An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

September 30, 2011

Waterfront Home and Garden Tour

Lately, Mother Nature has not cooperated with my plan to enjoy as much kayaking as I can before the weather and water turn cold.   Today, however, I was able to scratch an itch weeks in the making and was able to spend nearly three hours on the water.  I brought along my point and shoot camera, not willing to risk my good camera around the water.  The little camera has served me well, but can be frustrating to use as it has one of those screens on the back that are impossible to see in full sunlight.  So I was shooting somewhat blind and apologize for the picture quality.

Though the first home on the tour is small and is just a summer rental, it has a commanding view.  This year's occupants, the ospreys, have just recently taken a flight to South America where they winter.

The Pyracantha on this home's wall was impressive.

At the same home I was able to get my kayak right under a Natchez Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia x 'Natchez') to appreciate its superb bark.
Lagerstroemia x 'Natchez'

All the plants along the river have to be tolerant of salt flooding, and the dominant tree species, Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda), certainly is.
Under the Loblollies

I like this old-school boat.

Speaking of old, this impressive house looks as if it has been here since the early 1900's, but it was built only about ten years ago, and this is Hampton Roads, not The Hamptons.
Flicker Point

Behind this marsh, on the other side of the Loblollies is where my son went to elementary school.  I hope the teachers bring the kids out every now and then to look at the river.
Granby Elementary

Just yards away from the school's baseball field egrets can be seen.
White Egret

Another salt tolerant tree is Magnolia grandiflora, and this home had a spectacular specimen.
Magnolia grandiflora

This ranch house had the most diverse garden on the tour.
Ranch Garden

At the same home was a flood zone combo of Castor Bean (Ricinus communis), Chindo Viburnums (Viburnum awabuki 'Chindo'), Ruellia brittoniana and a large Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica).
Waterside Combo

When not frustrating me with the weather, Mother Nature has been very busy planting Saltbush (Baccharis halimifolia). The local stands of this plant are just a week or so away from being in full bloom.
Baccharis halimifolia

Here it is again with some Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana), which I think always looks best in other people's gardens.
Baccharis halimifolia and Cortadaria

Not normally thought of as shorebirds, crows can make a home anywhere.
Crow Perch

I am quite fond of crows.

I like this house, but like its natural setting and view better.
White House

Under the Loblollies 2

Comorants are funny and skittish birds.  You can usually tell which way the wind is blowing by what direction they are facing, but when approached they contort their necks side to side to get a look at you, as they can't seem to see you face on.  They can use their wings under water as flippers and are graceful swimmers and divers. This grace is not extended when they take off from their perches.
Cormorants for JoEllen

If you would like to own a home by the river, this one is for sale.  Hurricane Irene tore up the dock, and some ignorant person limbed-up the Live Oaks (Quercus virginiana) to improve the view, ruining their natural beauty (and the view) in my opinion. 
For Sale

Every garden should have a piece of well-chosen sculpture.  This one is a mosaic made from broken China.
Mosaic Dolphin

This heron played statue and let me get very close.

This is one of the hardy Hibiscus and was planted...

... on the back side of this house, which I love for its over-the-river balcony and for its wonderful asymmetry.

I love this house equally as much, but for its traditional symmetry.

This garden had a massive grove of Live Oaks, not limbed-up and allowed to reach their full potential.  After Loblollies, Live Oaks are the next most dominant tree species, and quite salt tolerant as well.
Quercus virginiana

Pelicans have not always called Tidewater home, but in recent decades have expanded their range here.  His or her perch will be the last stop on our waterfront tour, and we will leave just a second before the pelican takes flight. 
Pelician Take Off

I hope you have enjoyed the tour, I know I did.


  1. really enjoyed the tour. i'm with you as far as the live oaks go. it's always nicer when homeowners work with the natural beauty that is already there if possible. you do a point and shoot proud.

  2. Great tour, Les. I live on that water and kayak there occasionally. I recognize the homes and natural settings. Live oaks dominate, and Lobs. This is a very picturesque area. I work along this area often and frankly one of the few trees I can plant are Live oaks, as well as Cedar, Pine and Youpon, and Magnolia, all salt and wind tolerant. Most other species won't work. The house you labelled "Ditto" is a major recent rehab we call "the Wedding Cake". (a little over the top. Maybe they are from Atlanta!) The homes with the most canopy coverage waterside are generally the best looking settings.
    Thanks for the shots...

  3. Gorgeous pictures as always Les, p&s or not. I can see why you love where you live.

    I've never kayaked, but I think I would like it.~~Dee

  4. What a fun tour that was Les, love the diversity in the gardens and types of homes. Nice pics, thanks for sharing. :)

  5. Every garden should have a nice piece of mosaic sculpture Les! That dolphin is amazing. Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. This is a fun tour. Great shots summarizing your visit. Love the pyracantha look, the bark of the crepe myrtle, and the last several shots of the birds on the posts...including the final. Thank you for the tour.

  7. Enjoyed the tour, Les, especially the live Oaks which i miss more than I would have thought. The Tidewater weather frustrated me for nearly the entire week we were home visiting but I did manage to get a few frames of an egret and an osprey in First Landing State Park.

