Sloping landscapes present designers with plentiful possibilities

Updated Aug 5, 2019
Terraced gardens are a common response to sloped landscapes. Photo: Kwangho Kim/FlickrTerraced gardens are a common response to sloped landscapes.
Photo: Kwangho Kim/Flickr

All hillsides are not created equal, but they all create an interesting challenge in a landscaping project.

Since the soil type, severity of the slope, and amount of sunlight received varies from location to location, there is no one answer to designing on a hillside.

Here are some common solutions to the issues that come with landscaping on a slope.

Create a terrace

Terraces are a frequent answer for sloped yards because they are able to break the space up into smaller, usable areas of leveled ground. Retaining walls can help keep everything together, and dividing the slope up into terraces allows the use of several low walls instead of one towering retaining wall.

Terraces also provide the opportunity to blend the landscape’s design with the architecture of the home by using similar building materials or shapes. Modern homes could have a straightforward path up the terrace while a more whimsical house could have a staggered, zigzag terrace that encourages visitors to stop and smell the roses.

Create a waterfall

Since not every customer has a slope, take advantage of gravity and use it to create a dynamic water feature. Carving out a waterfall will add some interest to the landscape and provide rainfall an easy route down during storms.

Planting a lush garden around a trickling waterfall will further add to the oasis air of the space. If the slope is more moderate, you can incorporate a stream that can wind its way down the property.

Create a rock garden

Boulders and rocks can be used to stabilize the grade as well as create a rock garden. They will create a natural look as plants grow up and around them. Placement of the stones can even determine what microclimate is created for plants.

Large boulders placed parallel to the ground can create water-retaining spaces while smaller boulders placed perpendicular to the soil form well-draining areas for pickier plants. Check out the different types of plants that thrive in rock gardens here.

Create a staircase

Stairs are often added with terrace designs if they are too high to be climbed easily, but terraces aren’t necessarily required for installing a staircase up a slope. Stairs heading straight up may include a landing, or resting point, if the grade is severe.

Staircases that wind out of view as they head up the slope can add a bit of mystery to the space as you don’t know what you’ll find around the corner. Plants can be incorporated to soften the look, and to help protect the slope from erosion.

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