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My really challenging, large, incredibly steep, tiered garden - any ideas please?

(15 Posts)
sedgiebaby Sun 05-Jun-11 13:37:31

When we bought the house the garden was a steep hill (as in much higher than the rooftop) a total jungle full of trees and bushes. It is why we got the house cheap and it has continued to be our challenge.

Over the past few years we have cleared the bushes, tiered it with white rendered walls (two levels) and have laid decking on the first level (walk out from back door) then grassed the next two (rendered levels) then its two levels of decking after that. Steps go up the side of the garden to each tier right to the top.

It sounds nice as I write that but it isn?t! The rendered walls are letting me down, they flake are not well done and look grubby. They need painting yearly. I?m thinking of tiling them ? any ideas on how to do this cheaply.
Or any ideas at all? Someone mentioned modern rendering on the walls might work ? I don't know where to start with that one.

I'm a new mum, I need to make it easier to maintain but we are on a budget...any ideas welcome I'm drawing a blank!

hocuspontas Sun 05-Jun-11 13:48:53

Will watch with interest. Our garden has 4 tiers and I was thinking of rendering two levels of walls because the brickwork is crumbling. Also decking out the first level like you.

LadyMacnet Sun 05-Jun-11 14:00:03

Could you use railway sleepers to retain the earth as opposed to rendered walls? They look more natural. We had our tiered garden done a few years ago but only needed one wall about 1.5 m in height (5 sleepers on their side) required. The landscaper did a really nice job of it - they are new sleepers not the horrible old tarry ones. He also cut steps into the wall up to the lawned part of the garden and made these out of sleepers as well. I recall how much the sleepers were but I don't think they were terribly expensive; but it's a small garden so he didn't need to get that many.

Previous to this we had revolting ugly kerbstones to create the retaining wall. Not nice at all!

GrendelsMum Sun 05-Jun-11 20:09:44

Do you have any actual plants in it? Can you have plants either trailing down the rendered walls or trained up the rendered walls to conceal them? Could you conceal the rendered walls with trellis? Could you plant taller perennials or shrubs in front of the walls?

You don't say how high each wall is, or how wide and deep each terrace is, so it's a little hard to imagine at the moment.

I'm imagining, though, that you come out of the house and there is a series of 5 steep terraces going up in front of you, blocking out quite a lot of the light from the house. If so, you might be better off going for lush shade planting to give a tropical effect. I'm thinking of things like Fatsia, ferns, hostas, Clematis armandii and so on.

sedgiebaby Sat 11-Jun-11 15:38:56

Thank you all, sorry for the delay in replying I'm trying to figure out how to upload pics to my profile to help give you an idea rather than a long boring explanation. The rendered walls are approx 20 ft long and 4ft+ high, so there to stay.

I was going for the 'eden project' look with lots of palms and 'giganticous' looking exotic stuff and the last two evil winters has all but killed off the stuff I put in. I'm disenchanted now and no time/cash so just want tidy and easy to maintain, I'd gravel large sections if access wasn't a bit of a problem (lots of steps to back of garden). Anyway planting is limited but lots of trees bushes around the perimeter. then lawn and scruffy banks between the decking.

Posting a pic is a big step for me because it looks a right state, but I need the help so I'm going to try and do that now...

conculainey Sat 11-Jun-11 15:47:26

Op, you could get a basic sand/cement render applied with the addition of a coloured dye of your choice, this would require no maintenance and will age nicely. Do your walls have capping stone on top?

sedgiebaby Sat 11-Jun-11 15:51:43

Oh that is interesting conculainey, I will look into this thank you.

I've posted the pic's, I'm most ashamed that I've not even had a tidy up or taken the washing lawn down, but I've been completely taken over by motherhood!

We do have someone coming in for a day to do loads of cutting back and of course cutting the grass and a power wash will do a lot but I think it will not go far enough and I'm feeling defeated.

twinklypearls Sat 11-Jun-11 15:55:49

We can't see your profile, you need to make it public.

sedgiebaby Sat 11-Jun-11 15:58:03

OK I think I have now done that sorry...

conculainey Sat 11-Jun-11 16:00:29

I had a similar problem with a few painted walls and just removed as much paint as possible and applied a liquid called "unibond" by brush which acts as an adhesive then I applied a coarse sand/cement mix and added loads of crushed glass which I obtained by placing a lot of different coloured glass bottles into a cement mixer with a few half bricks to create the tiny glass particals, the effect cost nothing but is very effective with the sunlight on the walls (greens, blues and reds). In the short and long term a new render will be the most cost effective and most durable but make sure that there are capping stones on top of the wall as this will prevent moisture entering from above.

