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Landscape Challenges

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The quest for a well-designed yard usually starts with a problem to overcome on the site. Sloping terrain, narrow lots, limited space and poor drainage are just a few of the landscape challenges that can have an impact on the design, layout and plant selections for your yard. Your goals for your landscape can also bring up design issues that require creative solutions. For example, do you want to block out noise or gusty winds? Do you want a kid-friendly landscape, or a private sanctuary for adults only? Most common landscaping problems that plague homeowners can be overcome with the ideas and techniques featured here. Designer Outdoors can undoubtedly offer you solutions and troubleshooting advice specific for your unique site challenges. We offer high-quality landscape installation in Suffield and throughout Connecticut.

Below are Landscape Challenge examples and there Solutions:

Small Yards

Despite their diminutive size, small outdoor spaces can also have plant palettes as varied as a larger one. Small spaces can range from quaint cottage-style designs to modern, upscale looks. To accommodate the limitations in space in a small yard, a Designer Outdoors professional will often use miniature plant species, dwarf specimens and other adapted materials. A good designer doesn't scale down the same plan used for a palatialf estate, but rather knows how to emphasize and embody the daintier dimensions of a small outdoor space.

Large Yards

A good design can work wonders in a large yard. The key to these challenging spaces is to get the site plan right, focusing on a basic layout that strikes a harmonious balance of paved surfaces, garden plantings and lawn. No amount of money can correct a poorly delineated site plan. It is important to create diverse living areas, providing something compelling to look at, and incorporating it all within an attractive landscape with tiered plantings. In addition to a particularly strong emphasis on the site plan, large-scale landscape design often requires dividing huge yards into more intimate outdoor rooms. It also focuses on a plant palette that provides bold color throughout the seasons and the use of large woody species well-suited for big expanses.


There are a variety of ways to increase the privacy of your outdoor space. Some of the options include adding a fence, wall, lattice screen, or row of trees or hedges. Your property conditions, desired level of privacy, local building codes and personal taste will dictate which method you select.

The ideal solution is to install a tall fence or wall to obtain complete privacy, but city or town building codes usually limit fence heights to 6 feet or lower. However, there are other methods you can use to increase privacy without violating building codes. Keep in mind that none of these solutions will provide total privacy, so expect to make some tradeoffs.

When privatizing your outdoor space, you should also be considerate of your neighbors. Avoid blocking desirable views from their property, and consider how trees or a privacy screen will impact the enjoyment of their outdoor space.


Hillside landscaping is the most challenging of all residential design problems. Whether it is a natural undisturbed slope or one composed of cut-and-fill, there are a few essentials that every homeowner should be aware of. Not all designers will be skilled in this special situation, so you must know your options before decisions are made that can not only be extraordinarily expensive to implement, they can have far reaching impact on the stability of your entire property.

Below are a few important essentials when considering a Hillside Project:

  • Preserve the view while solving problems
  • Take up slope as gradually as possible
  • Use the right plants to bind slope deep underground
  • Protect surface soils from rain spatter and runoff
  • Plan for maintenance and accessibility


If wind is a chronic problem at your house, a new landscape can offer near perfect solutions. Within its design you can create effective windbreaks that protect specific outdoor spaces to make them far more comfortable. You can also use large scale windbreaks to protect your entire property, just as they do on the prairie.

Below are Wind Blocking Solutions:

Wind Screen - A wind screen is basically a fence or wall that blocks the wind. These are highly effective at deflecting wind away from small often-used outdoor living spaces such as a patio or deck. Screens are also used around a spa or pool area to trap and build heat for bathers. A wind screen can be made out of semitransparent material to allow light to pass through. Sometimes they can be clear Plexiglas to preserve a view while blocking the wind.

Shrub Hedge - A more affordable alternative to built screens is a shrub hedge windbreak sized for the space. Short dense shrub hedges around living spaces or just on one side can be highly effective. These allow users to sit in the protected area while gazing over the top of the barrier at the view. When large 10-foot tall shrubs are used, they make a solid windbreak and privacy screen for a patio, deck or an entire small yard

Windrow of Trees - Windrows are old time agricultural plantings to protect fields, orchards and homes. It can work just as well for your home to significantly change the microclimate because trees, deciduous and evergreen, can grow well over thirty feet tall, thus protecting a considerable area. There is no other way to create a similarly sized wind barrier.

