If you went shopping for a brand-new garden, I doubt ‘a slope’ would be high on your wishlist! But a little bit of a slope can be good. If you’re starting from scratch, you can use a sloping garden’s gradient to make your plot more interesting. It’s surprising what a change of level can do – you can add a few steps up to a sun-trap seating area or step down into a patio surrounded by beds of scented plants at just the right height.
With a little hard landscaping, it’s easily dealt with and your garden will probably be all the better for it.
It’s when slopes get steeper that they can be more expensive to deal with. A serious slope will need terracing if you want to garden as much of it as possible, with retaining walls that won’t give way. That said, once you’ve got that terracing in place, you’ll have a lot of fun finding beautiful plants to tumble over the edges and create a cascade of colour and flowers. Imagine stone walls with clouds of the pretty little daisy, Erigeron karvinskianus, seeding through them, and beautiful arching shrubs such as ceanothus, pink pea-flowered lespedeza or Convolvulus cneorum.
As a bonus, your drainage will be brilliant! Plants that love sharply drained soil will thrive and your soggy soil-lumbered friends will look on enviously at everything you can grow: pulsatilla, eremurus, scented pinks, Mediterranean herbs. Stabilise and cover a medium slope with ground-covering plants that knit together such as hardy geraniums and vinca.
I once visited a National Garden Scheme garden in Cornwall that was on the side of a cliff that plummeted down to the sea, with paths and pockets of planting carved across it.
The owner had come up with ingenious solutions for getting his gardening done – lowering bales of compost down to where he needed them on a rope, for example, and getting gravel where he needed it by feeding it down tubes or drainage pipes from a hopper at the top. Hopefully any slopes you encounter won’t be quite so extreme, but don’t be put off by a gradient. They can be just as beautiful, if not more so, than a garden on the flat.
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