Hillside Landscaping Ideas

Turn a hill into an asset with easy hillside landscaping ideas.
Steep and Shady

Steep and Shady

Photo by: Image courtesy of Ben Rollins

Image courtesy of Ben Rollins

What some homeowners would see as deficits: a sloped and shady backyard, Atlanta homeowners Tom Fulkerson and Robert Dick have turned into assets, creating a tranquil, restful escape from busy city life. Their Atlanta garden is a blend of tradition and quirkiness with a glade of 'Knock Out' roses and a butterfly bush balanced with charming details like a koi pond and a terra-cotta figure nicknamed Zeus surveying the garden from his perch on a brick wall.

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If your front or backyard includes a hill or hillside space, you need a landscape design plan that allows for maximum beauty with minimal maintenance.

For a cleared steep incline behind a retaining wall, consider groundcover plants. There are many varieties of flowers and shrubs that thrive on slopes. If your steep hill gets full sun and doesn’t encounter an overwhelming amount of rain or water runoff, consider dotting it with thyme, the fragrant, delicate herb is easy to grow and blooms pink in the spring. 

To juniper or not to juniper? For many homeowners with a hilly yard who are considering a hillside landscape plan, that is the question. While junipers – tough, evergreen plants – are famous for their fast-growing ability to provide hillsides with seemingly instant (and attractive) groundcover, they also require maintenance, especially in the first year after planting. Although they’re not creepers, junipers will choke out other plants near their roots. Yet, weeds love to grow between the junipers and require constant plucking until the junipers are mature and have grown together. Make sure to keep a thick layer of pine straw in any visible space between the junipers. If you’re dedicated to watering and weeding your bank or hillside full of junipers weekly (or monthly, depending upon the season), there’s little else you need to worry about in order to keep the plants healthy. For some homeowners, ten minutes of weeding on the weekend beats having to push a mower up and down a steep incline

For a gentle slope within a lawn, try terracing sections of the yard to create flower beds. Use landscaping pavers to create U-shaped tiers, which can be filled in with dirt or potting soil for plantings. These tiers can be as big or as small as you can handle – from 5 or 6 feet wide for a petite showcase of short flowering plants to 20 feet wide or more. At a certain width, the project could go from being DIY to a professional job needing a backhoe, so don’t bite off more than you can chew! Use the tier strategy to create natural steps using flat stones. If the hill is too steep for flat stones (which can be slippery when wet), consider building steps into the hill or creating a wooden platform walkway with steps. These two ideas may require the help of a pro, who can create a plan to get you from one level of your hill to the next. If your hillside or gentle slope is wooded but gets sunlight, add a touch of flavor with azaleas or rhododendrons, both of which can grow on inclines and tolerate shade and sun.

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