Noise Reduction

If you have a noise problem in the area of your new landscape, be sure to make it crystal clear to your Designer Outdoors professional. Yes there are things that can be done to make it less bothersome. No, you can't mitigate it altogether.

Below are techniques commonly used for noise reduction:

Sound Absorption - This method uses plants to entrap or absorb sound vibrations. It is the most commonly used, particularly for large scale applications.

Sound Deflection and Reflection - This method causes the noise to be bounced away from the recipient and sometimes back toward the source. The difference is based upon the density and rigidity of the barrier. Your Designer Outdoors professional can create attractive and effective partitions that may serve as a fence, but also double as sound barriers.

Sound Refraction - This little known effect occurs when noise is dissipated, diffused or dispersed by striking a rough surface on any plain. It's easier to understand using a room of your house as an example. If it is empty with a bare floor and walls, every sound bounces off the hard surfaces to magnify it or even cause a slight echo as it bounces around. Add carpeting and the echo vanishes.

White Noise - This is a very different solution than the first three. It is designed to create sound that is appealing to the human brain as a mask for undesirable noise. The most widely used method is a fountain that makes loud splashes. When selecting a water feature with your Designer Outdoors professional, insist he or she find one that makes a lot of noise when you want it, such as rush hour. Then later in the evening, you can dial it down to a more subtle level. An outdoor space where absorption, deflection or refraction solutions are in place can help a smaller fountain become far more effective than you might think.


Where land is flat, soils are dense or the water table is high, a well designed drainage system is a priority. Without proper drainage solutions in place, water may collect to undermine structures and drown expensive plants, turning parts of your new landscape into perpetually wet swamps. This can be the most important issue to a Designer Outdoors professional due to this potential for damage. Backyard drainage may also be overlooked entirely by a designer poorly trained in grading and drainage .

Below are Drainage Problem Example and there Solutions:

Surface Water - The French drain is an age old drainage solution that gathers water and provides a place underground where it may take its time percolating down through dense soils. It is essentially a trench that is dug to any depth and filled with gravel and possibly a perforated drain line. Roofing felt or geotextiles are laid over the top of the gravel and the soil replaced. The surrounding area is graded to drain to this trench so water no longer gathers on the surface to create problems.

Hardpan - Underground drainage/Dry Well where hardpan layers exist, the entire site may suffer poor drainage and standing water. This is too great a challenge for spot solutions. These conditions insist on a site-wide grading and drainage plan with an underground system of pipes fed by drop inlets or trench drains. The advent of easy to install plastic piping makes it easier to move water off site and directly into the storm drain.

High Water Table - Raise it or use water loving plants Low lying areas with a high water table can make landscaping a real challenge. Plant roots in saturated soil during the growing season are denied oxygen, and quickly rot just like an overwatered house plant. Certain plants that originate in river bottoms and wetlands do quite well in high water table landscapes. The best choices will be riparian species from local bogs, fens and swamps naturally adapted to your climate and soils. Trees from similar wetlands elsewhere in the world also make good candidates. These provide more diversity than what is native to local plant communities. The other solution for high water table landscapes is to raise the planting areas, an expensive but effective option. Raised planter heights can vary according to what the Designer Outdoors professional recommends to grow there. For trees and large shrubs, the size of such planters must be greater to keep the root crown high and dry. The root crown is a woody structure at the base of the trunk from which roots diverge out into the soil. Where planting is limited to smaller shrubs and perennials, the depth of the planter may be shallow and thus less expensive. The challenge to your Designer Outdoors professional is to balance the cost of raised beds with the benefits of his or her proposed planting.

Shadey Areas

Shady areas grow moss. It makes a yard cold and dreary, darkens interior rooms and omits sun loving flowers. Solving an existing shade condition is not easy, and options are few. But there are ways you and your Designer Outdoors professional can use plants to make shady conditions far more appealing.

