Five designer tips for a sloping garden

Garden designer Ann-Marie Powell has transformed a sloping site in West Sussex to connect it to the hills beyond. Here, she gives her tips for designing a garden on a sloping site.


Shepherd's Cottage in West Sussex has a contemporary country garden, with densely planted sloping borders that lead on to a wildflower meadow and orchard. Garden designer, Ann-Marie Powell designed the garden for owners, Jackie and Alan Sherling and here, she gives her tips for designing a garden on a sloping site. 

1. Levels are a challenge and where possible I prefer not to use retaining walls – not only are they costly, but they can really break up a garden’s flow even when planted above and below.

2. A sloping border allows a tumble of plants where you can play with the height of plants to create an unusual effect. Tall plants, such as Verbena bonariensis, can almost appear to be understorey planting.

3. There is a lot of natural run-off with slopes – they are drier at the top than the bottom, so the right plant in the right place is key.

4. Installing irrigation when the garden is laid out will avoid plant losses in dry weather, where watering by hand might be awkward.

5. Hard landscaping almost always includes a flat area of terracing – using the same material for steps makes the garden more cohesive allowing one area to fade into the next.


Useful information

Shepherd's Cottage can be visited as part of the National Gardens Scheme. For next year's dates, visit


Photography Rachel Warne 
Words Stephanie Donaldson

This article was taken from a longer feature in the September 2017 issue of Gardens Illustrated (251).


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