A Guide to Beach Landscape Ideas

Beach huts

Danita Delimont / Getty Images

Beach-Themed Sign

Beach-theme yard signs look great in seaside communities.

Whale Garden Address Sign Apt for Seaside Communities Beach-theme garden signs look great in seaside communities, as this photo of a whale garden sign demonstrates.  David Beaulieu

Seashore Decor Photos, Plants for a Beach Theme

A beach theme with outdoor nautical decor can include salt-tolerant plants indigenous to your seashore and nautical garden signs, mailboxes and ornaments. Browse my beach-theme photos for landscape ideas to use in your own garden.

You don’t have to live near the seashore to inject these nautical themes into your garden landscaping. Beach landscape ideas work well in lakeside communities, too by association — despite the fact that there are no real whales or lighthouses within hundreds of miles! Such details don’t stop the true ocean-lover from decorating with beach themes. I’ve witnessed the use of outdoor nautical decor in yards located nowhere near water of any sort, whether fresh or salty.

If you don’t live near the seaside (yet are attracted to nautical decor) and question whether a beach theme is appropriate for your landscaping, realize that it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. Try installing an artificial pond and decorating just that area of the garden with a beach theme.

Landscape designs thoroughly committed to a beach theme begin at the property’s entrance, with a garden address sign that bespeaks the ocean….

This whale carving is a perfect garden address sign for a home in a seaside community. For a house near the ocean, I’d call this “a whale of a garden sign.”

Outdoor Nautical Decor Photos

Picture of a fence made with a ship's chain.

Ship’s-Chain Fence Picture of a fence made with a ship’s chain.  David Beaulieu

Ship’s chains go hand-in-hand with anchors as popular elements in outdoor nautical decor….

This is a case where a fence is purely decorative: Despite its massiveness, this beach-theme fence won’t stop very much from coming onto the property. That’s all right: its purpose is to evoke the ocean.

Ship’s Rope Used as Fence

Ship's rope photo, used in fencing. Another beach-theme material for fencing: a ship's rope.

Shipping Materials Make for Classic Beach Themes Another beach-theme material for fencing: a ship’s rope.  David Beaulieu

Does the ship’s chain used in the prior fencing photo strike you as too ponderous-looking…?

Another beach-theme material for fencing is a much lighter material (although still plenty solid-looking): a ship’s rope.

Nautical Rope and Carved Lobster

Picture of carved lobster, nautical rope on post. Carved lobster are perfect for beach themes.

Another Use for Nautical Rope Post decorated with nautical rope and a carved lobster.  David Beaulieu

In the prior picture, nautical rope (ship’s roping) was used for fencing….

If that’s a bit too much nautical rope for your own landscape, tone things down by merely decorating a post or two with nautical rope. As a bonus, the posts in the photo above are also decorated with a carved lobster.

Lighthouse: Seashore Icon

Photo of lighthouse ornament surrounded by tropical plants.

Lighthouse Ornaments: Beacons of Seaside Landscaping Photo of lighthouse ornament surrounded by tropical plants.  David Beaulieu

The lighthouse is another natural for seashore landscaping….

Lighthouse ornaments come in many different sizes, styles and colours. The lighthouse in this picture is the focal point in a bed of tropical plants, although the setting itself is hardly tropical: I snapped this photo in chilly Maine (U.S.). The tropical plants will either be brought inside for the winter or treated as annuals.

Beach Rose: the Rosa Species for the Seaside

Picture of

Rosa rugosa, the “Beach” rose, thrives along ocean-side boardwalks.  David Beaulieu

Rosa rugosa performs very well in seaside communities and has, in fact, been nicknamed the “beach rose.” It is ubiquitous at the beaches because it is made of sturdier stuff, there are a range of rose types that you can grow successfully and are typically found in beach gardens.

Beach roses hold up under what is, for many other plants, a perfect storm of challenging conditions:

    1. They tolerate drought.
    2. They are tolerant of poor soils.
    3. They withstand high winds.
    4. They do not mind salt — whether it be the salty soil and salt-laden breezes along the ocean or the road salt that contaminates the ground along a highway (an alternate common name for the shrub is “salt-spray rose”).

