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Baffles, or miniature terraces, created with landscape edging or timbers set horizontally across a slope, slow water runoff. While mulch tends to wash downhill on a bare slope, it stays in place when baffles help control the flow of water. Check for gullies after a heavy rainfall, and install additional baffles if needed.
A waterfall is the ultimate way to take advantage of a slope. A steep slope is an opportunity to create a dramatic, sheer curtain of water. You'll need electricity nearby to bring life to the water pump but a good electrician should be able to help provide the power.
Retaining walls are bold architectural elements that create an intimate, enclosed atmosphere. Plants such as many sedums, creeping phlox, or rock cress tumbling over the top of a wall soften the hard architectural lines and add color.
Test Garden Tip: Create more interest by selecting wall-building materials that allow you to plant in nooks and crannies along the wall's surface.
If one big wall won't do, several low walls with level terraces between may be the right solution. Consider paving a level to create a patio and a comfy seating area. An inviting midslope patio is a great place to sit and survey the rest of your garden.
Plant roots are very efficient at anchoring loose soil on a slope. So turn a tough hill into a beautiful planting by selecting easy-care groundcovers that root into the bank wherever their stems touch soil. The dense mats they create will reduce erosion and weeds.
Transform a steep slope into valuable living space by straddling it with a multilevel deck. The contrast between natural plantings and a deck is always striking.
Test Garden Tip: Up the drama by building around an existing tree or planting one near the deck.
Nestle clusters of boulders into the soil. They anchor portions of the slope and add natural beauty. Arrange rocks into groups staggered informally for a natural look. Bury the bottom one-third to one-half of each large rock to stabilize it. Pack soil firmly around the rocks, and finish with plantings.
Steps convert a slope from inaccessible to inviting. Wide steps that meander or zigzag up a steep slope are easier to climb than those that escalate rapidly.
Test Garden Tip: Begin building at the base of your slope if you're not sure where to add your stairs. Try climbing the slope along several different paths until you find the most comfortable route.
A shallow slope is the perfect site for a burbling stream and several smaller waterfalls. Cascading water giggles over slopes that once seemed unmanageable and attracts wildlife.
A dry-stack stone wall and mortared stone steps join a garden house and spa set at different levels in the landscape. Lush plantings soften the hardscape, add color and fragrance, and invite exploration.
An abundance of spring bloomers turns towering terraces into a crazy quilt of cottage charm. Follow spring bulbs with summer- and fall-blooming perennials for extended bloom and season-long color.
Nestle an outdoor living space into your hillside. Steps to a raised flagstone patio provide a great view of the rest of the garden. A trickling stream with a series of cascades creates soothing sounds for relaxation.
Create a sweeping swath of ornamental grasses and groundcovers for a low-maintenance slope solution. Most need trimming only once per year so you can almost literally plant them and forget them. They're also great for low-water-use landscapes.
Create a curving staircase with switchbacks that minimize the steepness of the slope by permitting wide treads on each step. Trailing nasturtiums disguise the severity of the slope and add visual appeal.
Take advantage of a change in grade to display your favorite potted plants on niches in a retaining wall holding back the slope. Bringing flowering pots closer to eye level gives them greater impact.
A bench shaded by a rose-covered pergola creates a fragrant destination on this hillside. A matching railing leads the way to the oasis and provides a more secure means to traverse the slope. A white lattice fence complements the structure and adds a feeling of enclosure.
Take advantage of a long slope by dividing it into different levels. Here, wide terraces create planting spaces for individual garden rooms on each level. Stone steps allow for easy access between levels.
Use a slope to create garden art! Here, boxwood hedges create a visual masterpiece on a slope. The blue fescue between the hedges adds a fun contrast in form and color. Planting on the slope enables you to view the distinct planting pattern while enjoying a meal on the patio.