Welcome all hill dwellers!

jeanner(SW Ohio - Z6)August 14, 2006

Thank you i-village for this new forum!

I guess since I am the first one here I will start!

I am from SW Ohio. While most of Ohio is very flat, the southern part of the state is not. Our house is build on a ridge, with three sides that slope away from the house and one side that slopes toward the house. The back of the house is on a steep ravine that comes within 8 feet of the house. It is heavily wooded so we let it go "au natural" The front is more gently sloped but still a challenge to mow. The driveway is our biggest problem, it is steep also and drops off quickly on both sides. The last side is the side that slopes toward the house. It was scraped to create a flat area to build the house and erosion is a constant problem.

One of my challenges are finding plants that like it dry and look good when being viewed from the bottom. Unfortunately I am finding that most of the plants that I love are not good candidates for a hill as you see more of the stem than the bloom.

Another challenge is designing a garden that doesn't require long retaining walls. Not only is it expensive to build them, I prefer a more natural look. Suggestions?

I would also love to see pictures of what others have done with their hillside gardens.

SO how about you? What brings you to this forum?

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Hey, just flipping through the boards and saw this. I don't have a major hill, but it has a big enough challenge for me. In my case, I had to get rid of mismatched, falling down retaining walls and due to lack of funds, decided to got back to a hillside. The challenge has been sandy soil and torrential downpours and strong winds and mulch. I am slowly solving that by using the long pine needles from our tree. It is the best kind for hills. As for plants. I am doing the "insane" thing of introducing sumac. I will probaby have to do a twice yearly thinning of suckers, but they give such a beautiful dappled shade that can allow my sedum and verbena to continue growing. My ultimate goal is to have the three duke it out and no more weeds. It is definiltely still a work in progress. Don't have time tonight to post pics.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2006 at 10:28PM
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Howdy all!!

This is the project that i hope to get completed sometime this fall. The first picture is where I am at now, and the second is what I started with. I have an unlimited supply of stone from a friend who is a farmer. Just have to haul them home. I am doing the dry stack wall method, not recommended for over 2 or so feet.


    Bookmark   August 15, 2006 at 5:39PM
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That wall is gorgeous. What part of the country are you in to get those kind of stones? We are all sand here. ....Sigh.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2006 at 6:22PM
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schmily(z6 VA)

We just built a house that is on top of a hill. The ground more or less slopes away in all directions. 3 sides aren't too bad because they're a gentle slope. The fourth side (east side) where the driveway comes up is quite a challenge. We built retaining walls where the drive comes into the garage but there's still a slope too steep to mow. I'm starting to gather rocks for a retaining wall but have had too many other projects to tackle that one. I'm hoping this forum will have some good suggestions that I can learn from. Some where I have some pictures. Now I just have to find them and figure out how to post them...

    Bookmark   August 15, 2006 at 8:59PM
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jeanner(SW Ohio - Z6)

Dainaadele, which sumac did you plant? I just planted one last year, mainly for the birds but I also love their bright red fall follage. I didn't plant it on a slope but I bet they will do well there.

Lee53011, I am in rock envy! That is going to be a gorgeous wall - are you going to put plants in the crevices? I can only imagine the patience it takes to find the right rock. We have mostly flat rock here although I did manage to find enough stones in the ravine to do a small pond. Each year a few more wash down so I am collecting more for when I enlarge the pond. But I would never be able to get enough to do a whole wall - besides dragging them up the ravine is alot of work!

Schmily, I also have a driveway from he!!. Do you get much snow? I really don't mind clearing the driveway (especially on a winter night when I can hear the owls and the coyotees) but we got 20" a few Christmases ago and that was too much! Ice storms are the worse though. But despite those problems, I do like being queen of the hill!

I'll try to post some pictures too. We have a couple of projects going, as usual!