  8. The cormorants gave me the biggest laugh. The limbed up live oaks were so sad!

  9. A great tour, thanks for sharing

  10. Hi Les, thanks for visiting & commenting on my blog, not sure if this is the correct way to answer but I was pleased you had a look, we have a giant boab in Derby which is in the very north of Western Australia that was used as a temporary jail in the early settler years. The prisoner was shackled to the hollowed out trunk until the troopers could get back to take them to court.

  11. Do you ever see Baccharis halimifolia for sale in nurseries? I've wanted some, but can't find it (other than in the wild). Chanticleer is the only garden where I've seen it used ornamentally. BTW, my friend Amalia Robredo ( uses many forms of native Baccharis in her garden in Uruguay.

  12. That's an amazing tour. Your commentary with each picture makes it all the more interesting to me.

  13. Les, I need some help identifying a plant. Can I forward you an email? If so please let me know at Thanks.

  14. Les do those homes flood? ~ they are *right* on the water!

  15. I loved it~Thank you for taking us along. I agree, every garden needs a large sculpture~I can mosaic but, dolphins are beyond my skill level. gail

  16. Some beautiful textures in those shots. People get rather sniffy about Pampas Grass - it was heavily used here in the 70s - but it looks wonderful with the almost-in-flower saltbush. I would so love to live with a view of water, and that asymmetric house would do the job perfectly... Ah well, a girl can dream? Love the perfectly arrange cormorants.

  17. Thanks for sharing your tour especially the magnificent trees. I want to live year round on the water but prices just keep going up.

  18. poor live oaks!

    I really enjoyed the tour, thank you. And finally, I must admit to myself that it is not the camera, it's the person operating the camera. Lovely photos.

  19. I want to move now. Beautiful.

  20. Taking a tour with you is an adventure and an education whether to the mountains or the shore. I never realized cormorants faced into the wind but it makes sense. Thanks!

  21. Hi Les, Looks like it was a great day for kayaking. Those enormous houses are quite something. I was especially taken with the bark of the Natchez Crape Myrtle. What an amazing looking tree it is! The shots of the birds are all great, but you saved the best for last. The composition of the pelican shot is wonderful.

  22. Wow! What a beautiful trip! Love the birds perched on the poles shot.

    I am hoping to get back out this weekend as well.

  23. Lovely post. Lovely tour. Your pictures are wonderful. Thanks for letting me tag along!

  24. You could have stopped this right after the first photo. Funny! I'm glad you went on though. There were some lovely homes - and- I like crows, too.

  25. Hi Les, I call those over-sized monstrous homes, "Franken-homes".

    Many marvellous shots. My favourite is the cormorants.

  26. The stand of live oaks are spectacular. I am amazed at such expensive homes right on the water where I assume they could wash away given the right conditions (or is that the wrong conditions?).

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  28. Daricia,
    Knowing the way they grow, I think the Oaks with all of their limbs would have framed the views nicely.

    Thanks for stopping by. The "Ditto" has was being landscaped the day of the tour by someone I use to work with. Your tree list should be a go-to for waterfront gardeners.

    Kayaking is a lot of fun, yet Zen too.

    I have been wanting to show some of the house for sometime. I think I like architecture as much as gardening.

    I knew you could appreciate it.

    The people with the pyracantha and the crape myrtle were able to enjoy both in their garden. They were the only house at the end of a mini-peninsula.

    You should have delayed your trip. We have been enjoying a marvelous spate of weather.

    I friend of mine who has passed had a fondness for comorants and I smile everytime I see them.

    You are quite welcome, and thanks for the info on the giant boab.

    The only place I ever saw Saltbush for sale was at a nursery on the Eastern Shore called Bobtown. Unfortunately with the death of its founder, they have gone out of business. A friend with waterfront property has dug them up for me and they take to that well if you get them very small.

    Thanks for stopping by. I am still having trouble with the plant ID. If it is any consulation, it has stumped two of the most knowlegable horticulturists I know.

    Some flood, but most do not unless there is an extreme event. The older homes were built when people had enough sense to site them in the right place.

    A giant mosiac dolphin is beyond my skill level as well, but fortunately for me it is also beyond my taste level.

    I spend a lot of time playing what-if when I see these homes. Then I think about trying to garden in such an environment and gladly return to my modest little home and small garden.

    Yes the prices do seem to rise. Amazingly the waterfront homes have held their value in all this real estate mess.

    I love the live oaks and your comment. Thanks!

    Don't be so quick to put up the for sale sign, you live in a beautiful part of the world too.

    You are welcome to tag along at any time.

    I was also very pleased with the pelican. With the clouds in the background it gave me the impression it was taken from high up and not at sea level.

    Your kayak shots inspired me.

    You are welcome to come along at anytime.

    I liked that shot as well. I have a serious case of nautiphilia and tend to collect shore photos and flotsam.

    While some of the homes are monsterous in size, they are built well and more than a few have some style about them. However, there are exceptions.

    Unless we get a direct hit of a mega hurricane (a historic possibility) most of these homes will only suffer occasional tidal flooding, and generally it is not a concern of water in the house, but the yard. That said, there are many houses in the city built with less thought of where and how they are constructed, built more on speculation than good sense.


  29. Beautiful tour, Les. Many of the homes speak the south to me with its wonderful structure and form and especially those Live Oaks.

    The bark of the Myrtle is stunning and had me thinking immediately of a Sycamore. Thanks for taking us along.