Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Hillside Planting

Hello fellow readers,

While walking Miss Ellie, Lori and Gary of Blairstown were out doing yard work and shared their dilemma of a challenging slope along the driveway. Steep hills can be an eyesore and difficult to maintain. As with any plant selection, consider soil,light, root space, drainage, and irrigation. In addition, ponder your objective of creating a beautiful tapestry of color and texture or is your goal merely functional; to hold the soil and be low maintenance. Then there’s deer which is most everyone’s challenge especially as we approach their fall feeding frenzy. Hence let’s talk about deer resistant alternatives.

Vinca minor

Vinca minor

Vinca Minor, also known as Myrtle or Periwinkle, creates a quick evergreen carpet with happy purple flowers. It likes sun or shade, is dense enough to suppress weeds yet loose enough to allow a showy springtime display of daffodils. Then there’s shade loving evergreen Pachysandra which naturalizes a woodland slope. Both are considered invasive but invasive can be useful as long it’s not allowed to run amok.

Lamium, also called Dead Nettle, is a fast growing variegated beauty for a sunny hill or shady bank. Once established it will thrive under tough conditions and lights up a space.



Let’s not forget Sweet Woodruff, Galium odoratum, which even grows under black walnut and in dense shade. Both are deciduous which means they die back every winter but ambitiously return without the hassle of mulching.

Galium odoratum,

Galium odoratum

Evergreen low-growing shrubs for a hillside include: Arctostaphylos uva-ursi also known as Bearberry with pinkish white flowers in spring followed by reddish berries that birds love. Cotoneaster horizontalis also fits the bill as a fast growing evergreen for well-drained soils in full sun to part shade and can withstand drought. There’s also Microbiota decussata called Russian arborvitae; a feathery spreading evergreen alternative to the overused, nice way of saying boring, spreading juniper.

I’m all for lawn alternatives especially on a steep slope. There’s a Toro tractor I once had whose fate ended with summersaults down the front yard. Thank goodness the rider is no worse for the wear. I wonder if my tractor gymnast was on the quest to graduate to a John Deere. Mission accomplished. And, it has brakes!

Garden dilemmas?

Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

Leave a Reply


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.