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Making the Most of Sandy Soil

Hope and Ginny Barroll
The sandy soil at their seaside home has always been an challenge for Ginny and Hope Barroll.

When Ginny and Hope Barroll purchased their beach house on Virginia's eastern shore, they acquired a beautiful house but not a stitch of greenery. "The house was plopped down in an ocean of sand," says Hope. "It was like a sheik's tent in the middle of the desert." However, over the past 35 years, they have transformed this beachfront property into a green oasis of flowers, shrubs, sedges and towering trees.

The Beach House

The Saxis Island beach house isn't the Barrolls' permanent home. Hope and Ginny spend most of their time at the house they own in the Baltimore area. That makes taking care of the beach house particularly challenging. The sandy soil means watering is always an issue, and since they're only 20 feet from the Pocomoke Sound and its salty winds, proper plant selection is critical. "We've made lots of mistakes over the years in selecting plants," says Hope. But some of the mistakes turned out for the best. "We planted a row of loblolly pines as a hedge near the ocean and they have thrived," he says.


Their property features crape myrtle trees lining the driveway and island beds of plumbago, zinnia, phlox, lilies and daises in the front of the house. Unfortunately their septic system is also in the front yard. The Barroll have found a way to hide the septic system pipes by using Faux Boulders and Mock Rocks mixed among the plantings of phlox, coneflowers and lamb's ears "I used the boulders in the front yard to hide the pipes and they looked so good that we put a few in the backyard just as decorations," says Ginny. "It amazing how adding these relatively small mounds creates visual interest in this flat landscape," says Ginny.

Around the back of the house, next to the sound, Hope and Ginny had to be more selective about their plants. "We've found musk roses, hibiscus, lantana, and ornamental grasses do best in this windy environment," says Ginny. To keep the plants moist, the Barroll use Hi-Rise Sprinklers and Aqua Cones. "The tower sprinkler is able to reach a wide area because of its height and it's easy to move around," says Ginny. Hope likes to use the Aqua Cones on newly planted trees, such as his hollies. "The bottles drip water slowly, helping to keep the roots of these young trees moist—even in the sand," he says.

It's not only the plants in the ground that need the extra watering help. The wind dries out their containers and windowboxes, too. "We find the Self-Watering Windowboxes indispensable," says Ginny. "Since it can be a week between visits to the house, we needed windowboxes that could take care of themselves," says Ginny. "These self-watering planters are effective and the white color looks beautiful against our house," she says. "We have them under all the house windows and shed windows as well."

Coming Together in the Garden

It's their mutual love of the outdoors and gardening that initially brought Hope and Ginny together. Hope had tried growing roses when he was 15 years old and even though they didn't survive, the gardening bug stuck with him. Ginny had gardened with her mom growing up. When Hope and Ginny first started dating, Hope noticed that Ginny's apartment was loaded with houseplants. "I knew gardening would be something that would bring us together," says Hope.

"Gardening is a great way to commune with nature. I like giving back to the environment and getting something in return at the same time," says Ginny. The Barroll have 11 purple martin houses, hummingbird feeders, regular birdfeeders and several birdbaths around their home. The birds enjoy the lush habitat of camellias, hydrangeas, roses and other flowers, while Hope and Ginny get to enjoy their company. The gardens at this beachfront retreat provide serenity, peace and relaxation. It's a sweet reward for a successful partnership—with each other and with a very unique piece of land.

Last updated: 10/24/15