Landscaping on a Steep Slope

Landscaping can be a challenge on a steep slope. What plant is right for my hillside gardening? Let’s look at a few and how to make the proper selection for your hillside. The selections will also keep your erosion under control and the soil in your yard instead of washing away to the neighbors!

landscaping-steep slope-erosion controlOne of the considerations all horticulturist teach is ‘right plant, right place’ for its longevity and survival. Observe which direction the slope is facing. How much sunlight will your plants be getting?  Three hours versus eight hours? Eastern light versus western light will play a part in the selection of plant materials.

Since plants will be on a steep slope, drought tolerant varieties are highly suggested since irrigation may be at a minimum. On steep grades, the drainage will be more rapid than on a lesser grade surface.

Ideal Plants for Steep Slopes

Select conifers we recommend for sunny locations are: Cryptomeria japonica ‘Globosa Nana’ or Pinus thenbergii, Picea pungens ‘Fat Albert,’ Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’.

Evergreens for partial shade are: Picea abies ‘Nidiformis’, Microbiota decussate, Tsuga canadensis ‘Jeddeloh’, Magnolia grandflora ‘Little Gem.’

Other Shrubs: Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’, Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’, Viburnum, PJM Rhododendrons, Cephalataxus, Pieris Japonica, Chaenomeles speciosa, Ilex verticillata

Grasses: Panicum virgatum ‘Rotstrahlbush’ (Switch Grass), Muhlenbergia capillaris, Schizachryium scoparium (Little Bluestem), Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’

Groundcovers: Rubus calycinoides, Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’, Delosperma cooperi, and Dianthus

Steep Slope Planting & Irrigation

When landscaping for a steep slope, do not plant vertically out of the hillside. It will look like the leaning tower of Pisa and will not perform well. Prepare a mini terrace for each plant. The bottom part of plant’s soil base will need to be built up in a half well to support the plant. This method helps retain moisture to soak deep into the root system.

Irrigation has to be maintained the first 2-3 years for the best survival rates. Installing a drip irrigation might help with consistent watering schedules and be a timesaver for the homeowner. Place plants with more watering requirements at the bottom or halfway down the slope. The plants at the bottom will have more of the accumulation of water from drainage. Once your plants are established after the third year, continue to monitor for water needs and adjust according to the weather.

Hillside gardening can be a challenge if you don’t know which plant material works best. Ryan Houston is an NC Plant Professional and an NC Licensed Landscape Contractor and can give you the best solutions to your hillside gardening needs. Give us a call for a scheduled consultation. We will go over your options and suggest a customized solution for your landscape.

Low-Maintenance Landscaping

This article first appeared in Angie’s List under their Expert Contributor section. Click and share and enjoy the read!

Approximate cost: $32,000

This homeowner in Asheville, NC, (mecca to empty nesters and retirees for the natural beauty of the mountains and mild climate), built her mountain home to enjoy part of the year. The dilemma was that she would only be here seasonally to nurture and care for and the other seasons traveling the world. Thus, a low-maintenance garden was ordered. Who doesn’t want a low-maintenance garden that they can ‘plant and grow’ and still travel the world? This homeowner lives in two locations throughout the year so it’s imperative to have a garden that is satisfied to maintain its beauty with the seasonal rain.

Speaking of rain, the homeowner had two dysfunctional downspouts that were dumping water 8 feet from the house into the yard and saturating the lawn. Rerouting the drainage to a dry river rock bed and drain basins were the first priority to establish stormwater flow tfrontyard makeover-landscaping-drainage-Weavervillehroughout the property in preparation for landscaping. A trench along the back garden bed (which had a previous French drain installed) wasn’t functioning with the sod and soil on top. Therefore, the entire length of the drain was uncovered, dug deeper and lined with landscape fabric. To add that ‘mountain’ and native look river stone was used to mimic a dry river rock bed and hide the drain basins. The water permeated the river stones if there was a heavy flow and was routed to the drain basins on either end of the river stone bed. The homebuilder had routed the downspouts into neighbor’s yards so underground drainage had to be uplifted and rerouted around the entire perimeter of the foundation to the back portion of the home and over the steep hillside digging down some 4 feet.

