How to Transform Your Backyard with a Multi-Level Garden
When it comes to designing a garden, many of us find that we don’t have a flat, blank canvas as a starting point. Some gardens slope downwards. Some rise upwards from the house. Some slope to the side, while other seem to slope in all directions. However, no matter how difficult surmounting these problems may seem, a sloping piece of land provides opportunities for designing a multi-level garden that’s both functional and visually appealing.
The traditional way to generate order on a sloping piece of ground is to cut terraces into the incline to create areas of flat land. However, your imagination needn’t stop there. There are many ways to have fun with your uneven landscape, from building overhanging terraces to installing sunken seating areas. A sloping garden can come alive with clever planting and landscaping and open up opportunities for creating secret hideaways and themed rooms.
Put your ideas down on paper
Just as with any garden design, before you start to move earth and build structures you need a plan. One way to effectively divide up the space is to allocate a function to each area. Your goal is to create a garden that has distinct but unified areas that meet the needs of you and your family. How do you see yourselves using the garden? Is it a space for entertaining? Does it have to be a space where your kids can play safely? Is it somewhere to put your green fingers to good use? Does it have to meet all of these needs?
Building zones in your garden
Once you’ve established how you’re going to use your space, then you can begin to divide it up. If one of your main priorities is to use your garden for entertaining, you’ll want to find the best place for a seating area and perhaps an outdoor kitchen. If you don’t have an outdoor kitchen, it’s wise to place your seating area as near to the house as possible for ease of transferring the food. If you do decide to build an outdoor kitchen, it should be located so that smoke doesn’t blow over your diners and into your house.
If your garden has to meet the needs of a growing family, multi-level gardens can be exciting places for children to play. The different levels can enable you to incorporate slides instead of paths, playhouses hidden beneath decks, and play areas that are hidden from immediate view.
If you want to use your garden as a place to relax, you may want to consider creating a shady reading or lounging area, especially in the more private areas of the garden.
Creating structure with stone retaining walls
Retaining walls are used to create terraces in multi-level gardens by holding back the earth that’s been cut away. However, with so many options of stone to choose from, these needn’t be purely functional. Stone is a lovely way to add character and depth to your multi-level garden, especially if you create nooks and crannies within the walls for planting. You may even want to consider incorporating some concrete blocks into your retaining walls. By laying them on their side with the hollow exposed to the front, you’ll be able to plant vegetation which will soon establish itself and turn what was functional blocks into a living wall.
Raise a deck to extend your living space
If your garden slopes away from the house, constructing a deck out over the slope is an ideal way to gain additional space for entertaining, and give you elevated views over your garden. If there’s a large slope to contend with, raising your deck on pillars will elevate it sufficiently while also providing extra storage beneath. You’ll need to add some kind of fence or railings for safety, but these too can be chosen to fit the look you’re aiming to achieve.
Use clever planting to create interest all year round
When it comes to planting, multi-level gardens are the perfect backdrop for the ‘hide and reveal’ concept. Gardens that don’t reveal all their secrets on first viewing are eminently more interesting, and the tiers and terraces that are characteristic of multi-level gardens lend themselves well to creating this effect.
If your budget doesn’t run to creating terraces and building retaining walls, banked borders with plants and shrubbery are an alternative option. Plants are just as happy growing on slopes – after all, they grow that way in the wild. You’ll still need to cut small steps into the bank to make it easier to access the planting, but these steps can be made as basic or as ornamental as you like to fit in with the overall theme of the garden. If you prefer to do as little gardening as possible, plant low-maintenance varieties that won’t need much attention.
A sloping piece of land can be turned into a multi-level garden which can accommodate a myriad of needs. Don’t let an incline put you off; use your imagination and make use of the differing levels to create a garden that works for you.