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Landscaping Alternatives

One site, three solutions

Riparian properties have unique characteristics and challenges. The following landscape plans illustrate three possible alternatives for the same piece of property. These plans all improve water quality, stabilize the shoreline, and attract wildlife; they differ in the amount of water that can be seen from the house or the amount of house that can be seen from the water. The alternatives can be modified to create a specialized plan depending on the existing site conditions and the objectives of the owners.

Existing conditions

  • Lawn is mowed to the water’s edge
  • Rock bluff above water
  • Wet area
  • Minor erosion along shoreline
  • Back of house faces east

Drawing of existing landscape

Complete the following steps for all three alternatives upon receipt of applicable shoreline construction permits:

  • Repair erosion along shoreline by planting native vegetation in conjunction with coconut fiber rolls (flexible “logs” made from coconut hull fibers) to stabilize bank, trap sediment, and encourage plant growth.
  • Plant native sun-tolerant species in riparian zone.
  • Build dock and walkway. A straight walkway creates a channel for runoff which increases the risk of erosion. A curved walkway slows the flow of runoff from the house to the water.

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Alternative one: Maximize view

If you want to maximize your view of the water, then this alternative is for you.

  • Select low-growing species for use between house and water to maintain views.
  • Plant moist upland or wetland/standing water species in wet areas for diversity and to accelerate the recovery process.
  • Plant a mixture of dry upland trees (large and small) along each side of the house for privacy.
  • Plant a variety of dry upland shrubs (large and small) along the edge of the trees. Shade-tolerant species can be added once the tree canopy develops. These shrubs will increase the wildlife corridor and can be selected to attract specific bird, mammal, and insect species.
  • Create a meadow using native warm-season grasses and wildflowers between house and waterfront, planting to the water’s edge (use 4-5 species of native warm-season grasses and 9-12 species of sun-tolerant wildflowers).

illustration of alternate 1

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Alternative two: Provide privacy with many views

If you want privacy but still want to see the water, plan your landscape with “windows” so you have several different views.

  • Plant a variety of dry and moist upland (wet area) species in clumps, as determined by site conditions, leaving open spaces to create framed vistas.
  • In selected areas, add a mixture of large sun-tolerant shrubs for diversity and to create focal points.

illustration of alternative 2

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Alternative three: Provide full privacy and maximum riparian benefits

If your property is located where there is a lot of boat traffic and you want privacy from the water, then build a “wall” of vegetation.

  • Plant a variety of dry and moist upland (wet areas) species, as determined by site conditions, along the property line and shoreline to provide privacy. Concentrate groupings of shrubs at edge of tree plantings.
  • Plant a small meadow above rock bluff to promote wildlife diversity (3-4 species of native warm-season grasses and 3-5 species of sun-tolerant wildflowers).

illustration of alternative 3

Illustrations by Dede Christopher

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