The view from the top of your hill may be beautiful, but you may wish there was something you could do about all that sloping space to make it more functional as a yard. The good news? There is! Plenty, in fact.
Sloping and hilly spaces come with challenges, but knowing what those are is half the battle. Coming up with creative ways to use that space is the other half. We’ve got you covered on both counts.
Here are some of the things you’ll need to consider if you live on a hill (or even at the bottom of a hill!) or have a particularly sloped yard, and how you can turn it into a beautiful, functional space worth the view.
Work In Layers
Just because your yard seems to descend in a single, angled slope, doesn’t mean you have to landscape that way. With some smart excavating you can actually build flat surfaces in layers. That will not only result in a lovely space but a far more functional one, too.
While you may not be able to place a grill, fire pit or seating area on the side of a hill, you can most certainly do it on a deck or patio built *into* the hill. A patio of natural stone or slate can work very nicely at elevation, especially when you consider the view! For a more challenging space, a deck affords you the opportunity to use pillars to raise it level, with the added benefit of including a rail.
Either of these can include steps and staircases – whether as part of the structure as with a deck, or separately made of descending natural stones for a patio – to lead to additional surfaces above or below.
Once you have a flat surface, you can include whatever landscaping features work for your space. Cooking and seating areas are just the beginning. Add container gardens, sculptures and artwork, bubblers, patio ponds and water features, even trellises and arbors to take advantage of all that height.
Mind The Slide
When you have a sloped area, one of the challenges is dealing with runoff and erosion. It’s important to secure the ground and to place effective landscape elements and plantings that work in this kind of environment.
Using a mixture of ground cover, woody plants, shrubs with deeper roots and perennials mixed in between can help secure soil. Mulch and strategically placed larger natural stones and boulders will round out your efforts, not only by helping to keep soil and plants in place but by adding unique character and beauty.
Retaining walls are another good option for adding stability. Cut away a portion of the hill and add a wall to hold back soil, and even to create terraces at different levels.
Terraces are especially effective for hillside landscaping because each one can be designed with a unique identity. For example, start with a water feature at the lowest level, add taller, structural plants that draw the eye up, followed by colorful wildflowers, shrubbery and whatever your imagination desires.
Terraces are also a great way to incorporate another fun landscaping feature – vegetable gardens! Each row can contain its own edible – think zucchini at one tier and pumpkin at the next – or mix and match based on height, color and aesthetic. Remember to include a pathway between rows, and steps to move between them.
Finally, be mindful of irrigation. A standard sprinkler system probably won’t work here. You’ll most likely want to consider drip irrigation or soaker hoses so that water can soak into the soil and reach plant roots without dislodging them and running off into a mudslide. It’s important to compensate for the effects of the slope and potential runoff long before a single planting goes in.
You can also deal with water issues by planting drought-tolerant native plants. There are many to choose from that look great and make maintenance a breeze.
Add A Unique Element To A Unique Space
The worst thing you can do if you live on a slope or hill is to pretend you don’t! Part of you may wish for expansive plain, but the more you try to tame a space into something it’s not, the less attractive, effective, and the more work it’s going to be.
Instead of fighting your slope, consider how you can add some truly unique elements that you won’t see at any home with a flat, green lawn.
Turn at least part of your hillside into a rock garden, with large natural stones and boulders. Use different sizes, textures and colors to create visually interesting groups of rocks. Break it up with plants in between, such as Lilac or beautiful clusters of Fountain Grass. The rocks will keep plants in place as well as preserve soil, and the effect will be truly one-of-a-kind.
If you have a particularly steep drop, you can even landscape in vertical space. Create a planting wall with stone or trellises and think of the space as a living mural. Mosses and climbing blooms like Bougainvillea, Wisteria and Trumpet Vine will look beautiful in their own right, and even attract birds and butterflies to your garden.
Looking for a wholly unique idea, one that you couldn’t have achieved on flat ground? Add a waterfall! Sure, you can build one on the ground, but imagine the magical effect of a waterfall cascading from the top of your yard right down to a pool or pond at the bottom. Or try a series of spill bowls nestled at intervals with water flowing between.
Include plantings along the sides, boulders, tiers, or whatever else suits your style, add lighting, and the result will make every neighbor with a lawn wish for a hill!
Create A Destination
A hill ends somewhere, so don’t neglect the landscaping when you get there. Whether your slope ends at a lakeside, wooded area or just some simple, flat ground, it’s a great location for a hardscape. Brick, paving stones or slate can create a patio for seating, container gardens, a fire pit, or gazebo.
Whether it’s a bistro table for two, or a gathering area for a group, you’ll transform the space into a “place”. And once you’ve built the terraces, steps, and pathways leading down, this simple place will become *the* place to be.
Don’t forget lighting! From spotlights to lanterns, hanging fairy lights and more, lighting affords you the opportunity to enjoy your new space day and night.
If you live at the top (or bottom) of a hill, whether it’s a gentle slope or a steep drop, we hope you’ve begun to imagine the possibilities for turning it into a uniquely beautiful and functional space that you can enjoy all year long.
If you’re challenged with a sloping yard, contact us for a consultation and talk to one of our landscape design professionals. Together we’ll develop a plan to manage erosion, runoff, irrigation, sun and shade concerns, and more. Then we’ll design a landscape and an outdoor space that will become a part of your lifestyle, so you’ll never wish for ordinary, flat lawn again!