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Landscape Design: Functional Landscaping

Beautiful landscaping can provide shade, prevent soil erosion and protect a home from wind.
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Shade Trees: Cut Air Conditioning Costs

Incorporating smarter, more efficient landscape design strategies into the overall layout of your home's property can help to conserve natural resources, as well as money in your wallet. "A properly planted tree can shade a house in the summer, helping to keep it cool and save money on air conditioning," says Deborah Roberts, a Connecticut landscape designer. She recommends planting deciduous trees along the south- and west-facing sides of your house. "In the summer their leafy canopy will provide shade for your home, and in the winter the sun's rays will still be able to warm up your house." Additionally, shading an air conditioning unit with plantings can increase its efficiency by as much as 10 percent, according to the US Department of Energy. Photo courtesy of Deborah Roberts

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Windbreaks: Lower Heating Costs

Creating a natural windbreak is an effective solution to blocking the path of prevailing winter winds. "Evergreen trees and shrubs are ideal for creating windbreaks," Deborah says, "as their foliage tends to slow down or even redirect the wind." Planting trees and shrubs within the correct distance from the house will create a more efficient windbreak, helping to lower your home's heating costs. To calculate the proper planting distance, Deborah suggests figuring out the mature height of the plants you will be using, and then planting them at least twice that distance away from your house. Photo courtesy of Deborah Roberts

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Natural Fences: Increase Your Home's Privacy

In addition to Japanese cedar and blue spruce trees, evergreens also work well in creating natural year-round privacy screening for your yard. If your privacy needs are more seasonal, however, you have a greater variety of planting options, says Deborah, who offers suggestions such as big bluestem, a tall ornamental grass or rhododendron. "Using a mix of shrubs, trees and grasses will create a more interesting natural privacy barrier, and also add some wildlife habitat to your garden." Photo courtesy of Deborah Roberts

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Rain Gardens: Reduce Watershed

Collecting and using rainwater for your landscaping not only helps lower your water bill, but also helps to redirect storm-water runoff into gardens and landscaping. By harvesting rainwater "we restore natural processes by putting that water back into the ground where it would have gone pre-development," explains Scott Kubiszyn, president of Nature's Tap, an Alabama company that specializes in rainwater harvesting and graywater systems. Rain gardens are an ideal design for this method. While their shallow grounds are designed to collect rainwater, the plants within them work to hold and utilize the water — often throughout an entire season, depending upon the amount of rainfall. The best kinds of plants to use in rain gardens are those that are able to tolerate both drought and wetness. Photo courtesy of Susan Pearlstine

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