HOW HAVE YOU FRINGED YOUR SHORELINE? The latest gossip in riparian fashion is all about which shorelines host the bees, and which host…the geese.
It is most satisfying to overhear rave reviews regarding one’s waterfront attire such as: “This shoreline has a great blend of colour and texture, what a stunning promenade!” or, “I wish I had that! A perfect balance of the vernacular—and the extravagant!” or best yet, to catch a whisper of: “What beautiful trees! I can see the boat, but I can’t see the building; how elegant!” Wow.
To be certain, dear reader, that you don’t get caught eroding in the rain without a canopy, we will highlight here our most successful tried-and-tested shoreline swatches, with nods towards the ideal textures and palettes; from the sensational to the subdued. Take your pick according to your style – no choice is the wrong choice—all of the following species roll out the red carpet for shoreline diversity, stability, pleasure, and vitality.
For the demure and private type, a tree palette is recommended. Eastern White pine, Hemlock, Cedar, and Silver Birch will work even on the rockiest of shorelines. Tamarack, Balsam fir and White birch are best for those sandy shores. Remember that conifers, with their higher thread count, are far less translucent than the lacy, winter-bare deciduous, and one must always stay mindful of the effects of sun exposure!
For botanical trims and fringes, where sight-lines and vistas must remain clear, shrubs such as Wild Raisin, shrubby Willows, Elderberries, Sweet Gale, Bush Honeysuckle, and Wild Roses add just the right hint of pattern and fragrance.
For colour and texture accessories: Sweet Flag, Blue Flag Iris, Sweetgrass, Joe-Pye Weed, Swamp Milkweed, Asters, Sensitive Fern, and Cinnamon Fern will bring glittering insects and flittering birds into a space—and are a most divine way to soften the hem of a lawn!
Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) Height: 20m Spread: 2m
This fragrant tree lines many a shoreline along our watersheds. Deer love to eat cedar and this is quite evident along cedar shorelines—you can see the precise line along the waterfront where deer have nibbled the lower branches as far as they can reach from the ice in the winter. If you are planting young cedar, they must be protected until their upper foliage has grown out of the reach of a deer. Once cedars achieve this height (and one should think twice before removing existing cedars as they take a very long time to grow), they will bring graceful, cascading texture to any shoreline habitat.
White Pine (Pinus strobus)
Height: 30m Spread: 7m Shade intolerant
One of the most famous icons of the North is the stately White Pine whose invigorating scent is said to speed healing. Pine has historically been placed in sick rooms where it can be inhaled often during recovery from illness. The scent of sunbaked pine needles is indeed sweet and uplifting. White pines whistle in the wind like no other and they bring shelter to many a bird. The mature White Pine is the top-hat-and-tails in shoreline high society.
Wild Raisin (Viburnum cassinoides)
Height: 6m Spread: 2m 4-6 hours sun
This shrub thrives on shorelines and when given more than 5 hours of daily sun, produces plump, pitted fruit. These drupes are adored by birds, which prefer to eat the raisins (along with Elderberries) after they have fermented. It is in this way that birds celebrate a successful summer season, and can they ever get tipsy! Do our feathered friends imbibe and fly?! They sure do—though not very straight—or far for that matter, which brings flocks of those ornithological paparazzi! The roots of the Wild Raisin reach deep and far, and when paired with willows, are an excellent shoreline stabilizer species.
Sweet Gale (Myrica gale) Height: 1.5m Spread: 1m
The yellow nutlets found on the Sweet Gale shrub are highly fragrant and resinous. The scent is rich and woody like frankincense, and the leaves of the Sweet Gale will give off a lovely, spicy scent when crushed. Sweet Gales skirt the majority of sunny shorelines upon the Canadian Shield, are one of the main shelter species for so many creatures in the riparian zone and are an invaluable asset to any shoreline ensemble.
Sweetgrass (Hierochloe odorata) Height: 0.5m Rhizomes
This grass (of rich land) is dried, braided and considered sacred by many of Canada’s Aboriginal Nations. This practice is being widely rediscovered among those who meditate. The end of the braid is ignited and then calmed to a smoulder. The resulting smoke is used to purify the area in which the meditation is taking place. Ebony Jewelwings (among other dragonflies) can often be seen twinkling on blades of sweet grass swaying in the breeze.
Wild Roses (Rosa blanda)(R. acicularis)(R. paulstris)
Height: 2m Spread: 2m Sun for bloom
Wild Roses hold single pink flowers with an enchanting scent. Their hips contain more vitamin C than an orange and make a wonderful tea. These beautiful specimens also create thickets that feed, house, and protect many species of birds, butterflies, and dragonflies. Wild Roses will run, so set them well back from pathways and access points. Or, if you like to stop and smell the roses, the runners can be cut back from your paths and be planted elsewhere for more colourful habitat.
Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum)
Height: 1.5m Spread: 0.5m Sun to part shade
A wonderful, late-summer addition to any shoreline collection! From pink to lavender, these blooms look and feel like a feather boa! Light and feathery on sturdy stems, the members of Genus Eupatorium are preferred nectar plants and shelter species for butterflies and bees. The weed known as Joe-Pye loves to have its feet wet, so shorelines, swales or ditches is among its favourite places to grow. The seeds take flight in fall like baby spiders on delicate fluffs to grow elsewhere, though colonies do establish quite readily around the parent plants.
Now get ready for the attention- this is your year! With these hot new swatches under your belt, it is time to accessorize with a cool pair of binoculars. Dress the coffee table with field guides and enjoy the show that a biodiverse shoreline will surely bring your way!
May the forest be with you.