Can you post photos? Sounds like something that calls for some Xeriscaping with drought-tolerant local plants. Probably worth your while to hire a landscape designer for a couple of hours. You might be able to find one by searching for contractors at the top of the page.
Sounds like ours. It's taken 10 years to get paths, native trees, a small deck and a lower patio but it's very natural and a lovely place for kids to feel like they're in the woods. Our slope is 45 degrees down. Planted small native trees close to house for shade and separated "formal" area, before the slope begins, from the "natural" area where deck and paths begin. Nearly killed us but it's our woodland escape.
@Judy: There's hope for you and your dogs. I agree with Steve that it may be well worth your while to invest in a professional's services if you are starting from scratch. You'll also get some good ideas from Houston's "Green Houston" web site:
Also check out this web site on xeriscaping from the Texas cooperative extension service:
@Carol: Sounds like you have created a wonderful space in your backyard. We'd love to see some photos.
I tried but just can't make it work!
I recently put in a three tired downslope garden for a client. 25 feet long and 4 ft wide. I used old garden boulders, rectangular mostly. Roses, Mexican petunias, Homestead Purple Verbena, Chapel Hill Lantana, Scabiosa, white and purple Echinecea, Becky Shasta daisies, Evolvulus, Mex Zinnias, Angelonia, creeping phlox, Firewiitch Dianthus, and more. Is your area much larger? More plants in phase 2 in May.
I have a downhill backyard, it is a bluff 680' high. I call it a sit and slide because that is the only way to get down it safely.It is all oak, hickory with a lot of japanese honeysuckle taking over. It is almost impossible to work on it without falling down. Any ideas?