Not only do these bushes furnish ornamental value along the seashore, but they are also sometimes planted in sand dunes and along beach roads to prevent shore erosion. Wild birds and other animals, such as deer, eat the rose hips (that is, the fruit of the beach rose). High in vitamin C, humans can eat the rose hips, too.

What Beach Roses Look Like, How to Grow Them

Several varieties and/or cultivars of beach roses have been put on the market, such as the aptly named ‘Sandy,’ and plant attributes (including floral colour) will vary from one to another. But what follows is a general description of the species (wild) plant.

Beach roses usually reach a height of 4-6 feet, with a similar spread, but they have been known to become even larger than that. They can push up suckers, thereby spreading to become colonies or “thickets” over time. Birds often nest in the thickets of beach roses. The stalks are covered in sharp thorns, making this a good hedge plant for homeowners who wish to discourage trespassers.

The leaves are dark green in colour. The (usually) fragrant flowers are most commonly either pink or white. These 3-inch blooms flower mainly in late spring and early summer.

You can install beach roses either in full sun or in partial shade, but plants will be healthier and flower better when given full sunlight. Fertilizing is generally not necessary but do provide them with good drainage.

While beach roses are low-maintenance, they are like most other plants in the sense that supplying them with a little tender loving care increases the chances for optimal performance. To that end, adhere to these simple rules of care:

    1. Space them so as to provide sufficient air circulation. Since mature width is around 6 feet, space new plants at least 6 feet apart, unless you are trying to form a hedge.
    2. Water the plants at ground level, not overhead. Along with good air circulation, this will help prevent disease (although this hardy is, to be sure, relatively disease-resistant).

Ivy Geranium Hanging Baskets

Picture of an ivy geranium hanging basket.

Seaside Plant Photo Picture of an ivy geranium hanging basket.  David Beaulieu

When selecting salt-tolerant plants, remember that the sea breeze carries a salty mist that can have an adverse effect on some plants in hanging baskets….

But ivy geranium, shown in the picture above, is one plant that seems to thrive at the seashore. Another plant popular for hanging baskets that thrives near the sea is lantana. Another great idea is to use these plants in window boxes if you live near the ocean.

Picture of Palm Trees

Front yard palm trees

Troy Plota / Getty Images

The sight of a palm tree makes many of us think “beach landscape”….

Don’t think that you have to live in the sub-tropics to enjoy palm trees. Among the various types of exotic plants and palm trees, some are hardy. Denizens of cold climates also have the option of treating palms as annuals or potting them up and taking them inside for the winter. Not all palm trees are as gigantic as the ones in the picture above: some are small enough to make good container-plants.

Seaside Heather Plant

Photo of woolly beach heather.

Woolly Beach Heather Blooming in June Photo of woolly beach heather.  David Beaulieu

One way to achieve a beach theme is to “go native”….

When you think about the various types of wildflowers, wild beach vegetation may not come to mind immediately. But some of us do have strong “beach associations” with the native plants that grace our local beaches. Native plants also carry the advantage of being adapted to your particular climate. Check with your local wildflower nursery for the availability of native plants that would fit in with a beach theme.

The seaside plant in the picture above goes by various names, in case you’re interested in researching it, it is called “woolly beach heather,”

Beach Grass

Photo of beach grass.

The Ultimate Grass to Grow Near the Seashore Photo of beach grass.  David Beaulieu

If it’s native plants you seek for your beach theme, don’t forget the obvious: beach grass….

These homeowners were smart to grow beach grass (or “dune grass”) in their small front garden, rather than struggling to grow lawn grass where it really doesn’t belong. The only “carpet” you need at the beach is sand. Like the ornamental grasses with which you are probably familiar, beach grass is meant to grow tall and look pretty, rather than functioning as a carpet as lawn grasses do. Nor do you have to mow it (always a plus).

Mailbox for Beach Landscape

Fish mailbox photo.

Fish Mailbox Fish mailbox photo.  David Beaulieu

This bigmouth bass swallowed a whole mailbox….

I’ve also seen these fish mailboxes in brown, but I think the green fish shown in the picture above provides better color for seashore landscaping.

