A terrace can give your hillside or sloped yard a more formal look when created from brick or stone. Start from the bottom and build the initial retaining wall, complete with steps leading to each tiered level. Allow for a depth of at least 6 feet from the edge of the wall to the beginning of the second terrace wall. This provides for at least 3 feet of garden space as well as a 3-foot walk usually placed close to the second wall. The garden space can be divided into rows, one closest to the wall, a center row and another close to the walkway. Look for plants that will hang over the edge of each wall, such as ivy or clematis, then plant the center row with tall plants, leaving space for a row of small groundcover closest to the terrace path. This combination of plants will provide focal points and interest for both the person standing on the ground and someone walking the path.
Achieve a more informal look following the same ideas as in Step 1 but using different material for the retaining wall. Use treated lumber and uneven stone separately or in combination to create the tiers while also providing assistance with erosion control and drainage. Construct and plant the terrace per the Step 1 instructions, but make it less formal. Look to wildflowers to fill sections of your terraced garden, or consider using one or more of the terraces for vegetables. Include flat spaces for a bench or chairs so visitors can relax and enjoy the sight and scents of your garden.
Natural Look and Feel
Take a lesson from Mother Nature herself when considering what to do with a sloped hillside. Large rocks and fallen trees often occur in nature and help to prevent soil on a hill from washing away. Construct your initial retaining wall from odd-size rocks. Continue the look by using large pieces of slate inserted into the hillside as steps, and rocks of all shapes and sizes to form irregular areas that can then be supplemented with plants, flowers and trees.
One great thing about a tiered hillside is the fact that it's a hill. The sloped descent can lend itself perfectly to a garden water feature that can also help with drainage control. Plan your water feature carefully as you build your terraced area. You'll need a bottom basin, as well as a top "pond" to hold water before it flows over your waterfall. A formal waterfall may drop straight down a flat wall from top to bottom, while a natural look will incorporate the rocks you use in creating your rock garden. No matter the style you choose, make sure that the hose or pipe that connects the bottom basin and pump to the top pond is carefully placed and features easily accessible draining.