Hillside Makeover-Transforming an Ordinary Slope into a Waterfall Oasis

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Hillside Waterfall, 5 years later

Hillside Waterfall, 5 years later

One of my favorite design jobs landed in my lap about 5 years ago. I really didn’t know what to expect when I first visited the property – a modest home set on a busy road with a huge level back yard. There was a  small steep slope out the back door with some ancient concrete steps. Seeing this slope for the first time with a crumbling deck and  scrubby perennials dotting the hillside, I was struck with the possibilities right away. Turning a liability of a steep slope into an asset of a beautiful waterfall was right up my alley! This was a perfect solution to a problem area.

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Original slope with garage door opening out to a wooden deck and steps

For the slope immediately below the deck, I designed two terraced walls of Western Maryland fieldstone, a native stone that blends in nicely with its colors of greys and tans. Using two lower height walls are preferable to one high wall, and each one ended up being about 2 1/2 feet high and curved around following the natural contour of the hill. After removing the deck, a new stone patio with a curving front face to match the walls was built, covered with the same stone. Carefully excavating around the existing large maple tree and keeping any extra soil away from the trunk was critical to maintain the health of the existing tree during construction.

Sweet Box planted under large tree

Sweet Box planted under large tree

Changing the location of the steps from an awkward area on the left side of the original deck to an uninterrupted pathway that starts in the front yard cleaned up the traffic flow.

View of steps from top of the hill

View of steps from top of the hill

Traffic flow, or the way you move around a property, is critical for pathway layout and convenience. Perennial plantings on either side of the steps gave added interest. This area was deer browsed, so plant selection was critical. Go to https://thegardendiaries.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/deer-combat-using-deer-proof-plants-is-the-best-strategy/ to see a variety of plants that will work.

Installing a pond with liner

Installing a pond with liner

 Installed with a black butyl liner, the pond and waterfall were built of fieldstone to match the walls. River jack, a rounded rock that is good for aquatic life, covered the bottom and hid the liner. Installation of an electrical outlet close by for the filter and pump, and convenient to the lower patio completed the pond set up.

Teak bench with steppable plants

Teak bench with steppable plants

The original lower covered patio area was cracked cement and low concrete block walls. We covered everything in bluestone and Western Maryland stone to match the other walls below the upper patio. The walls became wide sitting walls, perfect for lounging on!

Lower patio area

Lower patio area

Shade container under the lower patio

Shade container under the lower patio

To complete the transformation, the white wood work and supports were painted a fresh coat and the exterior of the house was given a parge coat in a color to match the stone. The finishing touch was installing a ceiling fan for a cooling breeze on a hot day.

Overall view of pond and waterfall

Overall view of pond and waterfall

Now my client can sit comfortably on the upper or lower patio, or the conveniently placed bench and overlook the flowering plants, fish, and other wildlife that the flowers entice to the garden.

Looking down towards the pond area from the upper patio

Looking down towards the pond area from the upper patio

Butterfly Bushes, Iris, Nepeta, Salvias, Creeping Junipers, Creeping Thyme, Geranium, Caryopteris, Ferns, Variegated Boxwood, Dianthus, Chrysogonum, and Hellebores were all used to give multi-season interest as well as being unappetizing to the deer population.

 

Pond area in spring with blooming thyme and Dianthus

Pond area in spring with blooming thyme and Dianthus

I think when the Iris bloom is my favorite time to visit and take pictures.

Iris blooming in the pond

Iris blooming in the pond

'Black Gamecock' Louisiana Iris

‘Black Gamecock’ Louisiana Iris

 

About thegardendiaries

Claire Jones is a landscape and floral designer and owner of Claire Jones Landscapes, LLC. She designs and helps people to create their own personal outdoor oasis and loves to write about her gardening failures and successes.
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2 Responses to Hillside Makeover-Transforming an Ordinary Slope into a Waterfall Oasis

  1. zipcoffelt says:

    Love what you did here! The hard-scaping is wonderful and looks so natural. And you’re right, so gorgeous with the iris in bloom. Thanks for sharing this project.

    Like

  2. Beautiful and great ideas!

    Like

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