    Bookmark   August 15, 2006 at 9:21PM
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jeanner(SW Ohio - Z6)

Heres some pictures of one of my slopes. This is our most gentle slope and the only slope that faces the house. It is also my primary garden area (for now). This slope was regraded when the house was built and then left to erode for three years by the original owners. I hauled 4 yards of compost and countless yards of mulch to get the erosion under control.

This is a picture from last year. This year I have been replacing many of the plants with bushes - I have found that there are more bushes that look good from the bottom and they require less water once established. Besides I needed more structure, less foo-foo. And yes, I do need lessons in constraint :^)

This is the view from the top. I actually prefer this view as the plants look much better!

This weekend I will post pictures of a deck that we are building that hangs out over the hill in front of the house, a lookout deck of sorts. We still have alot of work to do on it and the surrounding area.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2006 at 10:13PM
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dainaadele and jeanner
Thanks! I live in Wisconsin. The rock is from the foundation of an old barn that my friend tore down. He has a pile as big as a bus! I stop after work every couple of days and grab about 15 or so rocks. Thats all my van can take and still have the front wheels on the ground! I try to grab all different sizes otherwise the wall will look to uniform.

Love the stream and the pond! I had a pond at my old house, but the new house has a river in the back so I really didn't need anymore water noise!! Your rock is similar to mine. Did the glaciers bring them into ohio also?


    Bookmark   August 15, 2006 at 10:52PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

For plants that look good when viewed from below, consider seeking out climatically suitable plants that have arching or draping foliage. California, where I am from is such a different climate, that little suitable here would suit you. Also, shrubs with colorful foliage will look great when looking up into it, and small trees such as Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' or Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' would be two good examples. Large leafed plants also look great from below, or shrubs that have a layered branch structure with strong pendulous or horizontal branching.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 2:41AM
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Jeanner: It's the sumac that was growing by the side of the road. Grin. I am pretty sure it is smooth sumac. I was not even sure if I got enough of the roots at first. I had several 2 foot sticks with not more than a short taproot-like extension on it. My neighbor (old farmer) just grimaced and said "don't worry, it will take". He wasn't kidding. I stuck these stick in the ground in June and now they have taken off.

I was going to post a photo, but Photobucket just rearranged itself, and I will have to relearn.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 9:13AM
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hello, downhill sliders! just now noticed this forum. ask and you shall receive, huh! sure hope it solves our problems.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 4:36PM
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jeanner(SW Ohio - Z6)

bahai, thanks for the suggestions! I love redbud trees, they are so graceful, as are the native dogwoods. We have them scattered throughout the woods (and the garden as they are very prolific). I should consider some trees as the surrounding area is heavily wooded and it would help transition. I have planted several types of weigelas because I like their arching forms (one is Wine-and-roses, nice bronzy foliage). Also planted some Hypericum frondosum 'Sunburst' - nice mounding habit covered with yellow blooms in summer. I am trying some varigated red-twig dogwoods, hoping to break up some of the "mounding" plants with the ornamental branches - jury is still out on those. I planted one of the ninebarks, it is a dark red/purple foliage - I'm not sure that I like it, it is almost too much contrast. When I go to nurseries now, I hold the plant up to eye level to see what it will look like on my hill :^)

dainaadele, the birds are going to love those smooth sumac berries! I noticed there is a gallery here too in case photobucket doesn't work out.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 10:12PM
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jeanner(SW Ohio - Z6)

Lee, yes, Ohio was glaciated. I believe the primary glacier to affect Ohio were the Wisconsin glaciers. There were three waves (not sure that is the technical term for it) and I am right on the edge of where the second wave stopped. I particularly like the limestone with iron in it, such a nice deep red color and dark veining.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2006 at 11:09PM
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Wow! I'm so glad to find this forum! I had been scouring the Landscape Design forum for issues/ideas for hillsides.
We've just moved into a new home built into a hillside. The front/entry yard is small, but flat, both sides slope steeply to the lower level in back where we have a small (but flat) space, then the hill drops off steeply. I'm starting a new Yahoo photo album to track our efforts landscaping the challenging (but exciting) sloping part.
Love the photos!
(I'm in WA state out on the Olympic Penninsual)

