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Does lot have steep hill? Plant, retain or terrace it

A steep hill doesn't have to be the downfall of your lot. These landscaping options can turn a tumbledown cliff into a beautiful easel of color and drama.

- Plant it. Hill-hugging plants, such as low-lying shrubs and deep-rooted groundcovers, can ride a slope beautifully and keep soil from eroding. Among the options are Alpine strawberries, bearberry, carmel creeper, cotoneaster, crown vetch, daylilies, forsythias, honeysuckle, ivy, juniper, lantana, leucothoe, lily-of-the-valley, lingonberry, pachysandra, periwinkle, rock rose, Virginia creeper, or winter creeper. Others that will clutch a hillside are candytuft, or alyssum, armeria, heather, thyme, coralbells, moss phlox, iris or aubrieta and violas.- Retain it. Keep a slope from slipping with a retaining wall. Strength comes first, but beauty can still rate high with such materials as tacked stones, brick, stucco, concrete, treated lumber, railroad ties, or logs. Walls work best if they aren't too tall (anything higher than 3 feet should be installed by a contractor), if they slant uphill about 2 inches per foot of height, if they reach below the frost line and if drainage is included.

- Terrace it. A hill can be suitable for more than toboggans, with a multilevel deck that carves great living space into it. These terraces create private places to relax and plenty of areas to plop potted aces plants. Riprap, small ridges of stones or plastic, mulch, drainage through PVC pipe, and retaining cloth can help stem erosion on the rest of the hill.