Home & Design

An ipe deck by the shore gets power-washed and stained each spring. Photo: Erin B. Bogan

On an Annapolis property by J&G Landscaping, a stone stair lined with shrubbery leads down to secluded Old Woman’s Cove, past garden beds and strategically placed trees. Photo: Allen Russ

A flagstone patio offers plenty of room for dining and reclining while taking in the picturesque view. Photo: Allen Russ

On a 27-acre Eastern Shore estate masterminded by McHale Landscape Design, a raised vegetable garden nurtures herbs including rosemary, thyme, sage and basil; remaining beds hold peppers, tomatoes, squash, eggplant and zucchini.

An aerial view reveals the property’s scope—and the Chesapeake Bay beyond.

On a Crownsville property devised by McHale Landscape Design, a stretch of lawn framed by hydrangea, abelia and hosta overlooks the Severn River. Photo: Erin B. Bogan

Garden Variety

Pros describe best practices for landscaping on the water

Waterfront living typically means outdoor living—so having the right landscape is crucial to enjoying the view. The following pages offer expert tips on making the most of your shoreside property—and avoiding pitfalls that may arise when landscaping on the bay.


A low-lying property on the Severn River in Crownsville, Maryland, faced challenges caused by the frequent influx of brackish water. While replacing and updating a pool and pool cabana, respectively—and installing decks, pergolas, gates and hardscape—McHale Landscape Design tackled the landscaping too. First on the agenda: Meeting critical area regulations, which required salt-tolerant native plants to withstand inundation from high tides. “We planted gardens on the entire one-and-a-quarter-acre lot,” says McHale’s Emily Pike, who oversees maintenance on the property. “They range from rain gardens that become submerged to finely manicured perennial beds.” Ornamental grasses, bayberry, juncus, carex, cypress trees and hibiscus are among the chosen plantings. A powder-coated aluminum fence around the pool keeps the deer out while black string lines along the bulkhead deter geese from coming ashore. Hardy ipe decking weathers the salty water. Tides, in fact, are among the most challenging considerations when it comes to maintaining landscapes on the bay. Notes Pike, “High tides bring up debris and on this property, shift the wood decking. Choosing the right materials and plantings to withstand them is key.”

Landscape Design & Installation: McHale Landscape Design. Landscape Maintenance: Emily Pike, McHale Landscape Design. 


A couple building a home on tranquil Old Woman’s Cove in Annapolis asked J&G Landscape Design to tame their three-and-a-half-acre parcel. They envisioned an outdoor living space with open views of the water and privacy from neighbors. “The work was within the critical waterfront area so there were requirements from the city,” recounts landscape architect Paul Jester. “They specified restoration plantings on the site—more plantings than the homeowners wanted. With creative placement and selection, we were able to make all parties happy.” Jester and his team designed and installed a Pennsylvania flagstone patio overlooking the creek; stone steps lead down the newly graded slope to a private dock. Strategically placed evergreens along the property lines provide privacy without obstructing the view, and flowering shrubs and perennials soften the home’s foundation and the patio while creating year-round interest. When landscaping on the water, avers Jester, it’s important to remember that “views are always a primary goal for the homeowner. Trying to meet the requirements of the city while also meeting that goal can be tricky, but clever solutions will typically present themselves.”

Landscape Design & Contracting: Paul Jester, PLA, ASLA; Jeff Potter, PLA, ASLA, J&G Landscape Design. 


Clients on the Eastern Shore initially contacted McHale Landscape Design to remedy a drainage issue in the front yard of their Chesapeake Bay property. The project eventually grew into an overhaul of their 27-acre site, encompassing the hardscaping, tennis court and swimming pool. Also on the wish list was a kitchen garden where the family could cultivate vegetables and herbs in summer. McHale landscape designer Ryan Davis regraded the problematic front yard with low berms, subsurface drainage and catch basins to redistribute standing water and minimize runoff into the bay. With water views as a backdrop, he devised a series of raised beds for a plethora of produce. The beds are contained by stone, obviating concerns about chemicals in pressure-treated wood leaching into the soil. Wood-and-wire fencing keeps feasting wildlife out. “Raised beds have become more important with the increasing frequency of higher tides, which raise sodium and magnesium levels in the soil and can prohibit plant growth,” Davis notes. “These raised beds were prepared with organic mushroom compost, which is the perfect medium for vegetables.” For those who want to garden in a salty, waterfront locale, he advises, “Raise your beds and invest in your soil.”

Landscape Design & Installation: Ryan Davis, McHale Landscape Design.

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McHale Landscape Design creates streamlined outdoor spaces for a residence on the Severn River
Perfect Fit
A dynamic dwelling by modernist Mark McInturff takes skillful advantage of its small Northwest DC lot
Modern Evolution
Throughout his Chesapeake Bay abode, designer Jason Claire layers warmth and meaning onto a crisp, clean canvas
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