Looking for garden ideas on a slope? No garden is completely flat, unless a digger has been in and levelled the site, and, many gardens, are on a slope which when viewed at initially can be a little daunting.
Many questions are raised, such as what happens if it rains heavily? Will there be erosion of soil? Will the soil dry out? What plants can I grow? What is the easiest solution for getting from the bottom to the top? And, of course, many more. But a slope can add real interest to a garden and create a character all of its own.
We spoke to TV Gardening Presenter, Landscape Designer and Writer, Mark Lane, to find out how to create a beautiful garden on a slope.
As a broadcaster he is a presenter of the award winning BBC Gardeners’ World, as well a presenter for BBC Gardeners’ World Live and the Royal Horticultural Society’s Flower Shows – Chelsea, Hampton Court Palace and Tatton Park.
WILL A LAWN WORK ON A SLOPE?
‘To mow a lawn on a slope is very difficult indeed, so why not opt for leaving the grass to grow longer, which is brilliant for wildlife or perhaps sow a wildflower meadow mix onto bare soil. In no time at all the flowers will be up and the slope will look incredible. For the steeper slope consider laying wildflower turf, which already has the wildflowers growing within it,’ says Mark.
SHOULD THE SLOPE BE TERRACED?
What this means, is should there be level areas (terraces) cut into the slope with steps or ramps linking each terrace, with retaining walls to hold back the soil. By introducing these level areas, borders can be created on the flat, and depending on how often and how many terraces are put in (which is a personal choice at the end of the day) can create a tiered garden to great effect. It also means that gardening on these terraces is easier as there is no awkward bending or leaning to get the right angle or the right standing or sitting position.
If a slope is not seen as a problem, then many plants can be grown on an angle, while at the same time stabilising the soil. Of course, plants will always grow upwards and outwards, so even a plant with a vertical spire, such as foxglove or Digitalis, will grow straight and not at an angle (in most cases). Groundcover plants such as the greater periwinkle or Vinca major or climbing plants like ivy Hedera colchica ‘Dentata Varegata’ are perfect for stabilising the soil. For very steep slopes coconut matting can be pegged down on top of the soil, and then planted up through the matting. Over time, the matting will decay, but the plants will still be there.
WHAR ARE THE BEST MATERIAL CHOICES FOR A TERRACED GARDEN?
This is purely down to personal choice, but consider hard standing such as a riven paving or a slab with a rough finish or gravel for level pathways. Being a slope, there will be more rainwater run-off, so provide adequate slip-resistance underfoot. Of course, borders filled with glorious plants will soak up the majority of the water, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
GARDEN IDEAS ON A SLOPE
Here are some great ideas to inspire your next gardening project on a slope.
1. STONE WALLS FOR INTEREST
Provide interest by making terraces with retaining stone walls with steps built in. The walls will create small pockets to grow alpines and drought-resistant plants, and will provide a backdrop to the plants.
2. CREATE A DEFINED ROUTE
Position steps at alternate ends of each terrace to create a defined route or pathway through the garden. This will add interest and tease you on to the next level.
3. EDGING THE BORDERS WILL CREATE A UNIQUE EFFECT
Define the edges of borders with a metal or plastic border edger, or a line of gravel setts. This will outline the spaces, and, depending on the material chosen for the pathways, will contrast beautifully for a unique garden.
4. DON’T BE AFRAID TO EXPERIMENT
Mix up the planting, with vertical spires and mounds for a more dynamic effect, and don’t be afraid to place a taller plant towards the front of a border.
5. THE SWISH OF ORNAMENTAL GRASSES
Ornamental grasses are perfect for slopes. Most prefer well-drained soils, and the added angle of the slope will provide a cascade effect when the wind blows them.
6. RIGHT PLANT, RIGHT PLACE
Towards the top of the slope the soil will inevitably be drier than at the bottom, and a simple soil test will help identify the soil texture, which will influence the range of plants. The soil could even be acidic towards the top and more alkaline towards the bottom, or vice-a-versa.
7. CONSIDER THE COST OF TERRACING
Work within your budget and be realistic. Creating terraces is a lot of work and can be expensive to achieve, but cheaper options such as retaining walls from sleepers rather than stone will help keep down the costs.
8. AVOID A PERFECT LAWN
It just isn’t achievable to keep the perfect lawn on a slope. It is difficult and can be dangerous, especially when dealing with machinery, such as strimmers and lawn mowers.
9. GO FOR THE SIMPLEST SOLUTION
Sometimes the simplest solution is the best. Marking out borders on a slope can be tricky, but it can be done. Plant these up with a good mix of self-naturalising bulbs, such as Narcissus, Scilla and Galanthus, groundcover plants with fibrous root systems, such as Geranium, Calluna, herbaceous perennials like Pachysandra, Lamium, creeping Phlox and shrubs such as Cotoneaster, Forsythia and Ceanothus.
Mark Lane, Mark Lane Designs, marklanedesigns.com