How to Design a Garden on a Slope

Written by tanya khan
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Designing a garden on a slope or hill is challenging for both beginner and experienced landscapers alike, because several factors, such as runoff and erosion, have to be taken into consideration while creating an aesthetically pleasing space. However, with a little creativity and preplanning, you can incorporate the natural curves into your garden design to create an attractive space that is functional, decorative and reflects your personal style. Understand your options so you design a successful hillside garden.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Notepad
  • Graph paper
  • Coloured pencils

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  1. 1

    Walk the hill or slope to get an idea of the severity of the rise and fall. Step out at different times of the day to determine the amount of sunlight the different parts of the slope receive. Draw a rough diagram of the slope on paper and note the amount of time maximum sunlight hits different spots. Also include existing features, such as trees or paths, on the diagram.

  2. 2

    Scale the diagram on graph paper to provide a detailed view of the slope. Include existing features on the sketch, using green for plants or brown for paths, and determine whether you want to remove these or work around them. Include a drainage pipe along the foot of the slope that carries excess water to a swale or drain, using silver coloured pencil to differentiate it from the surroundings.

  3. 3

    Draw terraces on the steeper slopes to provide flat growing space for plants and prevent runoff. The number, size and depth of the terraces depend on the size of the slope you are working with. Partition terraces with retaining walls marked in brown or black to set them apart.

  4. 4

    Mark the locations of trees, shrubs, ground covers and planting beds on the graph paper. Use plants that provide natural colour and control water runoff and erosion. Incorporate willows, red cedars or other water-loving trees around the base of the slope, shrubs such as green velvet boxwood near the retaining walls along terraces and ground covers that withstand the light and climate of your area. Keep the amount of sunlight the different parts of the slope receive in mind when selecting plants.

  5. 5

    Incorporate paths or steps in the design that join different parts together and provide safe and easy access. Narrow, meandering paths and landscape timber steps heighten appeal and provide safe footing. Keep the paths at least 3 feet wide to provide easy access.

  6. 6

    Incorporate decorative accents, such as boulders and rocks, in your slope to add depth to the area and mimic nature. Grow climbing plants, such as ivy, to cover boulders and enhance appeal.

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