Landscaping a sloping garden 

back garden with porcelain paving in the foreground with a lawn and summerhouse in the background

One common feature of Surrey gardens, is that they are built on a slope. So here are some ideas for landscaping a sloping garden.

  • Engage a good garden designer – they understand the perils and pitfalls of landscaping a sloping garden
  • A series of terraces will make the slope easier to garden
  • Sloped and terraced gardens lend planting schemes a whole other dimension – embrace it
  • Don’t take short cuts when building retaining walls – they need to withstand a lot of pressure
  • Good drainage is crucial – soggy wet soil tends to slide down slopes!
  • Consider the neighbours – how will your project impact on their garden. Directing water towards someone else’s garden can lead to bad feeling.
  • Steps are great – adjust the design to your style. Straight and wide for a formal garden, gently curved if you want to create intrigue.
  • Hiring an experienced landscaper will make landscaping a sloping garden much easier

Designing your sloping garden

Every great garden makeover starts with a design.  Designing your own garden layout can be fun, but there are extra challenges when the garden slopes.

A sloping garden doesn’t just impact the way you use the space, or the way it looks. Slopes are intrinsically linked with rainwater management.  When you start re-contouring a space, you will affect how water behaves. And that’s important. Now we’re getting into the realms of engineering!

Start your garden design by assessing the slope. How steep is it? How long is it? Which way does the land lie?

Next, think about the sun and how the light travels around the garden.

Finally, decide which garden features you would like and whereabouts in the garden you want to position them.

Your greenhouse and veg garden need plenty of sunshine. But what about your patio? What time of day are you most likely to use it and do you prefer to sit in the sun or the shade? Is one seating area enough? Perhaps you need a small one for morning coffee and a larger one for entertaining?

How will you journey between the features? What is the best way to contour the garden for ease of use?

No matter how large or small your garden may be – I would always advise employing the services of a garden designer if you are landscaping a sloping garden.  He or she will know exactly how to manage the slope and any drainage issues, as well as help you to get the most out of the space you have.

retaining wall with steps to a lawn

Landscaping a sloping garden: Terraces

Creating a series of terraces, or platforms is a common way of landscaping a sloping garden.  It gives you flatter, more manageable spaces with steps or ramps in between. There may be a large or a small ‘drop’ between the levels and the terrace may or may not span the whole width of the garden.

You could, for example, create a patio beside your home, then a retaining wall, and a set of steps up to the next level.  

Or, how about building decking at the top of a slope? Adjust the height of the supports so that the deck is flat whilst the ground beneath is contoured.  If there’s enough of a height difference – you could even create storage space beneath the deck.

There’s something rather wonderful about standing on a lower terrace and looking at the plants on the next level.  Flowers and foliage are lifted to eye level and it gives you a whole different perspective on them.

Terraces are especially beautiful when you add lighting to your landscaping.

Two important things to remember with terraces are:

Safety: Building regulations (and common sense!) dictates that if your terrace is over a certain height you MUST have some way of preventing falls.  That may be a balustrade, planting beds or raised planters….a garden designer will help you choose the best idea for your situation.

Retaining walls:  There is a lot of calculation involved in making sure that a retaining wall is fit for purpose.  If you are landscaping a sloping garden yourself, be sure to do your homework.  If, on the other hand, you are hiring a landscaper – make sure he or she is bone-fide.  Members of the Association of Professional Landscapers (APL) are vetted on their knowledge and their workmanship. Plus, each and every one of them will stand by their work.  Hiring a rogue trader to build your retaining wall could cost you dear!


Re contouring your garden will change the way that rainwater moves through the soil. You have absolutely no control over how much rain falls and how often so be very careful to make sure it can be safely directed away from homes and neighbouring properties.

You may choose to create a rain garden – an area of land where you can direct excess water and where soil moisture varies throughout the year. They are very wildlife friendly, endlessly fascinating and really worth the while.  Read more in this article from my friends at Holland Landscapes.  

Oh – and don’t forget – retaining walls need drainage holes – it helps to relieve the pressure of all that weight. 

Informal sloping gardens

sloping garden with informal steps leading down

Creating terraces and re-contouring a sloping garden can be costly.  If your budget is limited, why not embrace the slope and adjust your design to make the most of what’s there.

Think about winding steps, tumbling water features and easy maintenance options.

Hiring a landscaper for your sloping garden

We landscapers are full of good ideas to make the most of a sloping garden.  If you need help – please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Contact Manor Landscapes

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