Challenges of Landscape Design in Flood-Prone Areas
Landscape design in flood-prone areas like those experiencing tidal flooding and saltwater inundation here in Jacksonville present a unique set of challenges that require special considerations and creative solutions. “There are 37,549 properties in Jacksonville that have greater than a 26% chance of being severely affected by flooding over the next 30 years,” according to Riskfactor.com. “This represents 23% of all properties in Jacksonville.” This is not uncommon in coastal communities throughout Florida that are simultaneously experiencing a building boom. Here are some of the critical challenges to overcome:
-Limited options: Only a small subset of trees, shrubs, and grasses can tolerate regular flooding and saltwater exposure. These include sea grape, muhly and fakahatchee grass, red maple, river birch, and select native plants. Using the right plant in the right place is critical to the success of landscaping in flood-prone areas; for more choices, see the UF IFAS provided list of Florida Friendly Landscaping Plants for Wet Areas of Baker County.
-Stress and damage: Floods can stress plants, leading to stunted growth, nutrient deficiencies, and increased susceptibility to disease and pests. Saltwater can burn foliage and disrupt root systems.
-Soil conditions: Flooding can alter soil composition, making it more saline, poorly drained, and potentially acidic, limiting plant choices.
Design and construction:
-Drainage, grading, and elevation: Proper drainage prevents waterlogging and root rot. Grading the site with the proper slope away from structures is crucial to the success of drainage projects. Raised planting beds, swales, and French drains can channel excess water away.
-Erosion control: Coastal areas are particularly vulnerable to wind, waves, and floodwaters erosion. Sturdy hardscaping elements like rocks, pavers, and retaining walls can help stabilize the landscape.
-Material choices: Traditional materials like mulch and wood may decompose or float away in floodwaters. Saltwater can also corrode metal elements. Opt for durable, flood-resistant materials like rocks, concrete, and certain types of wood treated for saltwater exposure.
Maintenance and adaptation:
-Regular monitoring: Regularly check plants for signs of stress and adjust watering and fertilization based on flood cycles and salinity levels.
-Replacement and adaptation: Be prepared to replace plants that succumb to flooding or saltwater damage. Consider using native species adapted to the local environment for better resilience.
-Long-term planning: Remember that flooding patterns and sea levels may change over time—design landscapes with flexibility and adaptability to accommodate future changes.
-Regulations: There is an extensive network of federal, state, and local regulations governing landscaping in flood zones, such as restrictions on plant types and construction practices requiring knowledge of the permitting process and regulatory compliance.
-Mosquitoes and pests: Standing water can attract mosquitoes and other pests. Implementing mosquito control measures and choosing plants that do not attract pests are essential considerations.
-Aesthetics: Creating a visually appealing landscape design within these limitations can require creativity and resourcefulness. Consider using rocks, pebbles, and driftwood to create natural-looking, flood-resistant hardscaping features. Play with different plant heights, textures, and foliage colors to create visual interest. Designate areas like swales or gravel pathways to accommodate floodwaters without damaging other landscape parts. Building raised decks and patios can serve as gathering spaces during non-flood times and as a haven during flood events.
Successfully landscape design in flood-prone areas like those experiencing tidal flooding and saltwater inundation here in Jacksonville present a unique set of challenges that require special considerations and creative solutions. requires a deep understanding of the local environment, careful plant selection, innovative design solutions, and ongoing maintenance. Rockaway landscape architects and designers are well-versed in all aspects of landscape design in flood-prone areas. By embracing the challenges and applying creative thinking, you can create beautiful, resilient landscapes that thrive in these dynamic environments.
From our office in Atlantic Beach and satellites throughout Northeast Florida, Rockaway Inc., your outdoor living experts, proudly serves both commercial and residential landscape design, maintenance, lawn care, irrigation, and outdoor living carpentry client needs in Jacksonville, St Augustine, Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Ponte Vedra, Nocatee, St. Johns, and Fernandina Beach.