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Green Living

Landscaping for Structural Strength and Beauty

Getting advice from a landscape architect before building a dwelling can help property owners plan an additional line of defence against natural hazards as well as compliment the structure of the house.

At the end of the day, a beautifully landscaped property also provides a peaceful place for its residents while also increasing the value of the property and securing a high-return mortgage investment.

The topography of the BVI provides dramatic hillsides and beautiful scenery. At the same time, this feature poses difficulties when building. Flat land for building is a hard-to-come-by commodity throughout the Territory. Homeowners are forced to make deep cuts into hillsides to provide safe foundations for building. This scars hillsides and exposes soil to the elements, which can make the land unstable and compromise a property.

To prevent further soil erosion, landscaping expert Eleanor Smith suggests terracing hillsides or using ground cover to replant the hillside and have roots hold soil in place. Terracing helps to conserve soil and prevent runoffs. The technique can be very useful for backyard gardening and organising landscaping or gardening options.

The ground cover technique also protects the soil and is a fast method for improving the aesthetic of bare soil. Smith recommends using vines such as the potato and peanut vine, sansevieria and rhoeo or boat lily plant for the same. “These types of plants propagate freely and help keep the soil together. They are very drought tolerant and do not need a lot of care.”

Landscaping can also help protect properties from wind damage. Smith says properties in windy areas such as Soldier Hill on Tortola should use strong trees to break down the effects of the wind. “In windy parts of the island, you want to plant trees that will not be easily torn by the wind such as palms and some fruit trees.”  Smith recommends planting such trees on the perimeter of the property. Once mature, their strong branches will provide wide spread protection from the wind and sun, while their deep roots will withstand strong wind gusts. When working with a lot of yard space, Smith advises planting smaller plants around the base of large trees for added beauty.



For property close to the beach, Smith warns, “be mindful to use plants that are tolerant of salty air such as the kokia, grape bush, cactus, aloe and sansevieria.”  These plants can also be used for hedging a property. A hedge provides a wall of greenery that is ideal for creating walkways and entrances but also a great security feature of landscaping. Evergreen plants that bear all year round such as the ficus and eugenia are ideal. However, Smith also warns to keep these plants on the perimeter of the property. “These plants have very strong roots that can cause some damage to property if they are too close to the house. That’s why we recommend only using these plants on the perimeter of the property and keeping them well trimmed throughout the year.”

For some colour, Smith says plants such as the bougainvillea, oleander and flamboyant are excellent options that will help to protect property from the elements as well as provide beautiful flowers and sweet scents around a property. Of these plants, Smith says that they require very low maintenance and are good options for beautifying any home.

For added value to property, a well landscaped home does not only beautify the grounds, but it can also increase living space. Instead of storing construction waste or old vehicles on a property, landscaping that area can provide space for outdoor dining or recreation—factors that are always considered when assessing the value of a property. A well landscaped yard encourages more outdoor activities. Instead of being confined to the areas of the property that are covered by a roof, good landscaping encourages venturing outside for more interaction with the natural environment. It provides safer grounds for children to explore and play while giving the adults a peaceful space to relax and enjoy the fruits of their labour. 

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