SofiaAmes Sat 11-Jun-11 16:20:54

My first thought is that when the walls were done, no drainage was put in them. When water comes down the hill it needs to be able to flow past the series of walls. There should be holes in, or under, the walls. If there aren't, the walls will get saturated and eventually crumble. There also needs to be some sort of waterproofing protection on the dirt side of the wall. Google retaining walls and you will see lots of diagrams of how it should look.
What is the drop on the wall side (you said 4' other side)? Rosemary and lavender are nice plants to put on the edge of walls.
Long meadow grass can look lovely in expanses of grass that you don't maintain so often. The meadow grass is meant to be un-mowed. You need to pick a variety that is designed to grow that way. I am in Los Angeles and used Agronotec Slopesaver (no flowers), but you'll have to google for the equivalent in the uk. It looks fabulous on steep hills and needs mowing about once every 5 - 10 years. it's fairly drought tolerant (important here) and needs much less fussing than a traditional short lawn.
You may also want to look at ikea for garden furniture. They do cheap knockoffs of expensive looking things and it looks much richer than B&Q plastic furniture. A couple of well placed items can set the tone for a whole area. Look in the free sections for people giving away plants. I get (and give) stuff that way all the time.
Good Luck.

sedgiebaby Sat 11-Jun-11 16:56:02

Thanks Sofia, we do have holes in the first level, this was built when the house was I think. Not sure about the second and 3rd (very low wall) but proper footings etc were done as I recall. Thy are not crumbling but the paint is flaking and staining, I have heard of this paint where dirt doesn't stick to it but not checked it out yet.

These two levels are flat and grassed.

I love the idea of the meadow grass I need some of this slopesaver you suggestand I hope that I can find something comparable here - sounds brilliant

Yes we do need patio furniture the dreadful set in the pic is a bit of a stop-gap I will check out IKEA - thanks so much for the reply

GrendelsMum Sat 11-Jun-11 19:03:53

I think it doesn't look nearly as bad as you were suggesting. A lot of it does seem to be cosmetic - the patio furniture, for example, doesn't look very attractive.

Another reason that it doesn't look great atm, judging from the photos, is lack of repetition of the planting. A garden design mantra is 'when in doubt, repeat' - so rather than putting in one of a plant, put in 5, or 10, or 20 (depending on size and amount you're trying to fill). You seem to have plants of random sizes popping up at random intervals, at the moment.

I really reckon you'd do better and cheaper with properly chosen plants then trying to sort out your rendering problems with the walls. All the plants I suggested are fully frost hardy, so it would be surprising if you lost them over winter.

SofiaAmes idea about the meadow grass is a really interesting one (I have a 'meadow' area in my garden to keep the maintenance practical), but I'm not sure about it for your setting, esp in winter. I think that with the walls, it might end up looking unkempt rather than naturalistic - I have to say that my DH has a low opinion of our 'meadow', and it won't now go back to standard grass without a fight. You could go for the 'pictoral meadows' seed mixes, which look stunning in summer, but I've got no experience of how they look in winter.

SofiaAmes Mon 13-Jun-11 07:09:26

Ah yes, winter....hadn't really thought about that, as of course winter here in Los Angeles is when the temperature goes down to the "freezing" 60's and we all moan about how cold it is. My dh was not fond of the meadow grass look until he realized that he hadn't been nagged to mow the lawn for ages and ages and then pushed to do the front garden as well. (Had the same sort of reaction to bfing....dh was sure he didn't want me to do it as his first 3 dc's (not mine) were not bfed and he wasn't going to have me "exposing my breasts in public," but when he realized that the only one getting up for night feeds was me, he became an avid convert and encouraging me to "whip them out" in all manner of public places!)

sedgiebaby Mon 13-Jun-11 14:56:08

Sofia the slope saver guy said he will ship me seed, when I asked what might be a comparable grass here. Not sure if defra will like that but the website suggests it will grow anywhere. I'm keen as DH has to take his life in his hands to mow the area above the terraces between the decks its a bit shocking to watch...

Thanks Grendels for saying its not too bad, helps me feel less negative but IRL it is looking worse! I'm going to look at the planting suggestions, I love hostas but slugs have decimated mine out the front but I could go on a mission to prevent this. My mum has some to split is now a good time do you know?

I think we may just go for repainting the walls with the self clean paint I'm yet to look into it but sounds promising! but I love the idea of coloured render.as some of the walls are not smooth as I'd like (you can see where they have been extended in height etc). Someone said about cladding but no idea what they mean I can only think of horrid plastic planks, they can't mean that though.

Any and all ideas are very appreciated.

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