Seashells in the Garden

shell_bedThe use of seashells in landscaping has proven to be a popular choice with many homeowners in Florida. This ground cover is durable as well as beautiful, and has many benefits to the garden. First, it is a good source of calcium (which some plants need anyway). In situations where the soil pH leans to the acidic side, calcium can help bring it back up. Beaches and palm trees are things many people think of when the thought of Florida enters their mind. Sea shells fit in this theme well, as they can be found near our beaches.

The use of shells in a landscape design can be done many ways. I’ve seen some where the shell is the main ground cover. By the way, that will work… that is if you do enough research to find plants that will live comfortably in that environment. It is important to always remember that plants are alive and your consideration to this will determine how long they will survive after the initial install is complete.

I prefer to use this ground cover in focal beds within a planting area. Florida field stone is a great border, as it has shells imbedded into the limestone itself! This really brings out the shell as a point of focus. Planting palms and things of the sort inside these shell beds can give a really cool Florida theme.

field_stone_bed

In my Florida friendly landscape garden designs, I use this theme often because it really drives home the Florida look and feel. Seashells are also used in parking areas and driveways because of the durability of the shells over mulch or pine straw. Also, shells are cheaper than rock, so covering large areas with it would make more sense than using rock.

large_sea_shells

Shell comes in different sizes too, so if you want a coarser texture, use the large stuff… this has a very detailed look to it, as you can clearly see the individual pieces of shell. Then there is a medium grade, which is smaller than the large, but not quite as small as the crushed stuff. The crushed shell is most common, as it is available at most supply yards. This grade of shell is a good base material as it won’t wash away easily. This would make a good path (as long as you wear shoes when walking on it). Walking on crushed shells is like walking on broken glass (not very friendly on the bare feet). There is also small shell that is not crushed. This has a different texture and color.

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Comments

  1. Sarah says:

    I have always loved this look, but we live in Indiana…do you think the seashells can with stand the snow sitting on it for months at a time? Where do you suppose I can find seashells around here?

    • Shells are pretty much indestructible, snow won’t harm them a bit. Finding crushed seashell in Indiana… I would start with your local material yard. If I can find stone material from Africa here in Florida, you should be able to locate crushed shell in Indiana! I think I saw it in bags at Home Depot as well, but if you are doing a large area, you will save a lot of money buying in bulk. Check the material yards FIRST.

  2. cm cmason says:

    Hi,

    I’m on a tight budget and live in FL….can I p/u shells from the beach and use for mulch? I was spending a lot on wood mulch but have a wood house and ended up w/termites so I’ll never use that again……there was a lady picking up shells at the beach to edge her outdoor pool….please advise.

    • You will need the rest of your life to collect them one at a time… Shell beds also have their place. If you want to use shells, notice in my pictures on this post, the plants I placed in the shells were palms. They can do well, but others may not do so well. As for termites, they were here long before us, and will continue to eat. It is interesting to know that they don’t just eat wood. If you have a pest control company bait your home, you can see if that is even a problem. My pest guy told me “It is better to keep them fed and full on the outside, than on the inside of my home.” I will agree with him. Wood mulch is necessary, if you want good soil, healthy plants and use less water. I have lived on a property surrounded by woods for over 20 years (and still do). Termites have never been an issue, because I am pro-active. I would advise anyone to be the same. Termites are not something to take for granted… know what to look for, but don’t be afraid of mulch. It is a needed element of nature… take a walk in the woods and you will see it everywhere in the form of leaves. Please let me know if this helps.

      Shaun

      • Emily says:

        If you live on the southeast part of Florida, beware, as last summer there were tons of these beautiful bleached old shellls that looked completely unoccupied until I got them home and put them on a piece of driftwood on my patio. Some type of snail emerged that is RAVENOUS for wood, and months later I noticed them all over the beach area palms and holes bored into them… One I had left on my sink counter after washing climbed out overnight and ate a corner of a paper restaurant receipt!

        So soak in bleach for a long time anything that you bring home, just in case!

        All the Best!
        -E

      • Tom says:

        My experience is that wood mulch is a waist of time here in Fl. I laid it thick thinking I would only have to freshen it up with an inch every year and come spring it was practicly gone. All that work money time wasted. Should’ve bought rock. Although I think for my garden I’m gonna use cow hay. Hermophia hay lay for ever, but I prefer Bahia. Its easier to work with. Just thought I’d share a little knowledge and experience. Good luck Gardner’s.

        • Actually Tom, wood mulch is not a waste of money in Florida. Out soil composition is not the best. Mostly sandy… wood mulch does break down, but that IS the benefit. As it does, the soil quality begins to improve. Laying it thick will not slow the break down process, you are only adding more product to break down at the same rate. 3 – 4 inches will help keep weeds at bay, but there is still maintenance involved. Pine bark nuggets work better in my opinion because they control weeds better, the large nuggets don’t float as easy and the pieces last longer. Placing plants in rock beds is NOT good practice. Rocks dry the soil and radiate heat. Not the best environment to place plants. They ARE living… remember? I know you are probably thinking “my neighbor did it and his plants look fine.” There are many people who smoke 3 packs of cigarettes a day and are drunk by noon… that doesn’t mean they are healthy. using hay may work for a while, but with too much dampness and moisture you will have created a perfect environment for mold and fungus. Pine straw is another favorite… it wouldn’t be if people knew how volatile it could be on a dry day with the help of a lit cigarette or a lightning strike. And then there is rubber mulch… Rubber is a petroleum product. Common sense can tell you the rest. There are many products out there to use. Landscaping is a fine balance of science and art. You really need to understand both to experience the best results of your hard earned money and valuable time.

  3. Emily says:

    Hi,
    I would really like to do this outside of my ground floor condo (owned), but need all preparations for any board disputes before I bring up the idea. Are there any additional risks in a hurricane? I live about 5 miles from the ocean in Palm Beach County, Florida. Thanks a million!
    -E

    • Hi Emily,

      Just check with the HOA to see what they will or not allow. Don’t be afraid to ask… My God, you are here to experience and enjoy your life! If you want shells, see what is involved and that may be in your future! Hurricanes will do more damage to your roof and windows than your shell beds. Lawn furniture, piles of wood or lumber trees that are flat sided, unbalanced or congested inner canopies are much greater risks than rocks or shells. IU hope this helps.

  4. Joanne says:

    Your site is the first I’ve seen where it states to put shells ON TOP OF mulch. Every other site I’ve seen states one should REMOVE any mulch. I’m trying new landscaping on a small part of my lakeside backyard in Vero Beach FL which has 2 palm trees on either end about 10 feet apart. I want to have a seashell area around each palm. Nice site, by the way!

    • Hi Joanne

      I NEVER said to put shells on top of mulch…where did you read that??? The shell bed is bordered from the mulch areas. I use field stone, lime stone, river boulder or some other kind of natural stone material. You can also use metal or vinyl edging if you want to save some money, but shells on mulch is not my method. Preparation of your work site is the first step to a quality job. This step involves the grunt work nobody likes to do (myself included), but it has to be done before you introduce clean materials onto your canvas, and mixing clean materials is NOT a quality job.

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