Herbs on a Slope!
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Michelle McCarthy
Posted on: January 16, 2005

We live in Virginia, USA and have purchased a beautiful lot where the previous owner was a master gardener who created a gorgeous english country-cottage style garden. All we have to do is try to maintain it.

However, we do have a problem area which could use your suggestions. We have a slope at the front of our house which is south facing. It is approximately 200(70 meters) feet long and about 10-12 feet (3-4 meters ) high. The slope is at an angle of approximately 50%(45 degree). It is very hard to get anything established on this slope, but we are interested in planting herbs and invasive perennials to fill the slope with easy-to-care-for color.

There are sprinklers installed at the top of the hill, but nothing in the center or on the bottom. Currently there are low-growing evergreen shrubs which are getting progressively more gray with every day. There is a section of lambs ear which is growing particularly well. We have added mulch and some periwinkle, but not enough to make a difference. We think we need lots of plants and fast before the slope sweeps away all the dirt.

I would not do anything until spring, because the shrubs may green up in the spring. However you may decide that you do not wish to keep plants that get so unattractive looking in winter- a time when you need cheery sights not dead grey looks.

Have you thought of how much easier it would be to establish even non-invasive plants if you were to terrace the slope? If you make the steps a bit irregular you would have a great rock garden site as well and many herbs are just made for rock gardens. The erosion problem would be gone as well. You could gradually work your way across the slope and would not have to finish it in one spring.

You would have to mulch to make the steps low maintenace, but at least the mulch would stay put.

To get lots of plants I would suggest you order a few plug trays of your favourites. As long as the slope is not terraced, having sprinklers at the top is enough for the whole hill, since it drains down quite fast. In any case check what type of soil you have as you may have to augment it to suit herbs.

We are thinking along the lines of big masses of creeping thyme, salvia (maybe ‘blue queen’), artemisias, creeping Jenny, Irish moss, snow-in-summer, etc. Do you think these will take in our climate and do you have other more appropriate suggestions.

May I warn you away from plants such as creeping Jenny and snow-in-summer and other "thugs" such as creeping bellflower, on a slope that you want to be low maintenance? Once they are in your garden they will end up everywhere(often as a mono-culture!!) and just weeding without liberal and frequent use of Round-up won’t get rid of them. The choice of plants will greatly depend on what soil you have. The other plants you have mentioned will do well if you make sure you have adequate drainage and moisture retention.

We have answered similar questions before and posted the answers on our web-site www.richters.com under the "Q&A" heading in the "News & Info" section of the site. Click on "Search Question & Answers" and type in"groundcover", to find the topics that sound as if they would answer your question.

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