If you’re struggling for ideas on what to do with your sloping or hilly garden, you’re not alone. Many people find it difficult to know how to design their outdoor living spaces if they’re not level, whether it’s due to a gradual incline or a series of smaller tiered zones.
While you might be thinking that a sloping garden is a bit of an inconvenience, there are many ways in which it can be transformed into the hero feature of your home. With a little imagination, guidance, and planning, creating a spectacular sloping garden can be easier than you think.
Here at Marshalls, our teams of garden design experts have curated this helpful guide especially for you. Read on to learn all about the best on-trend sloping garden ideas for a range of different style preferences, budgets, experience levels and more.
Sloping garden ideas
Designing your own garden can be hugely enjoyable and rewarding if done properly and with the right support. So, let's get into some amazing ideas that you can use to inspire your landscaping project.
1. Mix steps and raised beds for a striking outdoor look
Granite Eclipse® Steps in Dark
When you have a sloping garden, it's a good idea to think in levels. Steps and raised flower beds are the perfect addition to any sloping garden. You can incorporate the two, having long shallow flower beds accompanying each step, giving a sense of uniformity and symmetry.
Don’t be afraid to get inventive and add a bit of your own personality to the design; experiment by mixing up the planting with herbs and bright bursts of colour coupled with leafy potted plants.
Inspired by this? Explore more stepped garden design ideas.
2. Include a decking or patio area
If you have a gap that runs between your home and the start of your sloping garden, consider a paved patio. This is an easy way to create the perfect place for entertaining family and friends and can be designed to complement the style of your home perfectly.
Wooden decking boards are a great choice for anyone wanting to bring a natural look and feel into their garden, but can sometimes become slippy if not cared for properly. If this is a concern for you, consider using stone, porcelain, sandstone or concrete block paving for the area between your house and sloping garden, as these will provide more grip underfoot and provide more choice when it comes to textures and shades.
3. Create a path between sloping lawns
Saxon® in Natural
If you have a more gentle slope in your garden, a garden path is a fantastic way of bringing more coherence to your landscaping scheme. Use a paved pathway to link different areas of your garden together, such as a patio adjacent to your house and a paving circle further away.
Garden paths are one of the most straightforward and practical options, needing little maintenance to keep them looking great all year round. For something with more character, consider adding a plant border, some stones or even some edging to create a more unique look that co-ordinates with your patio paving.
4. Create a cottage-inspired garden
Drivesys® Original Cobble in Iron Grey and Canvas
Even as garden design trends come and go, cottage gardens remain hugely popular. They are brimming with cosiness, rustic charm, and are surprisingly easy to achieve.
Cottage-style gardens are particularly well-suited to sloping gardens, as the absence of precise, straight lines can actually enhance appearance of the uneven ground. To maximise this, you could create a winding pathway through your garden, let climbing plants grow up fences and walls, and choose wild flowers for any bedding areas or pots.
5. Soften a steep slope with grass steps
If you have a sloped garden with different levels or tiers, you might be tempted to hard landscape the whole thing using paving stones. This could be good if you want a low-maintenance garden, but if you’re after something with a softer aesthetic then consider using grass to create steps.
Laying turf over the different levels of your garden will make the whole space look less formal and will be perfect for families with younger children who may be more likely to trip and fall when playing outside. For the best of both worlds, you could choose to combine grass steps with a central pathway, stone circle, or patio area.
6. Create a Japanese-themed rockery
Be inspired by the natural elegance and understated beauty of a Japanese-styled rockery to transform a sloping garden instantly. This is a great opportunity to create character and layers of texture with low-growing plants that can provide year-round colour and even a talking point amongst any budding gardeners within your friendship group!
You can also add stone steps closely linked and packed neatly together, creating a gorgeous contrast to the planted area that could run alongside it. Do your research before creating this type of garden, as you’ll need to make sure that your soil type provides the right conditions for traditional Japanese plants such as bamboo.
Also, a word of caution, bamboo roots can become quite invasive to other species of plants if left to grow unchecked! If you choose bamboos for your garden, it’s probably best to avoid planting them close to other types of plants or on a shared boundary with a neighbour’s property.
Discover more Japanese-inspired garden ideas.
7. Release your inner child with a garden slide
Installed by Signature Landscapes Design and Build
If you have little ones, what could be a better way to use part of your sloping garden than by creating a slide? This will instantly make your garden a fun play area for children.
Slides are available in a range of different sizes and materials, so you can choose the one that’s right for your garden. For a more classic look, choose a metal slide, but remember that it might get hot in the summer months. Plastic slides are often a cheaper option, but might not last quite as long.
8. Bring a sense of tranquility with water features
Stoneface® Sawn Veneer Walling in Autumn Bronze
Inclines provide the perfect opportunity for water features. The different levelled groundwork can be ideal for a flowing waterfall, which not only looks impressive, but will also transform your garden into a peaceful, relaxing space with the sound of gently trickling water.
Water features are also a brilliant way of making your garden feel more refined and elegant, especially when they are made using a classic material such as natural stone.
Tie your whole garden design concept together effortlessly by choosing the same stone types in both your water features and paved areas. Why not pair a sandstone bird bath with the warm, inviting tones of natural sandstone paving? Or, for something more contemporary, select a slate water feature that sits atop a natural slate patio.
9. Embrace the layers of your garden
Casarta® Slate in Black
If your garden design is long, sloping and at a difficult angle, it can be challenging to landscape wisely. You can get around this by creating a series of flat terraces to zone your garden into distinct areas, each with a different theme.
Use retaining walls to hold each level in place and add an excellent sense of structure to your garden’s overall look and feel. These walls can serve a dual purpose, being perfect for holding raised flowerbeds of even an additional seating area if you place cushions on the coping stones.
