Sunday, 3 March 2013

Slopes Don't Need to be an Uphill Struggle

The South Hams is an exceptionally beautiful part of Devon.  However in one respect it is sorely lacking - flat, level ground

Most people with anything larger than a terrace will have to deal with a garden which slopes.  Sloping land might not be the easiest or cheapest to design, but it should not be looked upon with despair.  Rather think of it as a design opportunity and not a problem to overcome because, unless you are going to take really drastic action, you cannot change it.  So embrace your slopes, hills and cliffs – all is not lost.

The first thing to do, as in all garden and landscape design, is to assess what you have.  How steep is it?  Which way does it slope in relation to your property – do you look up or down it?  Is there any danger of flooding?  Which way does it face and how do the shadows fall?

Once you know what you have got you then need to decide what you want to achieve.  Do you need areas of level lawn and if so how large do they need to be?  Terraces or decks are important and obviously need to be level.  A terrace close to the house might be more convenient for eating, but one set at a higher level may get more sun.  Might you need steps or retaining walls?  Terracing a garden can create lovely ‘enclosed’ areas.  You may not be able to have a natural looking pond, but cascades or streams look and sound wonderful.

When you know where you are going in design terms there are a few basic rules that need to be considered.

·         Slopes change and compress perspective.  Geometric shapes only really work when they are on the horizontal plane.  Otherwise they distort and look odd.
·         Informal shapes allow you to work with the natural slope.
·         Planting can be used to emphasise or disguise a slope.  Some plants look best when seen from above, others are most impressive when seen from below.
·         Try to keep any soil that is dug out in the garden and use it to build up other areas – this is called ‘cut and fill’.

So don’t despair, some of the most dramatic, dynamic and stunning gardens are on slopes. 

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