Terracing makes a dynamic statement, and can be used to extend the architecture of buildings into a sloping landscape. Retaining walls and steps are solid, permanent additions and a long-term investment. Measuring and building them are skilled jobs at both the design and construction stages. Wooden decking is a cheaper solution; materials are lighter, but not as long-lasting.
Here, tiered wooden beams behind a low wall provide perfect conditions for sun-loving plants. Note the spout holes in the brick wall; it's important to plan for drainage when working with sloping sites.
Gentle changes of level in a garden offer visual interest and depth to the design. For practical purposes, gardens with only a slight incline can be treated as a flat site. However, if completely even areas are needed, for example to accommodate a table and chairs, you must level the ground and carefully consider the route between changing elevations.
Use shallow steps to bridge a small pond and provide an easy route up to the seating area beyond.
The best advice when dealing with a hillside garden is to change a natural slope as little as possible. The soil is likely to be shallow and held together by existing vegetation. Drainage will be complex; removing the native plant material - and their soil-binding roots - may result in erosion and landslides. Try to embrace the unique contours of the landscape and make small, thoughtful changes over time rather than big moves all at once.
Here, uneven, weathered stone steps make for romance and wonder through a secluded and naturalistic woodland.
Although walls, steps, ramps and terraces can be made at almost any height to suit the design, safety must remain key, especially for kid-friendly gardens. Any surface higher than 24 inches above surrounding levels should be enclosed by a railings, walls, fences, or other barriers at least barrier 36 inches high.Garden Design ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009
Designing With Steps
When building steps, the proportions of the tread (horizontal) and riser (vertical) are both important. Generally, these measurements are greater outdoors than inside a building, where treads are 12 - 20 inches deep and risers 6 - 8 inches high. Materials should complement those used elsewhere in the garden, especially adjacent walls.
Pleasantly varied in their shapes, these steps are almost as deep as landings, providing a resting place and indicating changes of direction.