blue flowers, an airy quality, ease of cultivation, and resistance to pests and diseases give catmint (Nepeta) pride of place in Bunny’s garden. ‘Six Hills Giant’ is a reliable cultivar that doubles in size every year and is easily divided. Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) looks similar but is larger and blooms later. Finally, ornamental grasses of all kinds are trouble-free and look beautiful blowing in an ocean breeze.
ANNUALS Sunflowers (Helianthus annus)make everyone smile, and the seeds are food for birds. They’re available in a range of heights and colors. As a complement, Bunny seeds ‘Cut-and-Come-Again’ zinnias in early July for flowers into the fall.
BULBS Spring daffodils (Narcissus) are pleasing to us but unpalatable to deer and rodents: the best of both worlds. In summer, stately Asiatic lilies (Lillium) take up little space yet deliver an eyeful of color.