Like a garden address sign (see picture #1 in this beach-theme gallery, showing a whale sign), a mailbox is one of the first elements in a garden to catch the viewer’s eye. So, if you’re developing a beach theme for your landscaping, the mailbox is a good place to begin. The next few pictures all show examples of clever mailboxes for seashore communities.

Fishing Lure Mailbox

Picture of mailbox in the form of a fishing lure. Fishing lure mailboxes fit well into beach themes.

Idea for Nautical Decor Picture of mailbox in the form of a fishing lure.  David Beaulieu

In the prior picture, we saw a mailbox in the shape of a fish….

The mailbox pictured above is similar but exploits the fishing theme from a subtly different angle. For here it is a fishing lure rather than a fish that will hold the day’s mail.

Mailbox for the Seashore

A lobster-trap mailbox is the ultimate in outdoor nautical decor.

Lobster-Trap Mailbox A lobster-trap mailbox is the ultimate in outdoor nautical decor.  David Beaulieu

A lobster-trap mailbox provides the ultimate opening for a beach theme….

I could easily do without the fish and seahorse figures floating above the lobster trap; in my opinion, they clutter a scene that requires no more than the lobster trap to get its message across.

Lighthouse Mailbox

Lighthouse mailbox photo.

Another Mailbox with a Beach Theme Lighthouse mailbox photo.  David Beaulieu

We’ve already seen an example of a lighthouse used as a stand-alone seashore ornament….

But in the picture above, we see a mailbox with a lighthouse theme. The lighthouse mailbox has plenty of company, with separate lighthouse ornaments in the background.

Seashell Mailbox for Beach Theme

Seashell mailbox photo.

“She Sells Seashells by the Seashore” Seashell mailbox photo.  David Beaulieu

Did you ever sell seashells by the seashore when you were a kid (or at least collect them) …?

The kids will love this mailbox made with scallop shells, sand dollars, and the like.

Nautical Mailbox

Mailboxes With Beach Theme

Mailboxes for Homes by the Sea Captain Hook’s Mailbox.  David Beaulieu

This mailbox for the seaside landscape is a bit more off-beat….

It’s the custom mailbox post rather than the mailbox, itself that is the centre of attention here. Could it be Captain Hook’s mailbox?

Ship’s-Chain Mailbox

Photo of a ship's- chain mailbox.

The Captain’s Mailbox Photo of a ship’s- chain mailbox.  David Beaulieu

Earlier, we saw a ship’s chain used as a fence for an ocean-landscaping theme….

The picture above shows another interesting use of ship’s chains in landscaping by the ocean: as mailbox decorations. Whether it’s a beach theme or some other theme you’re trying to incorporate into your landscaping, the mailbox is a good place to begin with it. The proximity of the mailbox to the street means that passers-by will be sure to see your decor in this area of your garden. The right mailbox decoration can set the mood for your whole landscape.

Decorative Boats

Picture of mini-boats in pond with beach theme. Decorative boats are useful in beach garden themes.

Photo of Mini-Boats in Garden Pond Picture of mini-boats in a garden pond aiming for a beach theme.  David Beaulieu

Decorative boats are useful in beach garden themes….

Without the duck decoy in the picture above (indicating scale), you wouldn’t be able to tell that these aren’t real boats!

Model Ship in Seashore Landscape

Picture of model ship used in beach-theme yard. This model ship rests on a pole with a heron statue.

Heron Statue Complements Ship Ornament Picture of model ship used in beach-theme garden.  David Beaulieu

In the prior picture, model ships (mini-boats) floated in a garden pond in a very lifelike display….

But what if you don’t have a garden pond? Never fear, you can still incorporate model ships into a beach theme for your garden. In the photo above, a model ship decorates a post. The heron statue in the background provides complementary decor.

Ship Anchor Decor

Photo of ship's anchor used in nautical-theme garden.

Real-McCoy Nautical Hardware Tough to Beat Photo of ship’s anchor used in nautical-theme garden.  David Beaulieu

The anchor is a no-brainer for outdoor nautical decor, and the round piece of metal in the background sets the anchor off nicely….

Talk about a focal point literally “anchoring” a landscape design!

By David Beaulieu