    Bookmark   August 17, 2006 at 3:25PM
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We are near St. Louis in a new subdivision. We have a hillside that originally was just a bunch of poison ivy, couple of locust trees, a black walnut tree, and some other tree that I haven't figured out yet. When we moved in 2+ years ago, we had the hillside cleared and landscaped. It has finally begun to mature into what we had envisioned, but now we are also putting in a pool. That has taken a little of the hillside away, but it will also give us some new opportunities. I just checked and I don't have any pics of the hillside! I will get some and post them on the site. Welcome all!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2006 at 8:04PM
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I forgot! Here is a link to our pool construction. There are some good pics of two retaining walls that we have that may help some of you if you are looking to do that.

Here is a link that might be useful: Construction Pics

    Bookmark   August 17, 2006 at 8:07PM
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Jeanner....that is the most gorgeous thing I have ever seen. I would never be in the house with a landscape like yours. DH and I built a stream bed in a natural runoff to a creek - but we live in CA in the hills where it is HOT and quite desert-like. We have 5 acres that I would love to improve but I don't have much hope for a spot as beautiful as yours.....thanks for sharing!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2006 at 12:39PM
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jeanner(SW Ohio - Z6)

Dianne, I saw a really cool pondless waterfall/stream that was done on the side of a house where the land was sloped to a walk out basement. There was a patio at the bottom, it was a very pleasant spot. I have pictures somewhere ....

bjackels, that is some retaining wall! I would have loved to watch them build it. Would love to see pictures of your hill.

Thanks for the kind comments on my pond, it was the most satisfying project that I have ever done. I build it myself and learned alot. I hope to add a two tier pond on the other side of the hill and then expand the existing pond. At least, thats the plan .... someday.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2006 at 9:27PM
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Your pond is very beautiful! I aspire to have mine looking as good as yours.. this is my first year with the pond and still making all the newbie errors of ponding plus planting on a hillside.. yours just looks so great!!! got any tippers for me...

    Bookmark   August 25, 2006 at 12:09AM
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To Tinkster and Jeanner

I'm on the plumeria website just took a look at your website and I can't look anymore. Ihave a slope that I'm doing now with a huge waterfall. Looking at both of your pictures is so totally unbelievable, awesome is too mild a work sensational, magnificent is more like it. Congratulations are in order to you both. I cannot look any further as my jealousy level is increasing. Back to the plumeria forum for me.By the way I'm in So. Cal. and I have been to a lot of great looking homes but never saw anything what you guys did.


    Bookmark   August 31, 2006 at 1:37PM
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Jeanner, I loved the shot of your waterfall/pond. I am most interested in reading about your design and project.

My husband and I just bought 14 acres in Southwest VA (almost in TN and KY) and I want to do the same thing you did. Also plan on a dry river bed feature in another area.

If you have any suggestions or reading material you care to share, I sure would appreciate it!

    Bookmark   August 31, 2006 at 3:55PM
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jeanner(SW Ohio - Z6)

vagardengirl, we had planned a motorcycle vacation to Mt. Rogers, Va this week but cancelled it due to the rain. It's beautiful there, we are considering retiring in that general area.

If you are considering a pond the best place to learn is reading the pond forum here on GW. Spend some time reading the questions and answers so you get an idea of what to expect. It may be a little confusing at first when they talk about biofilters, ammonia, bottom drains, etc so feel free to ask questions. There are some ponds there that will knock your socks off - you can even ask for people to post pictures, they love to show off their pride and joy!

There are some things you need to consider. I'm guessing you will have lots of wildlife where you are and putting in a pond is an invitation for them to come live and/or hunt there. For me that is an added bonus but it makes it a challenge to keep fish. I have frogs, water snakes and snapping turtles living in the pond and great blue herons, raccoons, foxes, etc that visit the pond. The snake and blue heron have demolished my goldfish population. I relocate the snapping turtles while they are young as I don't have adequate filtration for turtles. I designed my pond to deter the raccoons and have yet to have problems with them. And a water scarecrow will help deter the blue herons and other critters. So you can keep fish but be advised that it will be a challenge.

