Gardens come in all shapes and sizes, but modern gardens tend to come in one particular size, which is small! Small gardens aren’t in themselves a problem, but size does matter. Here, we are looking at the decision process in dealing with a shallow sloping garden, and how to make them usable.
This client had recently moved into a new house, and the developers had very kindly ‘landscaped’ it: well, they had installed a patio running the width of the house, popped in two fences and planted a hedge and four trees. The rest of the garden was grassed over.
So what are the problems with this garden?
Shallow depth and a sharp slope!
This garden backed onto countryside with the outlying view being dominated by a rolling hill. Unfortunately, all the developers had done was emphasise the shallowness of the garden by planting a hedge along the back AND adding fences marching up the sides of the garden.
Once the hedge matured, the garden would just become a wonky patch of green unusable space surrounded by walls! And the best features the garden has would disappear – namely the view and the lovely dry stone wall running the length of the garden.
So how to remedy this?
To put something right you need to understand what’s wrong – and it’s all to do with vision. The fences left and right funnel your eye to the end wall; but because the slope rises up from the house, that end wall is made to appear closer than it is. Planting a hedge along the end will only move that boundary inwards – making a shallow sloping garden into a smaller shallow sloping garden!
This garden needs 3 things;
- Somewhere useful to sit
- A means to get to the seating area
- Some way of linking the hill beyond to the garden, so it all feels connected
So how is that done?
Part of the garden needs levelling so there is a place to sit. Then; to help disguise the slope of the ground, build raised borders that lift out of the ground.
The hedge at the end needs removing to open up the view up the hill coupled with making the fences appear less obvious.
Finally the planting needs to be animated. This garden is surrounded by solid immobile objects, houses, fences, patios and hills. By adding dancing swaying plants as a contrast to the solid surroundings, the plants can take centre stage and lead your view up and out to the countryside beyond.
Dealing with a shallow sloping garden
is relatively easy then, but you have to be bold. The garden must take on the slope and first and foremost provide a practical solution to the contours. You simply can’t sit at a sloping table – the wine glasses will topple over! Some landscape levelling has to be done, site the main seating area in the nicest part of the garden and work from there. How will you get there and then what will you look at. Use plants that are tall and skinny, but open and light, to fill the vertical space but not use up horizontal space.
Make sure you use all the garden, find a way to walk through the borders if you can, add plants with scented leaves and soft tactile textures to make that walk lovely.
Oh and the client loved it by the way!