Solutions to landscaping obstacles

Lush green level yards are many homeowners' dream for aesthetic reasons and for ease of mowing. However, local terrain in the northeast is naturally rocky and sloping which dots yards with obstacles to either have removed or maneuver around with the mower. Hiring someone to clear the yard of obstacles can be expensive while doing the job yourself can be difficult, exhausting and, in some cases, impossible. Other options can be found that might not make mowing any easier but will add beauty to the landscape.

The problem of steep sloping areas in the yard might not be considered an obstacle but can be tricky or even dangerous to mow. This mowing problem can be solved by planting ground cover to replace grass, beautify the slope and make it as maintenance free as possible. Ground cover plants, whether flowering or non-flowering, will provide low-maintenance beauty and help prevent erosion. T. Lacoma writing for familyhandyman.com says, "Ground cover plants thrive in tough, sloped conditions, prevent erosion and need little water. You can plant them and largely forget about them as their roots spread and the ground cover does its work."

Fortunately, there are many ground cover plants to choose from to cover the slope. For example, juniper is a low evergreen shrub available in different varieties that is useful as a ground cover. Charlie Nardozzi for WNPR.com says, "The evergreen foliage breaks the rain so less erosion occurs and it blocks the light so fewer weeds germinate." Although juniper is a reliable low-maintenance ground cover, it doesn't produce flowers. However, there are other ground cover options to consider if seasonal blooms are desired.

One flowering ground cover is creeping phlox. Sarah Littleton, writing for bobvila.com advises, "So long as the site affords full sun and good drainage, creeping phlox requires next to nothing in the way of care." Another flowering ground cover is Periwinkle (Creeping Myrtle). The Connecticut Botanical Society states, "In this country, it apparently does not spread by seed—only by expanding the size of its patch by its creeping stems." Periwinkle is a low maintenance plant but will require some cutting back if it's used in high traffic areas as it is invasive and will creep over walkways and across paths if allowed.

Tree stumps are another obstacle that can be expensive to have removed professionally or will require a lot of physical labor to remove manually. To avoid financial or physical pain, incorporate the stump into the landscape. T. Lacoma says "Stumps make excellent, all-natural stands for flowerpots and can quickly become a conversation point without all the work." In addition, stumps offer a central base to surround with a small flower garden, rock garden or even a fairy garden.

Alternatively, rather than using the stump as a decorative landscape feature, the stump can be camouflaged. One way to camouflage a stump is by planting a climbing rose that will grow up and over the stump. A contributor at homeguides.SFgate.com writes, "Climbing roses (Rosa spp.) can turn the stump into a beautiful and fragrant landscape feature if you add supports like a small trellis near the stump, and train the roses to grow over the stump and up the support." Other climbing plants such as morning glory and clematis can also be trained to grow over a stump.

Like a tree stump, a large rock in the yard can be a mowing obstacle as well and can also be expensive to remove. However, a large rock can also be converted to a central feature of a small garden. Flowers can be planted around the rock, or the rock can be used as the central point of a rock garden. Creatively add rocks of varying size and color to create a rock garden while making the large rock a dominant or central feature. Rachel Brougham writing for familyhandyman.com suggests, "Try mixing it up by creating a rock garden with large rocks, river rocks and small stones for a layered look." A mixture of both flowers and rocks can keep the rock garden attractive whether the flowers are in bloom or not. This solution will create an even larger area to mow around, but will add beauty to the yard, require less mowing time and will be an intentional yard feature rather than simply a natural obstacle.

While some obstacles like rocks and stumps can be removed or slopes can be graded, there are less expensive ways to alter and add beauty to the landscape.

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