With that said, I love my pond! I am planning to enlarge it and add a two-tiered pond on the other side of the hill. I personally love seeing the wildlife that visits - it attracks all kinds of birds and amphibians - I had 17 different kinds of warblers during fall migration last year and have had bullfrogs, green frogs, leopard frogs, tree frogs, cricket frogs, skinks and newts.

The best advice I can give you is oversize your filtration, it will make maintenance so much easier. And everyone will tell you to double the size you think you will want as so many end up enlarging later. Koi have different requirements than goldfish, it needs to be large and deep with excellent bio-filter capabilities.

It is considerable work to build a pond but it was one of the most satisfying projects that I have ever done and adds so much to the landscape.

Hope that helps.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2006 at 8:07AM
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hosta_freak(z6 NC)

Hello all,I just dropped by to say hello! I am as you can see,a hosta person. But I am also a hill dweller. I live in the western NC mountains,and I am about 2100 ft. on the side of a small mountain. It is even higher up above me. I have a small stream running through the property,and I have a woodland garden containing about 250 hostas. Also,ferns, Trilliums,Mountain Laurel,Rhododendrons,and Native Azaleas. Gardening is a challenge here! I have some areas that are so steep,that gardening is impractical,at best,but I am expanding it just the same. Love your water feature ,Jeanner! Phil

    Bookmark   September 1, 2006 at 3:22PM
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jeanner(SW Ohio - Z6)

Phil, I am assuming you have deer there - so how do you keep them from eating the hostas? The deer here have discovered them and they have become deer candy. I can only grow them close to the house now.

Would love to see pictures of your woodland garden, I am just starting one. I've been trying to rescue some of the woodland natives from the honeysuckle but I think I am losing the battle :^(

    Bookmark   September 1, 2006 at 10:11PM
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hosta_freak(z6 NC)

Jeanner: No,there are no deer here where I live but they are in this part of the country. Only problem I have is the occasional vole,and sometimes slugs,but slugs have not been a problem this year. I will post a garden pic when I can find a suitable one from my files. In the meantime look at the Vinca post in this forum,and you'll see a pic of part of my garden.Phil

    Bookmark   September 2, 2006 at 5:44PM
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hosta_freak(z6 NC)

Jeanner,here is a pic of the main garden taken in June. Hostas don't look so good this late in the year! You can see at the top the steps coming down from my driveway. The garden is about 15 or 20 feet below the driveway,at it's lowest point. The path you see slants down to the bottom, and to the left is the small creek. I have a new garden area,back behind and back up the hill from where this pic was taken from. I added about 26 new hostas and several ferns to that new area. Hope this gives you some ideas. Phil

    Bookmark   September 2, 2006 at 6:50PM
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phil, very nice! in iowa, that, too, would be gone before morning by the deer. deer damage, as you've prb'ly not seen it, is a sight to behold!!! they eat the leaves but not the stems. so, you go out and all you see are hundreds of stems!! makes you sick. would be awesome to do gardens in my timber. beautiful!

    Bookmark   September 3, 2006 at 10:07AM
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hosta_freak(z6 NC)

Hey,creamgogo! Yes I've seen what deer can do,but not in my garden. There has never been deer here,although at my brother-in-law's place over in western Ky.,they have eaten all their hosta down to just stems! Some areas here in western NC have deer,and even black bears,but none here,thank goodness! Phil

    Bookmark   September 3, 2006 at 11:45AM
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I built on the side of a mountain and have a "hill". Actually it's more like a big slice out of the mountain behind my house. Two seasons ago I started covering this monster with a Crimson Glory Vine (Vitis Coignetiae).It is beautiful in the fall with red, orange and silver leaves and dark green foilage in the summer. Drought tolerant it is easy to grow.I keep scragler vines in check with mowing the bottom of the hill.Careful,this vine is said to spread 20-40 feet in a season. Mine has not spread that vigoursly but is clearly a vigorus vine and has the potential cover the Big Slice.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2006 at 3:09PM
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ferncreek(z6b / 7a PA)

Jeanner ~

A beautiful thing to look up into is a Halesia -- silverbell. Actually, they're even prettier viewed from below, I think. They can grow as trees or large shrubs, depending on how you train them when young.
Link to photo below....

