Slippery Slopes to Gardens and Outdoor Living Hangouts

“Way back” in October 2019, as clouds loomed in pre-pandemic times, we headed up a steep street to an even more dramatic slope of a garden. From the topmost tier, director Ed Fuentes and grip Steve Maedl documented outstanding views.
Steel plate planters elevated tiers for steep slope Duhon Harper garden
In a gradual process across 20 years, Michael Harper and Jed Duhon turned harsh slopes into inviting living areas and landing spot outlooks for their children and two basenjis.
Steel retaining walls planters steep slope design Duhon Harper garden
When they bought their home in 2000, they gave their 1950s ranch style home a contemporary facelift.
contemporary makeover 1950s house garden planter beds limestone steel concrete Harper Dujon Central Texas Gardener
In front, alternating layers of steel, concrete, limestone and gravel bring cohesive visual energy to clean lines and evergreen textures.
contemporary makeover 1950s house with front yard outdoor entertainement area Central Texas Gardener
They carved into the precarious slope to the street with a flat living room, replacing grass with Tejas Grey gravel. Michael told us, “You couldn’t mow it if your shoes were wet or you would slide into the street with your lawnmower. It was a little challenging.”
contemporary front outdoor living room Tejas Grey gravel Harper Dujon design Central Texas Gardener
Since Jed’s an architect, when they wanted an elevated view, he designed an upper deck off the kitchen.
contemporary upstairs deck to street Harper Dujon design Central Texas Gardener
upstairs deck outdoor living Harper Dujon design Central Texas Gardener
“I wanted a little planting space that I could just walk out the kitchen and doodle,” Michael said.
contemporary upstairs deck with planters Harper Dujon design Central Texas Gardener
Heading around to the back, a pea gravel path infiltrates rainwater.
pea gravel path steel plate retaining wall rainwater infiltration Harper Dujon Central Texas Gardener
An open-weave fence and intricate metal gate keep deer out of the backyard without obstructing their neighbors.
Open weave privacy fence artistic metal gate Harper Dujon Central Texas Gardener
Open weave privacy fence with patterned steel gate Harper Dujon Central Texas Gardener
For several years, the backyard was just two inhospitable banks of grass. “Before Jed designed the greenhouse there was the tool shed and a bunch of grass. I wanted more landing areas where you could stand and have a view,” Michael said.
steel retaining wall sloped garden up to cute shed and greenhouse Dujon Harper garden
Eventually, they tamed the slope and reduced lawn while unifying both sides of the yard with architectural tiers of alternating steel, concrete, limestone and gravel. Michael, a passionate patron of local nurseries, embellished each level with diverse evergreen plant textures and seasonal flowering beauties.
steel planters and retaining wall to upper outdoor living area sloped yard design Dujon Harper
Originally, a stone wall at the back door didn’t leave room for even a tiny patio. They dug out the narrow space for a dining room designed with rectangles to visually enlarge the intimate space. The concrete wall’s vertical lines complement the horizontal planes of Leuders limestone slabs, heightened by contrasting Tejas Grey gravel.
contemporary outdoor dining room Leuders concrete Tejas Grey gravel Harper Dujon Central Texas Gardener
A steel retaining wall contains the lawn while steel plate planters bank the next level. Michael softens the transition with plants punctuated by sparkling gazing balls. He brightens an inset bed with his sun-washed salvaged rock collection.
steel planters and retaining wall concrete retaining wall living areas sloped yard Dujon Harper garden
Up the stairway of steel risers and Tejas Grey gravel, the dining room’s concrete panels also form the retaining wall of a gravel playscape for the kids when they were younger.
steel and gravel stairway up to living areas sloped backyard Dujon Harper
The next level leads to the vegetable garden and limestone-banked pavilion.
concrete steel limestone tiers sloped backyard living areas Harper Duhon garden Central Texas Gardener
Then Michael decided, “Well, I need a pond. Everyone needs a pond. So a pond. And then, everyone needs water lilies. Well, they’re very reproductive and that’s a job in itself if you choose to let it be.”
steel and gravel stairway steep slope design Dujon Harper garden
formal pond gravel parterre charming shed Dujon Harper garden
Designed and built by Hill Country Water Gardens and Nursery, this tier levels out emotions with its gentle waterfall and Michael’s clusters of containers.
formal pond gravel parterre to stairway sloped backyard design Duhon Harper garden
Michael wanted a more formal pond for this space that invites contemplation on many levels.
formal pond gravel parterre steep slope design Harper Duhon garden
In this linear area, the pond aligns with the tool shed, given a charming makeover.
formal limestone pond gravel parterre charming shed outdoor living Harper Duhon garden
One level up brings us to the greenhouse where Michael overwinters his cold-tender container plants.
Charming small tool shed and greenhouse, pond harsh slope design Harper Duhon Central Texas Gardener
contemporary small greenhouse design Harper Duhon Central Texas Gardener
Designed by Jed, it’s an inviting room whatever the season.
small greenhouse interior design cozy chairs Duhon Harper Central Texas Gardener
A limestone pavilion tops the upper tier as the ultimate viewing platform.
elevated limestone pavilion backyard outdoor room on hard slope Harper Duhon Central Texas Gardener
When it was built in the 50s, you could probably see all the way to the UT Tower.
elevated backyard pavilion patio outdoor room design hard slope Harper Duhon Central Texas Gardener
Shade sails provide stylish enclosure and gentle shade break.
shade sails for outdoor patio Harper Duhon garden
The pavilion overlooks a limestone-edged bank where Michael pairs structural succulents, grasses, and native perennials for pollinators.
rocky slope hillside succulents yucca perennials small trees drought design Harper Duhon Central Texas Gardener
On the shady side of the yard, Michael offset architecture with plant structure inspired by his love of Japanese gardens.
Shady garden Japanese maples ligularia steel plate bed retainers Harper Duhon garden
Japanese maples in full fall glory gracefully overhang another of Michael’s favorite part shade loves: huge heart-shaped Ligularia.
Japanese maples and ligularia garden sculpture shade garden Harper Duhon
To broaden their plant options, they enclosed the backyard with an eight-foot fence. An open panel design keeps deer on the other side without being a neighborly blockade. They inserted cattle panel into some panels for vine adornment.
shady garden Japanese maples ligularia steel plate retaining wall harsh slope Harper Duhon design Central Texas Gardener
The family’s moved on to a new home and garden adventure, but Michael carries his lessons and philosophy with him wherever they’re planted. “There’s always a project,” he said.
Cute Basjenji looks like praying in patio chair Harper Duhon Central Texas Gardener
Watch now!

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda