Designing on a slope

I do hate the thought of going back to work tomorrow but I'm glad to say that I accomplished several projects during my time off. Kenneth & Toni, friends of ours, asked me to design a plan for a slope right outside their back door. I love their house. It sits on a steep hillside and reminds me of a Frank Lloyd Wright house. There are huge windows in front and you have a tree-house effect when you are inside. Outside, there are lots of trees and an open grassy area on the hill behind their house.  

When you step outside to the back, via sliding doors, you step onto a deck and the landscape is above you. In other words, you look up to see it. There are two sections on either side, leading up to the lawn, and both sides need work. The section on the right, however, was totally blank with the exception of some juniper shrubs. There is also a large dogwood in the center so the area is shaded except for a few hours of morning sun.

Neither Kenneth or Toni are gardeners so they wanted something that was easy to maintain. They liked monkey grass and we both agreed that it would be a good plant to keep water from pouring down onto their deck. I first envisioned sweeping lines of monkey grass bordering a dry creek bed. I wanted the creek bed to run diagonally across the middle from top to bottom. However, once I started the job, I realized that the slope was too steep and the gravel would just tumble down the hill. I opted for the gravel to be at the bottom of the area where the ground was more level. Hostas, ajuga, ferns and Jacob's Ladder are planted along the gravel area.

Two boulders (or you could say rocks as they are not too big) anchor the area at the bottom on both sides. The area above the gravel consists of monkey grass (both the variegated and green types), ferns and an Annabelle hydrangea in the upper right corner.

Kenneth and Toni were pleased with the results. This was a fun project to work on and the only difficulty I had was keeping myself from tumbling down the hill. I was able to get the planting accomplished on two half-days and fortunately the heat had not set in yet. We are all looking forward to seeing it once the plants grow together.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. Now this looks like a fun challenge to design in. My yard is so flat I have to preten a 24" slope is what I see here--in need of some bracing and dirt-holding plants. Lovely.

  2. This looks much better. It will be easy to care for and give them something nice to look at. Good job.

  3. Great job! It's is going to be so lush and green when it all fills in.

  4. What a beautiful place. Slopes are a real problem. I am solving a sunny steep slope in front of the house with daylilies and a gentler slope with tough spready roses. I hope they will be as carefree as your friend's slope. Just beautiful.

  5. Hahaha...I can relate to tumbling down a slope...I've done it several times here! The garden looks great...can't wait to see it fill in.

  6. What a beautiful area! Having the plants in your sight-line like that surrounding you must feel very cozy. And I'll bet planting in the area slows down and maybe even helps absorb the water that you said pours onto the deck. Fun project!


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