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Landscape Headaches: How to Make the Most Out of These Three Challenging Landscapes Oh, to have the perfect yard. Part sun, part shade. Luxurious soil. A pristine place where green things thrive with hardly any care.

Wake up, homeowner. You’re dreaming again.

The fact is, most homeowners do have to deal with some sort of landscape challenge. Let’s take a look at three common landscape headaches and how to solve them.

Challenge #1: A Steep Hill

Sure, the kids love it in the winter, toboggans in tow. But when it’s time to mow your steep hill, you have to call your life insurance agent to make sure your policy is paid up. There must be a better idea, right?

If you’re feeling ambitious, consider a terraced garden with retaining walls. Have a landscape contractor build a series of curved retaining walls with terraced patios, walkways and garden beds in between. Goodbye unmanageable hillside, hello entertaining mecca. Pass the mojitos.

Not So Ambitious?

Landscape Headaches: How to Make the Most Out of These Three Challenging Landscapes Think flowering ground cover. Replace your high-maintenance turfgrass with easy-care perennial ground cover beauties that aren’t just pretty but also protect your slope from damaging erosion and keep out weeds. No more mowing!

Because many flowering ground covers only bloom for a short time, choose varieties with pretty foliage, too.

Some ideas:

  • Creeping phlox. In the spring, you’ll have small, bright flowers in dense clusters. Massed together on a slope, the pink, purple, red or white masses pack a powerful landscaping punch.
  • Creeping thyme. Yes, the herb. It’s a sturdy ground cover, and when you step on it, it smells wonderful.
  • Spotted Dead Nettle. It doesn’t sound too pretty, but the “White Nancy” variety has attractive variegated foliage even after its white blooms fade. Bonus: deer won’t munch it.
  • Lamb’s ear. Although this fuzzy darling is grown more for its velvety texture and silvery green foliage, it produces light purple flowers.
  • Candytuft. Prolific and showy, with an adorable name, candytuft produces masses of blinding white flowers (perfect for a moon garden) that soften to a light lavender.

Challenge #2: Shade

Curse you, shade! No sunflowers. No tomatoes. No rose gardens or stunning drifts of daylilies. (Sob.)

But don’t give up on your dream of a lovely landscape just because you have shade. If planned properly and creatively, your shady yard can be the coolest, prettiest spot in the neighborhood.

When the sun beats down, imagine retreating to a shady glen filled with unique plants that can’t take the scorching sun: hostas, ferns, impatiens, heuchera, hellebore, coleus, bleeding heart, rhododendron.

Consider a flagstone path that winds its way through a verdant fern garden to a cool sitting area. Maybe add a fire pit.

C’mon Over, Birds

How about a bird watching garden? Lots of plants that attract birds tolerate shady conditions. Among them: astilbe, columbine, ligularia, lily of the valley. Plant them in groups near a comfy chair or two. Add a bird feeder or bird bath to encourage winged visitors.

Tip: When planting around large trees, don’t forget to water and fertilize. Large trees are rather hoggish, taking up most of the soil’s water and nutrients.

Challenge #3: Rocky Soil

Landscape Headaches: How to Make the Most Out of These Three Challenging Landscapes Rocky soil isn’t ideal: Poor drainage. Few nutrients.

Yes, you can amend the soil, but you’ll only be changing the top layer. Rocky soil will always technically be rocky soil.

But some plants have strong, far-reaching root systems that can penetrate the soil beneath the rocks.

Native plants are often good choices because they’re used to the local conditions. Look for plants with superhero root systems, including lavender, marigolds, yarrow, juniper, pine, and salvia.

Another option: raised planting beds. Install these easily, then plant whatever the heck you want.

Let Neave Handle Your Landscape Headaches

At Neave Landscaping, we love a good challenge. Bring us your hilly slopes, your shady yards, your rocky soil. We’ve been solving these problems for clients for more than 40 years. We’ve got this.

If you’re in the Hudson Valley, call us at (845) 463-0592. If you’re in Westchester County, call (914) 271-7996; from Connecticut, dial (203) 212-4800. Or, fill out our simple web form, and we’ll contact you about setting up your free consultation.


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I just want to let you know how happy we are with our lawn renovation. Even though we had been using a commercial lawn care company to fertilize and control weeds, our lawn had been steadily deteriorating. The grass would respond following a fertilization, but it never really thrived. We called Neave last September, they sent Mario to analyze the problems we were having, and he made several suggestions. In addition to a weed preventative and slow acting fertilizer, he highly recommended aerat… Read more
Mr. & Mrs. H. - PattersonNew York

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