An Oceanfront Landscape Design in Maine

September 10, 2020

Text by Tovah Martin     Photography by Kindra Clineff

The precipitous slope going down to the water was murder to mow, and that’s one reason Michael Walek of Artscape was contacted. Actually, rethinking the landscape was part of a total revamp when the clients made their oceanfront Cape Neddick, Maine, cottage a full-time residence in 2010. Their goal was to transform the previous landscape-less scene into usable outdoor venues overlooking the ocean. They wanted to dine, sip wine, and admire the scenery. For the very visible front, they requested a roadside welcome wrapped in roses beside a hydrangea-hemmed brick walkway. And here’s the real hitch: All these agri-acrobatics were to be accomplished on just a smidge over an acre.

Eliminating the mower was an easy fix for Walek. His solution meant creating a series of seating-area destinations with dedicated functions to gracefully navigate the slope via stone steps and pocket terraces. Where stone isn’t laid, the land is densely muffled in compact shrubs plus nepeta, spirea, lavender, and Russian sage, all capable of withstanding salt spray while mitigating erosion issues and echoing the coastal hues.

On the upper terrace, herbs bask in the morning sun beside an outdoor dining room/grilling station. But the boardwalk at the bottom of the property is the perk that really makes the place unique. Descending from a commanding view overlooking the water to becoming submerged in tall vegetation en route to the semiprivate beach is a mind-bending experience. You feel enveloped in the space.

Of course, hoops had to be jumped through to make it all happen. “Because common reed had previously infiltrated the native flora, the DEEP [Department of Energy and Environmental Protection] gave consent for the Trex boardwalk,” explains Walek. Local restrictions also mandated that trees not exceed the roofline, limiting the selection on site to relatively dwarf choices such as mini evergreens and hollies. But the height restriction adds to the sense of interwoven tapestry in an eventful landscape. On the way to the water, you slip through ivy-bowered gates; you are tickled by morning glories. You overlook and become immersed. This property is an adventure.

Landscape design: Michael Walek, Artscape
Architecture: Robert Reed Associates

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