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When this military family was relocated to the Alexandria, VA area, it was the location of this particular home that sold them. At the bottom of a hill and backed up to a wooded area, the property was secluded and private—two things that are incredibly difficult to come by in this area. Having just been moved from the arid west, they appreciated the connection with nature that this property had to offer.

And yet, the very things that they loved about this home also raised some significant challenges. This landscape design in Alexandria, VA required overcoming some unique obstacles in order to fulfill the homeowners’ desires and create the landscape they’d been dreaming of.

A Steep Slope Landscape Design

Among the biggest problems with this project was the complete lack of any usable yard space. For one, the property backed up to a relatively steep slope that really limited what the homeowners could do with the space.


But on top of that, there was no lawn, just Pachysandra (a ground cover plant), covering the property. The Pachysandra went from right outside of the back door all the way down to the slope, where the property dropped off rather abruptly.

In order to add usability, the homeowners desired both an upper-level deck which they asked us to design as well as a lower level patio and fire pit area. The trouble was, getting any equipment into the space was a major challenge. So, materials had to be moved in by hand.


The patio design included a circular fire pit area that went right up to the slope’s edge. This was no small feat and required extensive planning with the property’s challenging grading in mind. This is why the homeowners could not just go with any old company offering paver patios in Alexandria, VA. The customized design was critical to the project’s overall success.

In the finished project, there is seating all the way around the back curve of the fire pit area. A set of stairs leading down to the fire pit area both increased the “cozy feel” of the space while also adding practical overflow seating. The homeowners’ older children often had many friends over to the house so this created an ideal gathering space.


The walkway leading down to the fire pit area from the side of the property was constructed out of timber and gravel. The homeowners not only liked the “rustic feel” of this look (which also complemented the woodsy property) but it was also budget-friendly and helped to conserve cost.

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Front Yard Challenges

In addition to completing the backyard, we were also tasked with front yard landscaping which included not only adding plant material but getting a lawn to grow where there was none. This was due to a major water issue caused by the fact that the property was at the bottom of a hill.


Again, the very thing that they loved so much about this home was at the root cause of some major issues. Every time there was a storm, water would rush over the property with quite a bit of force. The homeowners were not only experiencing problems in their yard but even some flooding in their home. They were frustrated, to say the least. When they had toured the property it was a sweltering hot day and they had no indication that major water issues would be plaguing their future.

In order to give them the turf and landscaping they desired, this meant we had to solve the water problem—which was once again, no small feat. We obtained permission from the HOA to create a huge channel drain on the road that ran from side to side. Then, we poured a hand-formed concrete basin with steel grates that would catch the vast majority of the water coming down the hill. We also completed an asphalt driveway for the family and corrected some of the property’s grading at that time.


While it’s not the most glamorous aspect of our line of work, water management is an essential one. With these efforts, we were able to achieve the family’s goal of addressing water management and providing them with the nice front lawn that they’ve wanted. We also incorporated a natural stone walkway and retaining wall. With the water concerns addressed, the family no longer has to worry about water flooding their property.

Building Paver Patios in Alexandria, VA  

This is a good example of a complicated project with a number of different challenges. It demonstrates why finding an experienced landscape designer is important. A lot of landscape companies do not delve into water issues even though they can have a significant impact on a property. But had we not first addressed the water problems, any investment in landscaping would have been wasted.


The steep slope in the backyard also posed significant challenges that had to be overcome. Fortunately, with a combination of some design expertise and proper planning, we were able to give the homeowners both the front yard and backyard that they desired. And by solving their water woes, we were also able to alleviate future worries and provide them with peace of mind that they had invested wisely.

If you’d like more information on an outdoor living project at your home, request a consultation, get your customized plan, and relax while we get to work creating your dream backyard.

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Alan Macbeth - Senior Landscape Designer

Alan is a graduate of the University of British Columbia Garden Design program, under the tutelage of renowned Landscape Architect Ron Rule. Alan spent 14 years as a member of the horticulture department at the world fa­mous Butchart Gardens in his hometown of Victoria, BC. He was promoted to the level of Senior Horticulturist, having learned and honed his skills in all as­pects of horticulture, garden design, construction methodology, maintenance, and project management. In 2002, Alan and his family relocated to Northern Virginia and joined the team at Kingstowne Lawn & Landscape.