Believe it or not, many Houston properties have hills. These properties are found along Buffalo Bayou and its tributaries, and they represent some of the most prime real estate in the city. However, not many people here consciously think about the benefits of landscaping hills in their yard because they are used to thinking of the Houston landscape as a green tabletop of purely flat land.
In actuality, adding definition and form to any hill in your yard can be the one thing that makes it immediately stand out as a premier property on your block. Having this service done as a key element of a comprehensive landscape master plan will ensure curb appeal and attraction factor for years to come.
Landscaping a hill must give top priority to some type of erosion control.
There are several methods of doing this. The first is to build a retaining wall.
A retaining wall is a stone or brick structure that maintains the grade of the land by holding back a certain amount of soil. The façade of the retaining wall can look formal, as in the case of decorative concrete or masonry, or it can look extremely natural, as is the case with a stone wall.
A retaining wall is ideal for landscaping hills because it resembles a hill in form. At the top of the wall, the retained soil is commonly used to plant gardens, small trees, shrubs, or tropical plants. More importantly, the presence of such a sturdy structure strengthens the natural form of the hill. When heavy rains fall on it, and water begins to cascade down its sides, the supporting element of the wall helps partially protect against soil loss.
The other protection against soil loss comes from vegetation itself.
Many shrubs and ground cover species have roots that fan out and literally intertwine together. This has the effect of creating an almost mesh-like network just under the surface of the ground. When heavy rainfall causes the soil to become muddy, the mud clings to the roots without crumbling and getting washed away.
The best resource in determining what plants to use when landscaping a hill is your Exterior Worlds garden designer. He or she has extensive botanical knowledge of what plants have the strongest root systems for organic erosion control.
Once the land grade in under control and soil retention is assured, a concealed drainage system must be professionally installed in order to prevent the formation of standing water.
Even the best retaining walls and hardiest of plants will not prevent water from collecting at the top of the hill. If left unchecked, this can quickly become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. It will also run the aesthetic of the hill because a standing pool of water will create a depression in the earth.
Building a network of concealed drains will see to it that water runs off as quickly as possible.
Hardscape is the final element in landscaping a hill that reinforces its form and makes it safely accessible as a functional part of your yard.
Something as simple as a set of stairs that wind between two retaining walls can introduce honored guests to a custom patio that overlooks the bayou from the top of the hill. Adding such an area of interest at the very back of your property balances your overall landscape design and adds completion to your outdoor living space.