Updated: Oct 19, 2018
Every winter here in Virginia we know to expect the worst when it comes to severe weather. Living in the Tidal region, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake tend to experience pretty severe environmental impacts in the rainy season. While this is bad enough, hurricanes have been ramping up in the past years, possibly due to increased temperatures globally. Hurricanes and tsunamis affect coastal regions and we need to plan our landscaping accordingly.
Even if you don't live on the coastline, strong winds and increased precipitation can wreak havoc on landscaping for miles inland. Luckily, there are many strategies we can use to preserve our properties and plants.
First and foremost, careful selection of the plants that we use in our landscapes is critical to the overall success of our gardens.
In coastal zones such as Virginia Beach and Chesapeake bay, we should choose plants that are salt tolerant. Tide water rushing inward will kill plants unless they are hardy to the excessive salt levels. Look for plants that are native to your zone and provide other benefits, such as habitats for birds and butterflies.
In SE Virginia, a good hardy decorative grass is Broomstraw, which loves the loamy soil and plenty of sunshine. This plant helps prevent erosion and creates nesting material for local birds. If you love flowers, try out Bleeding Hearts, a striking pink bloom on a hardy bush perfect or the bay environment.
No matter how hardy the plant, make sure to rinse off the plants after an extended storm - salt spray damage can be prevented by simply removing the salt.
Second, we should do everything we can to make sure that the environment is suitable for a storm. This means soft mulch and dense roots. We don't want to put projectiles like pebbles around the base of our trees when a storm will send these flying into our neighborhood.
Lastly, use your landscaping as a natural fence against the elements. Trees and shrubbery provide valuable protection from strong winds and the things they bring flying around your home. The deeper root structures also provide valuable structure to aid against erosion.
As in most things, it is best to work with what you've got and allow nature to guide you. Looking for solutions that are native to your area is the first place to start, and keep an eye open for what has worked for other people. I wish you luck in this and future storm seasons - it's about learning to dance in the rain! Take care.