If you own a home with a significant slope in the yard, it can be hard to know what to do with the space. Ignoring it is likely the most visually unappealing option, but most landscaping alternatives are expensive, require regular maintenance, and use a lot of water to keep things green. The good news is that there's an option that can solve all your slope-related problems: xeriscape.
Here's a handy 5 step guide to xeriscaping your hillside.
Observe Nature. The first thing you should do when planning a hilly landscape is to take the time to observe the natural flow of the space. This means watching the flows of water during the rainy season (or with some sprinklers, if need be) to see what you can take advantage of. You should also note any natural depressions or tapering on the hill. Why? The more you can make use of existing natural aspects of the hill -- such as natural water flows and ledges -- the less work you will have to do later.
Stabilize the Hill. If your slope shows any signs of erosion, loose soil, or water runoff in an inconvenient direction, you may want to take the time to ensure it has stable footing. For most slopes, this may just mean planting some ground cover to help keep dirt in place. If water is causing worse problems, you may need to to work with a professional contractor to create a retaining wall, alter the angle of the slope, or level it off.
Plant Near Water. Once your hill is a stable place to plant, start with the areas where you noticed water running or gathering after it rains. These should be your primary planting zones. There are many hardy plants that are perfect for a water-saving xeriscape environment. Ornamental grasses and evergreen shrubs add height and greenery year-round, while perennials like Basket-of-Gold or Purple Rockcress bring the colors.
Use Rock Gardens. In areas where there is little or no natural water source, decorate with a rock garden instead. Use boulders and rocks of different sizes depending on your slope size, placing them in groupings of odd numbers. You can surround these large base rocks with smaller gravel, moss, alpine groundcovers, or even a fun surprise like the Trumpet vine.
Finish with a Focal Point. Once you've made the most of your slope, finish off the project by placing an attractive focal point at the base of the slope. This can be something as simple as a pathway that leads to a table and chair set for outdoor entertainment. It could be a self-contained fountain that uses the slope as a backdrop or a relaxing hammock placed where neighbors can't see due to the hill. In short, your focal point can be anything that appeals to you, and it will help bring purpose to the slope and give it a finishing touch.
By using your hillside to the full with water-wise xeriscaping, you can create a great background for the yard as a whole. And you can do it with as little maintenance as possible in the future. Then, you can sit back and relax while enjoying the simple fruits of your labor.