Building Landscape Design on a Slope
Trying to design a landscape or a set of landscape features on a slope can feel like a literal, uphill battle.
The elements that would sit perfectly on the flat ground may not work on a hill, and building them on such elevations could spell trouble in the future. Fortunately, there are means and ways around these topographic obstacles.
This post will examine the design challenges of building on a slope and offer landscaping ideas to consider if your home is on a hill.
How Do You Landscape a Sloped Hill?
To landscape a moderate slope, you must do two things.
First, you must determine whether your lot is safe and ready for landscaping or if it needs some remediation first.
Second, once your landscape is deemed safe for the job, you should choose landscaping designs and features suitable for hills and slopes.
To check safety, you’ll need to look for functional issues that may be present such as flooding and soil erosion. You need to know whether these problems exist because the ground has to be safe for mowing, and the soil has to be suitable for planting (the species of your choice).
Soil runoff can also serve as a challenge, and you’ll need to evaluate how much of a threat this is for your landscape. It’s even worthwhile assessing the risks associated with the landscaping job itself because walking and working on a slope itself can be challenging.
Your next step is determining what sort of landscape designs are most suitable for sloped areas. You should ultimately choose the ones that best complement the look of your house, the size of your landscape, and of course, your budget.
Sloped Hill Landscaping Ideas & Design
1. Plant a Hillside Garden
Establish planting pockets and bring in some extra soil so that the plants are firmly rooted.
Ideally, you should plant species that are workhorses and grow in harsh conditions that don’t allow for much irrigation or fertilization.
Species such as native sumac and Cherokee sedge can thrive on hillsides where topsoil tends to wash off quickly, resulting in a loss of nutrients and fertility.
Your hillside garden may assume many variations, including vegetable gardens, four-season gardens, and native plantings.
2. Build a Terrace
Low stone walls allow you to create large enough areas for you to work in, and they look naturalistic if designed and installed correctly.
Stone also sits nicely on a hill and has a high level of structural integrity. Best of all, stone heats up starting in the early spring and retains heat at night, allowing you to grow plants that usually wouldn’t survive in your lot. Think of it as a micro-climate.
3. Selectively Remove Undesired Vegetation
Some hillside landscapes mature into those with dense foliage, obscuring an otherwise sweeping view below.
If this is the case with your landscape, you can remove the limbs of trees to clear a path to see what’s beyond your hillside. You can even plant underbrush or set a rock or stone pathway to extend your landscape further down the hill.
The above is a landscaping idea for sloped hills often overlooked but can create an interesting visual dynamic.
4. Install Planting Boxes
Consider installing planting boxes, especially if your living area is at the base of a sloped hill. It allows you to easily raise plants in more suitable soil than which the slope may provide.
If done appropriately, it can create a colorful and vibrant contrast to the entire garden.
5. Create a Large Rock or Boulder Wall
The placement of large rocks and boulders serves as an excellent method to keeping your precious soil in place. It creates a more irregular but more natural rock wall, and the placement of these features allows plants to take hold while keeping water runoff to a minimum.
Preventing water runoff is an essential consideration when landscaping a sloped hill, so be sure to keep this one in mind.
6. Plant a Roadside Garden on a Sloped Hill
If your house sits on a roadside slope, then growing a garden on the hill can be an attractive addition if done well.
You don’t want to obscure the view of the road entirely, and you need to grow plants that don’t require much grooming. A mixture of low-growing shrubs and evergreens is perfect for roadside gardens, leading to increased curb appeal.
7. Build a Staircase or a Winding Path
Placing stairs on a sloped hill with a steep slope simply makes it easier for you and others to access the garden.
You, or your landscape architect, can construct a staircase of your choice with natural materials such as wood or stone, but you can also opt for traditional materials such as concrete.
A winding path can function as a staircase as well, albeit a more subtle one, but it’s more for creating a pathway and aesthetic appeal.
Stone and rock pathways are great landscape ideas for sloped hills because of their durability and ability to anchor the soil. They also compliment softscape features such as flower beds and vegetable gardens better than many other types of material.
8. Add a Retaining Wall
A sloped landscape is prone to functional issues, namely, water runoff and erosion.
Aesthetically, a sloped landscape can also seem “formless” and uncontained. A retaining wall resolves both problems.
A retaining wall helps to hold back soil, preventing run-off and erosion, but it can also be quite attractive.
A wall of well-designed rock, stone, or brick patterns can stand as an excellent design for your home.
You can arrange these materials in uniform patterns, interlocked patterns (brick), irregular ones, and more – the design options are limitless. A pretty popular type of retaining wall is segmental, essentially stacked modular concrete blocks with anchors and reinforcement.
9. Design a Waterfall
Putting a waterfall on your landscape is an ambitious undertaking, but it can be a perfect compliment for a slope.
Hills are a perfect match to waterfalls because they allow for a natural downward flow of water. A slope will also enable you to incorporate exciting designs that can be stacked and flow down the landscape itself.
Dealing With a Sloped Landscape in Sustainable Gardening? Landscape Design in Knoxville
Most people who consider leveling a sloping landscape want to create a more significant and more manageable workspace.
I recommend keeping the slope rather than leveling it. There are benefits to a slope, even if it can be challenging. For one, the costs of balancing a landscape can become overwhelming for the average homeowner.
Additionally, you might be robbing yourself of some ecological and design benefits that a drastically altered landscape wouldn’t give you. My perspective on this echoes the following quote:
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.”
With that said, I will go into further detail on why you should keep a sloped landscape in a future post. Are you looking to upgrade your landscape but need help because it sits on a hill? Get in touch with me for a consultation.