April 13, 2008

Landscaping Deep Slopes

deep slopesLandscaping deep slopes or banks may at first seem a daunting task, but most gardeners delight in the contrast between the more traditional flat areas of a yard and the unusual designs laid down by nature. In addition to providing variety, landscaping deep slopes can turn a single space into two or more spaces and make a small area seem larger.

Groundcovers, Shrubs and Trees

Many slopes tend to be extremely dry for the obvious reason: rain falls, then it runs . . . down. The benefit of a deep, penetrating soak is lost here. However, Mother Nature has given us various plants commonly know as groundcovers that provide a “living carpet” of lushness that is low maintenance (no mowing) as well as a helpful preventive of erosion and draining problems. Their deep roots bind the soil, and their branches and leaves prevent water from running down the slope. Trees and shrubs will grow through the groundcover providing a natural mood of beauty and relaxation. Use shredded bark mulch until the groundcover is full to further cut down on weeds and to hold the moisture.

Rock Gardens

Mossy rocks and boulders with low-growing wildflowers, ferns or cactus can turn a barren slope into a picture that is worth a thousand words. Add a fountain and create a space where sights and sounds join together in nature’s most natural way.

Man-made Solutions

Depending on the grade of the grade and the location of the slope, this part of a garden or backyard can be “leveled” with a deck or used to build a staircase to entice nature lovers to venture past the obvious into other areas. Extremely deep slopes can be accented with a retaining wall to hold back soil and create spaces in front and behind it for level terraces.


Homeowners and gardeners, as well as their visitors and friends need a level space near the house for dining and entertaining or just relaxing. If the house is built on a deep slope that drops away from the house, consider building a deck from the house out over the slope. Plant tall trees around the deck to reduce the feeling of elevation above ground level.

Walk This Way

Stepping stones are a great way to build a path up a deep slope. Follow the natural contours of the slope using large flat stones at least 6-8 inches deep, overlapping the stones a few inches to increase their stability. The steps should be wide, at least two feet, with at minimum of a 20 inch flat area that is clearly visible to insure no one misses a step or trips. These stones are secured into the slope by digging out a flat bed for each, filling it with sand and water before placing the stones in their new homes. A slight sprinkling of sand and water after all stones are in place further secures them and strengthens their stability.

The Wall

Just as with any [landscaping]adventure, building a retaining wall can be something you build yourself or a project that may require professional help. Simple, modular retaining wall kits are available for the do-it-your-self landscaper. These kits contain interlocking blocks that only require a gravel base and gravel backfill with a pipe for water drainage. Trailing plants and vines can be planted on top of the wall and bushy plants, short and tall, can be planted at the base to add dimension. Or add vines between the shrubs and let then grow up the wall, adding a vertical effect to draw the attention away from eye level.

Landscaping deep slopes may require a little more muscle and a little more creativity than your average landscaping escapades, but the results can be breathtaking. Plan and design your desires on paper and watch the magic begin before your hands ever touch the dirt, and remember to retain as much of the natural surroundings as possible. God and Mother Nature are the architects of life’s most beautiful places. All we must do is enhance, nurture and appreciate what has been laid before us. They’ll take care of the rest.

Filed under Garden Design by landscapeliving.
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