But it turns out that gardens on a hill can offer plenty of opportunities that a flat site simply can't. Choose from super-chic, contemporary plans that include neat tiers, smartly rendered retaining walls, and slick water features, or go for wilder and more relaxed plant-packed borders, informal mown paths and rippling streams.
Even practical necessities such as safety railings, steps and drainage channels can become eye-catching design features, that add personality to the final look.
Above, a paved seating area is surrounded by a curved planter, which softens the design and provides soothing visual interest. The pale hues bounce light around, helping to open up the space and adding to the clean, elegant vibe. The resulting look feels airy and relaxed, and makes a wonderful backdrop to the verdant planting and dazzling agapanthus.
This garden has a gentle slope, most of which was kept and turfed, explains Nigel Gomme, Landscape Designer of CITYSCAPERS (opens in new tab). 'On the other side of the lawn, we created a small stream that uses the natural fall in the land to meander down to a pond set into the patio by the house,' Nigel says.
The slope across the garden is dealt with by introducing two sets of raised beds where the clients grow their vegetables and herbs.' A narrow access path bisects this large planted area enabling the maintenance to be carried out.'
Adding plenty of height with textural plants adds a sense of romance and drama to the zone. Whether you are linking terraces or adding definition to a steep slope, a set of practical and eye-catching steps will help define and add structure to the outside space.
A simple stairway built from blocks, timber sleepers or deckboards will of course do the job but can take up valuable floorspace. Instead, opt for some prefabricated metal steps – such as Corten steel designs – for your sloping garden ideas.
In this design, the dark hardwood steps echo the bold windows of the house but keep the look smart, yet organic too.
Blockwork walls – rendered or left bare – will require careful planning and preparation, as well as meticulously calculated drainage channels. Stone-filled gabions – such as these pictured – are a handy solution as not only are they strong enough to support hefty banks of soil, they look attractive and crucially let rainwater filter through. Gabion sizes range from 0.5m to 2m wide baskets and can be made from rigid welded mesh or flexible woven wire.
Introducing tiered garden ideas to a steeply sloping plot is an effective way to manage the space and create a series of small but useable areas too. You will need to call in the professionals to calculate the best layout and the size and load of any retaining walls, but the result will be well worth it. Retaining walls can easily double up as built-in lounge seating and planters so think carefully about the number of guests you wish to accommodate.
A bold combination of materials – such as this pairing of slate and white rendered walls – adds drama to the finished result. As well as being supremely practical, it also helps to visually link two contrasting styles of gardening – smart and contemporary on the lower level and soft and wilder at the top. Dividing a steeply sloping garden into tiers doesn't have to result in a space that's split up by hard, straight lines.
There are plenty of clever ways to soften and blur these divisions, particularly if you're searching for small garden ideas. Or, go for fewer, larger planting pockets for your sloping garden ideas – these could be built into your new landscaping or added as freestanding containers.
Fill with tall, airy, year-round planting that will soften the harsh, straight lines without casting heavy shade. Not only does this subtly divide up the sloping site into a series of terraces, but it also adds a sense of horizontal movement too. In this beautiful design, a snaking stone wall creates a cozy seating area and also provides the opportunity for a falling water feature. Steep, terraced gardens on a slope must comply with building and safety regs but it's also a great excuse to invest in some super stylish railings.
With so many different materials and finishes to choose from, it's worth researching the options before committing for your sloping garden ideas. Polished stainless steel and aluminium tubular designs give off a truly contemporary and nautical feel whereas wrought iron is much more traditional and ornate in its possibilities.
Keep your landscaping ideas to a minimum – a flight of timber steps or duckboards leading from A to B will link and punctuate the space without taking away from the planting.
When it comes to planning borders for your sloping garden ideas, introduce layers of shrubs and trees for year-round form and structure. Encourage low-growing evergreens and foliage to spill over and soften the hard edges of any steps, patios or retaining walls, and use climbers over fences to complete the abundant look. The best composite decking is a smart, no-fuss and versatile material – perfect for creating steps and usable levels in a sloping garden.
Needing less upkeep than timber deck boards, these vinyl-wrapped planks come in a wide variety of finishes and profiles and can be easily installed to suit your individual site. Gardens on a slope can be given a wild touch by playing it simple and keeping hard landscaping to a minimum.
Maximise your garden's usable space by digging out the base of the slope to create a sunken patio. An enclosed seating area instantly creates a cozy feel and offers an extra degree of shelter and warmth, so is perfect for those cooler months.
A retaining wall will have to be planned and constructed by a garden designer or landscaping professional to ensure it can support the weight of soil behind it and deal with any resulting drainage issues. This smart, urban design involved installing a hidden slot drain to handle any sudden downpours.
Gardens on a slope – whether they're terraced or left angled – provide the ideal opportunity to bring in flowing water. It could be a gently babbling stream that meanders down through rocks and is niftily recycled back to the top by a hidden pump and water reservoir, or something decidedly more contemporary.
In this eye-catching garden, the very steep site is divided into two distinct levels with a pair of stunning water chutes and a raised pond built into the lower wall. If you want to incorporate something similar in your garden design, you'll find plenty of inspiration in our water feature ideas gallery.
Let the beauty of natural stone and Japanese gardens inspire you to transform a dull, sloping site. Fine gravel paths weaving through rocky borders planted with low-growing sedums, alpines, azaleas and statuesque conifers provides beautiful year-round color and interest.
It could be a colorful moulded or aluminium children's version that you bed neatly into a grassy bank, but why not go all out and choose a beautifully-crafted design that everyone can enjoy? The stainless-steel slide is extra wide and adds a minimal but striking feature for uber-modern gardens on a slope. 'You can't easily change the difference in height between the top and the bottom of your garden, so what we usually opt for is a tiered design,' he says.
'You can cut into a slope, you can cantilever out over it, you can add a rubber liner and rocks and pebbles and run water down it to create a stream – there's so much latent potential to explore.
Changing soil levels within their root zones, which are generally twice as wide as the canopy, can damage or even kill trees,' he explains. We recently landscaped a garden [see above] that steeply sloped away from the house and was also pitched to the side, with protected trees throughout,' Nigel continues.