sloping backyard with a high wall on top

by dee siegrist
(philadelphia, pa)

The house we are considering buying has a small yard -- about 20' flat and then it slopes up an additional 12' with a 6' retaining wall on top of that separating the yard from a retail area on the other side (which you can't see). The retaining wall is about 6' high and is made of cement block.

The width of the yard is about 40-50' wide. How would we landscape this area - we want to hide the cement block wall and make it as easy as possible to maintain the slope (mowing, etc). Any ideas would be helpful. The backyard is on the east side of the house but the slope, I guess, gets the afternoon sun. I do like to garden, with a cottage look. Thank you so much.


Hi Dee,
As far as ease of mowing goes, it depends on how steep the slope is. Is it very severe or is it gentle? You might need a retaining wall if the slope is more than 3:1 (1 foot high to 3 foot long). If not, you can just plant the entire area if you like. Twelve feet is not that much land to work with, particularly if you are using taller and larger plants.

Consider creating a nice wide bed at the base of the wall to hide it. The wider it is, the more of the slope will be planted and lawn will be eliminated. You could plant groups of Red Twig Dogwood, Forsythia, Red Barberries, Lilacs, and even some narrow evergreen trees such as Arborvitae. These would all cover a 6 foot high wall.

You might choose three varieties and do groups of three to five of each, perhaps with the Arborvitae in the center. These would make a good background for tall and medium height perennials for that cottage look. Then add some more perennials and/or shrubs in front of the shrubs on either side of the Arbs.

Since the wall I assume is straight, make the bed curvilinear for softness and interest. You could add a walkway leading up to it and along the plantings. Add some plants on either side of the walkway in groups for more plants if you like. And of course a few ornamental trees will create a sense of scale and provide shade...Birch Trees, Crabapples, Weeping Cherries, Purple Leaf Plum...etc.


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