While not the cheapest option for sloping garden ideas, it can really transform the functionality of your space by creating more accessible areas that can be used for a wide range of things. You can have dedicated zones within your garden for different activities - a patio area for outdoor dining, a kitchen garden for growing vegetables and herbs, and even a fire pit built right into a paving circle.
10. Use railway sleepers to add structure
Symphony® Plus Driveway in Grey
Railway sleepers are a brilliant way to take your garden design up a few notches whilst also helping the environment as you recycle old materials.
Although sometimes difficult to get a hold of, it’s worth checking platforms like Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace where you can buy materials such as sleepers at low prices. Often, it's the case of being in the right place at the right time.
You can incorporate just about anything you like with this rustic theme. You might, for example, wish to consider ornamental grasses, lush planting, a water feature, or even a seating area.
11. Make a bold statement with the right lighting
The correct lighting can transform any garden into an excellent area for outdoor dining, relaxing and just about anything else you can imagine. Lights can be incorporated into just about any of the ideas in this guide, adding the perfect finishing touch to your chosen design scheme.
The various levels of a sloped garden provide a ready-made natural layout which means you can use outdoor lighting to your advantage. They also add a moody and dramatic aesthetic when used correctly, highlighting plants or stone steps. If you have a kids' area in your garden, ensure the lights are brighter, whereas those near a terrace or entertaining area can be more ambient and alluring.
Garden lighting comes in a fantastic range of styles and brightness levels, meaning you can choose the ones that are just right for your needs. Solar-powered lighting is great for reducing energy usage, whilst string lights running around the top of your garden’s walls will instantly create a cosy ambience.
12. Consider installing railings
Traditional Natural Stone Pitched Faced Walling in Silver Birch
With any outdoor space that isn’t flat or level, the risk of slips and falls is heightened. Minimise the likelihood of someone taking a tumble by installing a handrail adjacent to any particularly steep areas of your garden paths or runs of steps.
Railings can make your sloped garden much safer for anyone who might be less steady on their feet, such as older relatives and young children, and ensure that your whole family is able to enjoy your outdoor space together.
You can install handrails in as many or as few locations as you feel are necessary; there are a huge variety of different styles available so you won't have to worry about impacting the aesthetics of your garden. For more modern, minimalist gardens, a simple metal rail will complement your design scheme perfectly whilst for more rustic or traditional gardens, a wooden or even rope handrail will look stunning.
Things to consider when designing your sloping garden
When undertaking any DIY job, there are always some key factors that you should think about before starting the job. And sloping gardens are no different. These important considerations include:
● Safety – Ensure there are no hazards where those using the garden could slip or fall and potentially hurt themselves. This is especially important if you have young children, elderly relatives or those with mobility issues using the garden space. Similarly, when creating the garden, make sure you have someone available to give you a hand with heavy lifting and digging. Consider bringing in some expert help from an accredited installer when laying paving stones, as it can be tricky to do this by yourself.
● Accessibility – Tying in with safety, accessibility is another key factor. You want to add both beauty and functionality to your garden, so it needs to be accessed easily. You also want to ensure you are adding value to your property and not taking away from it by creating an outdoor area that's difficult to manoeuvre.
● Drainage - Not the most exciting part of your plans, but drainage needs to be thought about when it comes to sloped gardens, to ensure that whatever changes you make don’t cause water to pool or flood areas of your space or home. If you’re working with a professional to design and build the space, speak to them about any concerns and make sure it’s a consideration right from the start.
● Materials – When it comes to materials, you want to match the property's style and your own tastes. Consider which materials you want to use carefully before starting the job. After all, there's nothing worse than getting halfway through a job and deciding you don't like the colour or style of the stone walls or hillside flower bed you've just been carefully crafting.
● Individuality – It's your garden, so you can design it in whatever way you like. Consider your own creativity and your personal tastes, as well as a little bit of out-of-the-box thinking, which should stand you in good stead to create a sloping garden that will add real value to your life and home for years to come.
● Budget – A vital consideration is your budget. While you want to stay within your budget limit, improving your garden is an investment that can potentially add quite a bit of value to your home. With that in mind, you may want to consider a budget increase - if you can afford it. For more information on great budget garden ideas, check out our guide!
● Maintenance – You'll need to make sure there is lots of easy access for mowing, weeding, and general maintenance if you choose a garden design scheme with grassy areas or flower beds. It’s best to keep on top of jobs like these, as untidy lawns with weeds can ruin the overall aesthetic of your garden.
Bring your slopped garden to life with Marshalls
For over 130 years, Marshalls has been at the forefront of creating quality hard landscaping materials and our teams are on hand to offer you support and advice on how to create your perfect garden. We have a wide range of solutions to bring functionality, design and a personal touch to your sloped garden, with no landscape designer required.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can improve your garden, you can read some of our handy guides on our Gardens and Driveways Blog before exploring our huge range of garden walling and driveways for inspiration on how you can transform a sloping garden.
How challenging is it to design a sloping garden?
A sloped garden shouldn't be seen as inconvenient or a disadvantage over a "regular" garden. In fact, sloped gardens can bring lots of opportunities that a level garden wouldn't be able to achieve. The only real difference when it comes to sloping garden ideas is that you might be just a little bit more pre-planning, but apart from this, the difference is minimal.
Can I improve the look of my sloping garden on a budget?
Absolutely, yes! Sloping garden ideas are affordable, especially if you do the work yourself. All you need to do is pay for the materials and tools. Adding to your garden design is an investment into your home, so it's worthwhile carrying out, even when done cheaply. And, who knows, it could even add a bit of value to your property, too.