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Sloping garden ideas – successful landscaping design tips

sloping gardens

How do you tackle sloping gardens like these?

With severe garden slopes, you basically have 3 options:

  • Live with the slope
  • Terrace it (quickly or slowly)
  • The compromise

Whilst the garden design methods I teach here at Successful Garden Design are simple and cost-effective, that does change the moment you have to tackle a sloping garden… If you’re going to terrace a severe slope or any slope for that matter, you are going to have to spend money on it.

before and after of modern contemporary house
Even terracing a slight slope can be costly

Earthmoving and wall building are two of the most expensive aspects of landscaping. So let’s look at how you can mitigate some of the expense if you’re on a tight budget, and how to do it really well if you’re not!

A garden slope you can live with

birds eye view of slowing grassed garden

The effectiveness of this will, of course, depend on the severity of the slope but if you simply don’t have the funds to throw at sorting out levels your best option is to make the most of. The most forgiving shapes to use are free-flowing curves in your design layout. They still need to be coherent and work with the shape the garden you have, to be successful (view our free garden design web class for more on design shapes).

curved sloping garden design drawing

Free-flowing curved shaped borders will cope much better with slopes and undulations than any other design shapes – avoid straight lines at all costs, especially if your garden slopes from side to side as well as up and down. If the slope is very severe a path at the side of the garden that has steps is also a good option to consider so you don’t have to slide down the length of your garden in wet weather!

Terracing a sloping garden

levelled garden design with walls

Your choice here is quickly or slowly… Quickly is when there’s a sudden drop and you need a significant flight of steps to get from one level to the other(s).

contemporary terraced garden design

Slowly is when you have several levels that gradually get you from the top to bottom of the garden with only 3 or 4 steps per level.

sloping garden terrace design

That decision needs to be made depending on the existing levels. Whilst you can completely change the levels with machinery, it will cost less if you base your level changes on what’s there now. The other factor to consider is safety. If you’ve got young children or older relatives who are a little wobbly on their legs the slower level changes are preferable.

sloping terraced garden

That’s not to say you can’t move and adjust the position of the level change – you can and should take aesthetics into account, just try not to go overboard with your soil moving and think about how your changes are likely to impact your neighbours. Neighbours probably won’t want you to build a terrace that means you overlook their garden all the time, nor will they appreciate their garden suddenly disappearing under your fence in the first heavy downpour because you’ve changed the levels and not put in enough retaining walls!

The sloping garden compromise

Like all good compromises, this is somewhere in the middle of two listed above. The things you will notice the most are your patio and lawn areas. So come up with a design layout that links them together and then make them as flat as you can without having to sell any relatives or body parts and leave the rest of the garden to slope naturally. Done well, the planting will eventually take your eyes away from the fact the borders are sloping. This option will still need retaining walls, but less because you’re only putting them around the patio and or main lawn area.

If you’d like to learn more, attend one of Rachel’s FREE online garden design classes…

Rachel's garden design web

Photo credit: 1st image: FD Richards 2nd image: Mike Coghlan

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