One way to make a landscape look more interesting is to introduce topography changes. That’s a fancy way of saying, pile some dirt over here and there. The technical term used is the landscape trade is berms. Today, I will discuss how to add interest with berms.
Topography changes, add interest with berms
I would suggest that if you look at the most interesting landscapes that you see whether man made or natural, there will usually be topography changes. They may not be the 1st thing that jumps out at you, but they are usually there. Here are some examples.
Often, elevation changes are subtle or are hidden by plants or rock work. That does not mean that they are not there and are not having an impact on how the scene affects you.
Berms can serve purposes
Elevation changes are often an important part of subdividing spaces into separate areas for different uses. They can also be used to screen off views and sounds or make screens of plants more effective.
Topography and Your yard
OK, so what does this mean for your yard?
First, if you have a slope in your yard, stop cursing it as a pain in the neck to mow. I would instead urge you to think how the slope could be used or altered to make it an asset instead of a liability. There is untapped potential there.
Secondly, if you have a flat yard, start to think if you could add interest with berms to your yard to increase its variety or subdivide the spaces into different uses, such as a patio area and a children’s play area. Berms don’t have to be dramatic. In fact for mostly flat yards, subtle berms may seem the most natural.
Two things to remember about Berms
Berms usually dry out quicker than surrounding soil. This means you will have to water the plants in berms more often than if they were planted in the original soil. Drought tolerant plants, such as junipers, are often recommended to cope with the drier soil. Plants that require well drained soil can often be planted in berms and do very well.
The berm will settle over time. Depending upon how much organic matter is in the soil, your berm may settle a little or a lot. More organic matter, such as compost your added, the more it will settle.
What I did to add some interest to my flat yard
Here’s a before picture of my yard right before I added my berm.
Here are some shots of the process (lots of work moving dirt, Skid steers are nice if you have the money to hire them).
Here is how it looked with some of the plants added.
Here is how it looks right after it was done and then 8 years later.
If you are interested in ideas for making changes to your yard by adding berms but are lost for ideas, feel free to use my ask me a question page and include a photo and I will try to give you some ideas.
For more information than anyone could possibly want about berms, click this link.