How to make the most of a sloping garden

 In Garden Design, Landscaping

The rolling hills of Somerset make for wonderful views but can pose a challenge for gardeners. Here are some ideas for how to make the most of your sloping garden.

When you want to install a garden building or even just have a level surface to stand the barbecue on, a sloping garden can be frustrating. As a garden designer and landscaper though, I see every slope as an opportunity to breathe character and individuality into the space.

Templecombe back garden before its makeover

Sloping garden. This picture was taken before a garden makeover from SilverBirch Gardens.
The extent of the slope isn’t obvious from this angle – until you look at the bottom of the fence and the fact that a previous gardener has built a platform to keep the shed level.

First steps in designing a sloping garden

When I approach any garden – sloping or level – my first question is “how do you want to use the garden?” Functionality is key to any beautiful space and a crucial part of the garden design process.

Secondly, I take note of the landscape beyond the garden. Whenever possible, I like to make the most of borrowed vistas. It was a famous trick of Capability Brown and is still very relevant today – even in small gardens.

With all of the positives in mind, I then start to look at practicalities such as drainage, underground utilities, and light and shade.

early stages of garden landscaping with mini digger clearing site

Landscaping a sloping garden invariably involves re-contouring the ground. The cost of labour and/or machinery hire needs to be factored into the budget.

Major considerations in a sloping garden

  • Safety – there should be no slip or trip hazards
  • Accessibility – can the design be accessed by someone with limited mobility? I want my gardens to add value to a property, not make it hard to sell in the future.
  • Materials – to match the style of the property and the personality of its owners
  • Individuality – I like to think outside of the box to create a truly unique design
  • Budget – landscaping a sloping garden often involves re-contouring. I want to get best value for money from plant and machinery and avoid moving utilities whenever possible
  • Maintenance – Ensure that there is good access for mowing, weeding, pruning and general maintenance…….otherwise little jobs don’t get tackled and before you know it the garden will look tired and run down

sloping garden with broad steps and ballustrades

This is the same garden as shown earlier in the blog (that shed is in the top right hand corner)
For maximum accessibility we’ve installed wide terraces. The “steps” have a non-slip surface, gentle risers and handrails to help balance.

Design ideas for sloping gardens


wide patio with inset lighting

Make the most of garden lighting. These inset lights are set into the patio to reduce the risk of accidents after dark.

lawned terrace with offset steps

Consider the view from the house.  By putting the steps to the side, the terraces in this garden are less obvious.
Garden designers such as Capability Brown would use a  ha ha to give a similar effect.


design for sloping front garden with retaining walls and curved steps

A work in progress. This design for a sloping front garden in Wembdon involves retaining walls.
Retaining walls are an element in many sloping gardens and must be built by skilled craftspeople. Even a slight miscalculation could result in the whole garden collapsing.

More garden design ideas

Visit our portfolio of work for some inspiring case studies

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