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 4, 2006 at 8:29AM
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rosebush(z7 NC)

Ya'll are making me drool on my keyboard with those photos! I just found this forum tonight and am so happy to hear from people with the same challenge of gardening on hills. I'm still in the process of terracing the hilly plot of land that used to belong to my great-aunt, here in the foothills of NC. So far, I have a couple of blueberry beds, tomato beds, herb and veggie beds and a new perennial path. Have just started on two new lasagna-type terraced beds and will be creating more as materials accumulate.
Will be checking out this forum regularly. . .Rosemary

    Bookmark   September 10, 2006 at 9:24PM
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vmcintee(Z9 CA)

Hi Everyone,

I just found this forum and I am delighted! We have about a 1/4 of an acre of hillside that borders the Crockett Hills regional park lands. It has some oak and California Laurels but that is basically it. I am trying to stay completely native and I have a question about terracing or at least creating a trail down the hill. Right now the semi trail is just dirt but since we've really kept the weeds down I am worried about erosion. For the sloping trail would you recommend shredded bark or??? Thanks Vicki

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 2:22PM
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I use crushed rock on my paths. For me, it holds up pretty well and when I need to, I can refresh a spot here or there.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2006 at 5:01AM
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mary_pnw_7b(Oly WA z7b)

This is a great new forum! I live on over an acre that slopes down to a lake. The upper area is pretty flat which is where most of my gardens are now, but the rest of it is pretty steep. Although I have beautiful gardens surrounding the house, it is not real eye appealing from the lake. One side is steep, wild, and beautiful but the other side is grass and dandelions to steep to mow. I am hoping to get some ideas from this forum. My fear of completing this section is the maintenance involved. I don't have time to maintain another garden, so it can't be high maintenance yet I want it to be beautiful. Can you have it both ways on a slope?

    Bookmark   September 22, 2006 at 12:39AM
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Hi everyone! I live in MA just moved into our first home back in Apr. I guess you could say that our house is at the bottom of a hill off of the road. The backyard borders the state forest and it is really quiet at night.
We "tried" to mow the lawn this past summer and it was too much of a task. We have decided that we are going to go with retaining walls this spring.

Here is what our front yard looked like shortly after we moved in.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2006 at 2:20PM
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I recently moved to a house with a very steep backyard with lots of trees and leaves. I am having a hard time working on my plants that were just planted as I slip and slid all the time. How do you solve this problem? I was wondering if anyone uses shoes with spikes and if so where do you get them?

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 1:23PM
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I've done the slide thing on each side of my house over the 3 years I've lived here. I feel your pain. One slide resulted in a nasty sprain that took months to heal. I learned to stay off of the grass when wet and to stay off the leaves completely. Both conditions are hazardous.

I live on the side of a mountain, really steep. And I'm on the north side so there is a fair amount of shade. I am slowly replacing the weeds with flowers. I use a lot of ground covers. Along side the driveway I've put fruit trees on one side and the veggie bed on the other side using 6 inch logs to create the tiers. Then I haul the compost up to them. That's been quite a job lately. The hill is clay and rocks so I dig a hole (hard work) place the compost and clay mixture in the hole use the stones from the hole to build a little edging and then plant my plants. Over all I have a ten year plan for getting the property to the place I want it. So far I'm not doing to badly at staying on schedule. I love the look of the uphill view from my livingroom. And it gets better every year. I'm no where near where others are but I'm enjoying the journey.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 9:28AM
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