The homeowner wanted to sit out in the privacy of their backyard and admire the mountainous view so a tiled back patio was laid. To appreciate her view scape, limbs and trees were selected, cleared and replaced with junipers and groundcovers that would smother out the invasive growth and weeds leaving a place for her pooches to safely play.

install-landscape-Lawn-N-Order-WeavervilleWith extra amounts of topsoil left from digging, raised beds were established to plant various specimen plantings (including Tamukeyama Japanese Maple and a Scotch Pine topiary) and native plant material for this area and climate given the perimeters of the homeowner’s choices. To carry the ‘indigenous’ theme, ten tons of mountain stone boulders harvested locally were brought in and set strategically to accent their form while lending foundational anchors to the landscape. Specimen conifers and perennials were placed as if they grew up around the boulders original to the landscape.

Sometimes a garden is established from scratch and the canvas is clean to work from with only a few minor hindrances. The homeowner and company worked through the foundational details of drainage problems and brought to the surface a beautiful plethora of four-season plantings that are virtually carefree and look great from spring to winter.

If you need a custom job installed with your particular needs in mind, give us a call to set up a consultation.


Winter Garden Protection

storm winter-damage-evergreensThe weatherman was correct in forecasting a freeze warning this recent weekend and continuing. This means temperatures are likely to get down into the single digits. With that in mind, let’s talk about your plants in the winter garden landscape. Winter weather may play havoc causing winter damage in your garden and we want to give you some tips on how to manage.

Your root hardy perennials in the winter garden should be fine. Foliage should already be killed back by the cold weather thus far and plants are in dormancy until spring. Hardy perennials, shrubs and trees are still in dormancy, which decrease their likelihood of damage due to the reduced sap content in their branches. With our recent rains, we should be in good shape since a little drink from Mother Nature insures against drying out or desiccation. If recent rains haven’t adequately watered your plants and the rain clouds passed you by, then there’s need to be concerned. Thoroughly water your winter container gardens that may have plantings or particular shrubs or trees that get a lot of wind. The freeze plus wind will increase the likelihood of desiccation. Most landscape plants can recover from a brief dip below freezing. When temperatures plummet below 28 degrees F., then cellular damage can take place. On top of that, if your garden suffers wind along with low temperatures, you may not be as lucky. Wind can plummet the feel like temperatures thus your plant will feel the same exposure. Wind damage is another leading cause of desiccation other than lack of watering.

During a seasonal change when plants are waking up from their long winter naps. If you, however, have some marginally zoned plants in your yard, take special actions to prevent loss by covering with fabric, old sheets, frost cloths (except plastic). They can be uncovered as soon as the temperatures rise above 32 degrees F. Small plants can be covered with a bucket or mulch.If you see browning leaves after the freeze, leave it until spring and then remove. The extra coverage will protect the undergrowth from getting hit if another freeze pops in on us.

If you have suffered winter damage, we can help with diagnosis and replace your plants with recommendations for your landscape.

Conifers in the Garden

Conifers are a great garden addition. Ryan uses them successfully in many landscapes. Besides being evergreen they make great specimens and many are blue, yellow and even burgundy. Conifers give a nesting place for birds providing a habitat all year round. Conifers create great structure and bones to a winter garden. Following is a few of our favorites we use in the landscape.

Scotch pine-evergreens-conifers-landscaper-Asheville

Scotch Pine Topiary (Pinus sylvestris)

Ryan’s “signature” conifer is the Falsecypress, Boulevard  Pom Pom (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Boulevard’) This tree has the blue green needles and uniform and compact growth habit. It grows moderately up to 10 ft. tall and 3-5 ft. wide. It is deer resistant and prefers full sun with regular watering weekly. It attracts birds and provides year round interest in your garden. Prune in the spring. It’s a great focal point for the garden because of its texture, form and color. They’re even great as a container specimen on your front porch or deck. It makes a statement and is why they’re often used in Japanese gardens.

One we like to refer to as a “drama queen” is the Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’). This conifer displays branchlets that drip of blue-green needles. It’s definitely an accent in the garden with dramatic form

conifers-evergreen-weeping blue atlas cedar

Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’)

especially showing up when snow laden branches display its form. It’s a slow grower and can easily be maintained but has boasted sizes of 15-25 feet tall and wide when left to spread. This specimen does well in a full sun setting in your garden.

To create an interesting vertical  point and often used for hedges and privacy screens is the Emerald Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Emerald’). It’s a moderate grower topping out at 15 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide. It’s thick evergreen density makes a suitable windbreak on the north side of a garden.

Using conifers and evergreens in the garden not only invites the wildlife to linger but gives added structure, focal points and color all year round. For a landscape consultation, fill out a contact form and we will make an appointment to add these and other specimens to your garden landscape.