Before putting any plants in the ground, Wilfer's first concern was to steer clear of the waterway that runs across the front of the property. “To prevent erosion, Georgia law states that you can't landscape anything within 25 feet of a stream,” she says. Her second concern was to select native plants that would not only thrive with minimal care on the shady, wooded property but also help support the embankments behind the rear deck and to the side of the house. Shrubs such as rhododendron, doghobble (Leucothoe fontanesiana), Florida anise (Illicium floridanum), and inkberry (Ilex glabra) all fit that description. “The plants we chose have an extensive root network that creates a nice hold for a bank,” Wilfer explains. “Doghobble in particular is a really good plant for stream-bank stabilization.”

Wilfers next goal was to create a natural screen of trees that would be dense enough year round to shield the house from the neighbors. For that she hired subcontractor Mike Sutherland to plant Carolina hemlock, an evergreen tree that thrives in Zone 7, which just barely covers the Atlanta area. “They normally like cooler temperatures, but they'll do well in this shade,” says Sutherland. “In about 25 years, these 8-foot saplings will be 30 or 40 feet tall.”

To plant each of them in the sloped ground, Sutherland and his crew from the Atlanta-based company Habersham Gardens first dug a hole twice as big around as the tree's 40-inch root ball, to surround it with a rich topsoil mixed with sand, which allows for better drainage. “Most trees die from overwatering rather than a lack of it,” says Sutherland. Once the tree was in the ground, the crew tamped down the soil mixture around it to get out any air pockets.
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