Below are common Shade reducing techniques and there Solutions:

Tree Canopy Thinning - Trees are the most common cause of problem shade in home landscapes. Dense trees block sunlight from entering the house, or create perpetually cold damp conditions beneath where nothing will grow. The solution is to change the density of a tree canopy in order to reduce the amount of shade it casts. The technique is called canopy thinning and must not be confused with topping or radical pruning.

Sun Dappling with Plantings - An old trick used by Designer Outdoors is to use variegated plants to create the illusion of sun dappling to brighten the look of a shaded planting area. Plant candidates for this technique must have two qualities: they must tolerate shade and have yellow, chartreuse or white leaves. The source of such foliage is from variegated plants. Variegation is the change of color in green leaves to add a light colored edge or center. Hostas are among the most famous variegated plants for shade gardens.

Sunny Areas

In the good old summertime, shade is a must for outdoor living and entertaining. Where a landscape is fully exposed to the west, the cumulative heat of the setting sun can be a real challenge. Here all but the most rugged plants wilt under the strain. Whether it is hot and dry or hot and humid, each outdoor project must be made comfortable by configuring the design for protection from the west.

Below are common Sun reducing ideas:

Shade Sails - When you need shade and need it now, Shade sails are an attractive and effective solution. They are the first truly instant source of protection for outdoor living. Constructed of UV resistant, heavy duty shade cloth, these triangular pieces are available in a variety of different colors and sizes. Larger sail can be used alone or in multiples for a layered effect that casts patterns on the ground beneath. This graphic shadow makes them highly attractive for modern style homes where geometric forms and patterns are desirable.

Retractable Awnings - Retractable awnings are a quick and highly effective solution for small spaces immediately adjacent to your house. It can be installed in one day and fully usable the next. When constructed of waterproof canvas rather than shade cloth, this product also provides limited rain protection. The awning must be installed onto the face of the structure where it can be easily opened up to cantilever over living spaces. Motorized models may be opened with a remote operated electric motor or manual models with a hand crank. This is the best choice for sites that need help during hot summer afternoons, or to provide protection until young trees mature. It can be constructed with woven shade cloth to allow some light to come through. Be aware that retractable awnings are vulnerable to wind shear damage when fully open.

Pergolas - Pergola is a freestanding flat-top structure that provides protection for outdoor living spaces. Pergolas can be custom of prefabricated models. Pergolas are available in wood or steel as well as white vinyl and composite wood for its ease of maintenance. All pieces are to be assembled on site with posts into concrete footings for structural integrity. The average size of prefabricated pergolas is 10' by 10' or 10' by 12'. Typical pricing is $1200 to $7000 plus shipping and installation.

Large Trees - A large specimen tree is better able to change the whole environment of your outdoor space rather than just providing limited shade. It is a green and sustainable solution, but this endeavor requires a Designer Outdoors professional to select the species, hand pick the individual specimen, and supervise all aspects of installation. A utility survey may be required to avoid conflicts with underground structures. The potential for damage to your home and worker injury during the movement and planting of such a heavy object can be considerable. The biggest challenges of buying and planting a specimen tree are cost and accessibility. Depending on tree size there are added costs to consider such as labor and a crane to lift it off the truck and into your yard. Specimen trees are sold in wood box containers or burlap root balls depending on size. Mature trees will tolerate transplanting. Depending on their size will determine the approach on the transplanting process. A tree can be hand dug or with large a trees a machine known as a tree spade is used to transplant. This machine digs a large cone shaped hole at your house so the tree is dropped right in for a perfect fit. Cone shaped root balls fit tightly and don't roll in a wet planting hole like a flat bottom root ball does. The price for transplanted trees using a tree spade or more traditional methods using a crane will vary by size and the rarity of the tree. A Designer Outdoors professional will assist you in making sure the tree you plant is suited to the climate. Designer Outdoors' uses standard horticultural practices to ensure the tree survives the move.

Contact us if you are in need of a landscaper in Suffield or other areas throughout Connecticut, we offer a free consultation to help you get started.