Sample garden design: shade slope garden

Once a slope garden is established, it will greatly decrease erosion.

If the slope is steep, and soil, compost and water are drifting downhill, try adding rocks or terracing the garden to hold soil in place and slow the flow of water. Ensuring plantings cover the whole of the slope will also help slow water flow. Filling a slope with a mixture of plants—trees, shrubs, perennials and ground covers—forms an eye-catching garden that also helps soften the impact of rain on the slope.

 Plants used in this design

Spring interest

  • Rhus aromatica, fragrant sumac
  • Cornus canadensis, bunchberry
  • Asarum species, wild ginger
  • Polygonatum species, Solomon’s seal
  • Anemone species, windflower

Summer interest

  • Bergenia species, elephant-eared saxifrage
  • Campanula rotundifolia, harebell
  • Aruncus dioicus, dwarf goat’s beard
  • Heuchera species, coral bells
  • Hosta species, plantain lilies

Fall interest

  • Epimedium species, barrenwort
  • Adiantum pedatum, northern maidenhair fern
  • Pachysandra species, Japanese spurge
  • Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, Hakone grass
  • Deschampsia species, tufted hair grass


Receives less than three hours of direct sunlight each day, with filtered sunlight during the rest of the day.


Sloped gardens ideally have a heavier than average soil to help stop erosion. Adding of 5 centimetres (2 inches) of organic material (e.g. compost, manure, leaf mold) every two years will help to create a heavier soil. If the soil is sandy and light, use more than 5 centimetres (2 inches) of organic material. Addition of organic material will also feed plants and keep them healthy—no need to fertilize!


New plants may need extra watering until the roots are well established (one to two seasons). Dividing the watering time into two sessions will allow water to be absorbed. For the first few weeks after your new garden is planted, check to see that the soil is wet to a depth of at least 2.5 centimetres (1 inch), even if it rains. Mulch doesn’t always work on a slope, and you may need to experiment with different types of mulch materials.

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