A sloping garden can present quite a challenge. We look at one garden designer's elegant solution for a Surrey home.

Wide terrace with grey-blue granite and black limestone coping, white rendered walls and gabions.
Black limestone coping defines the edges of the different levels of this impressive terrace by Landart Design and Build.

A heavily sloping garden on solid chalk presented a challenge to Surrey-based Landart Garden Design and Build. A bleak-looking wall retained the upper lawn and the elderly patio looked tired. The clients wanted something altogether brighter and more modern.

Choice of paving

The owners have three daughters, so paving had to fit in with time constraints on the couple and the family use of the patio. This ruled out anything very light-coloured. Designer Ellen Gordon rejuvenated the whole patio area with our Blue Grey granite. To add definition, she emphasised level changes with Midnight Black Limestone coping on the walls.

“The Midnight Black Limestone offers a contrast in texture and a more solid colour than the granite,” says Ellen, who set up Landart with her husband in 1994. She didn't choose it for the whole design, she explained, as the granite has the advantage of presenting a softer mix of greys. “Blue Grey Granite is very forgiving in terms of showing up dirt,” she adds.

Terraced sloping garden with blue-grey granite steps and white rendered walls leading up to retaining wall of gabions.
A large sloping garden allows for gradual changes in levels. Designer Ellen Gordon creates a gradual progression up the garden.

Creating a transition up the slope

While the patio presents a smart, monochrome scheme - white rendered walls contrasting with the black and grey paving - Ellen wasn't tempted to extend the white render to the retaining wall at the bottom of the sloping lawn. “That would have been too much,” she says. “And it's a rural area, so the gabions worked well with the surroundings.”

The gabions combine a tough construction element with a soft, natural look created by the enclosed stones. This cleverly creates a transition between the modern patio with its crisp lines and the more natural part of the garden. They are also a practical alternative to a wall in this position, as there's no chance of cracking and present a very solid barrier to the weight of soil behind.

To support the transition, wooden steps were used on the higher levels, helping to integrate the distant pergola into the overall view.

Blue grey granite steps and patio below gabion-retained rising lawn, with black limestone coping on raised beds.
The position of the granite steps in relation to the wooden steps beyond draws the eye up the sloping garden to the pergola.

Choice of colour tones

One of the huge advantages of an upwardly sloping garden is that, from the house, you can create a view that fills the vision. It's all yours. Here, the choice of materials for the patio - granite, limestone and gabions - provides different tones of greys that echo the variety in the greens afforded by the grass, hedges and trees that form the further vista. Landart have created a very elegant solution to a challenging sloping site.

This is a large garden in a spacious suburban area - what could you do when you have much less space? Take a look this paved design for a steeply sloping garden. Do you have a smaller space to renovate? See how one landscaper added levels to zone his small sloping garden design.

Update: Ellen Gordon now runs EH Associates, a garden design company on the Isle of Wight.

Post updated: November 2023