Sloped Garden? How to make it your happy place! – Pt 2.

Hillside garden design doesn’t have to be a nightmare!

Hello lovely people and welcome to part two of making your garden your happy place. We’ve talked about massive soil excavation and hard landscaping, all important things when it comes to garden design. Next up are my Hollywood steps. I call them that because I had this idea that we could add a winding, sweeping staircase like the ones you’d see on the silver screen. I can imagine Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers floating around without a care in the world. The finished result isn’t quite so glamorous, but you get the idea!

It’s so important to create a journey in a garden, however small your space might be. My Hollywood staircase is first of all quite unusual, but also ergonomically pleasing to the eye. It makes you want to climb it and see what lies beyond the archway at the top of the flight of stairs. If you can see the whole garden from one view point, then there is no reason to investigate further, no desire to go on an adventure into the depths of the garden.

In my blog posts on how to create a small, but perfectly formed garden , part one and two, I talk about this in great detail. Rachel from Raspberry Flavoured Windows read both of those and it inspired her to start her own gardening journey, creating a Victorian walled garden. You can read her blog about it here. She was also very kind in mentioning my posts within it, thank you Rachel.

The finished garden using railway sleepers as hard landscaping. Uk
The garden in 2020.

A highly skilled and extraordinarily good looking hunk of a man did all the chainsaw work on the sleepers in order to create the sweeping curve on the steps that I so wanted. In fact, we had five gorgeous young men working on the hard landscaping, including a Jordan, a Cameron, a Blake, a Brad and a Robbie. They were all hot as hell, it was like having our very own boy band in the garden each day. It rained most of the time and there were a few moments not dissimilar to Take That’s “Back for good” video, where they all have wet, skin hugging clothing on. Fabulous! We were transfixed.

The staircase completed the hard landscaping. Within my garden design. We added archways, which were planted up with Rosa Iceberg and white Clematis Montana. The first archway was at the top of the stairs and the second invited you through from the top of the main garden into the field beyond.

The field wasn’t part of our garden when we bought the house. It took fourteen months to buy it from the farmer and we had to borrow the money to do it. It was so worth it though, as it gave us a large expanse of flat ground and the views are incredible from it. Completely overgrown and my height in brambles, we set about transforming it into part of the garden. It was originally lavender fields, so I was keen to incorporate lots of the stuff.

We also hand dug a trench all the way along the far boundary wall of the garden and then hand planted over 700 bare root beech and copper beech trees. They went in the ground at around two foot high. The hedge is now well over seven feet tall! I remember my parents arrived to stay with us and we had been up in the field planting the hedge in the pouring rain. We had to get it done as it was getting late in the season. Do you recall James Dean in Giant when he’s completely covered in black oil? We were drenched and covered in thick dark mud as we came down to greet my mum and dad – not quite so sexy!

Planting – its so important to get it right within a garden design. There must be repetition and flow and a cohesive scheme if you want your garden to be a success. Choose a simple colour scheme, I like cool colours, so its whites, blues and pale pinks for me, with the odd black to aubergine for contrast.

I planned a white border and a prairie border in the first terrace. The white border includes Lychnis Coronaria Alba, Leucanthemums, White Phlox, Artemesia, white geraniums, Stachys, Gaura and White alliums. The prairie border contains Lychnis Coronaria, which is hot pink, Perovskia, Calamagrostis Karl Foerster, Agapanthus, Sea Holly, Stachys and Leucanthemums. You’ll notice that some of the plants have been repeated in both borders, this creates harmony and cohesion.

In the second terrace I created a cottage garden and an entire border of box balls, or Buxus Sempervirens. There’s no reason why you cant have variety in your garden design. I see each border almost like they are rooms. There needs to be a sense of flow, but that doesn’t mean everything needs to be the same.

The cottage garden is planted in drifts of between five and seven of the same variety of plant. It’s important to always plant in odd numbers when putting plants together. Here, I added Leucanthemums of various varieties, Bergamot, Crambe Cordifolia, Rosa Twice in a Blue Moon, Persicaria Bistorta Superba, Delphiniums, Nepeta and Knautia.

Dotted around the garden are specimen trees such as Italian Umbrella Pines and Italian Cypress, Acerbic Autumn Blaze and Crimson King and Cornus Kousa. The Acers add repetition and draw the eye further up the garden. The Italian Cypress add symmetry, along with Box balls in pots.

Garden design doesn’t have to be difficult. You just need to follow my four design principles: Unity, Balance, Interest and Movement. In my garden, the interest is created by using the curved sleepers and garden sculptures. The balance is achieved by planting on different levels, so that not all your plants are at the same height. The sense of balance is maintained by the two symmetrical Italian Cypress At the top of the steps mirroring the two box balls at the bottom of the steps.

Unity is created using a simple colour palette and repeating it throughout the garden. Finally, movement is achieved by creating a journey through the Hollywood steps and the archways. Tall grass near the steps, sway in the wind and usher you forward further into the space.

I can truly say that my garden is my happy place, despite it being on a slope. I promise you can do it too, give it a go!

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