Garden Retaining Wall Ideas: How To Use A Wonderful Landscape Tool

Most people take retaining walls for granted. But if you take a moment you’ll find lots of wonderful landscaping wall ideas all over the place. I realize they don’t come to the top of most people’s list. But, a short retention wall makes for a wonderful “tool” to use in the landscape for transitioning from one elevation to another and to add curb appeal.

You may have considered creating a stone garden wall in your landscape design but never thought it possible due to:

  • Labor too expensive
  • Too difficult to attempt as a Do-It-Yourself project

Don’t be discouraged… you can actually build them yourself. The project materials used probably cost less than you would expect. They give your garden a modern and tidy look.

7 retaining wall ideas

The “traditional” retaining wall pictured shows several courses of bricks stacked up or a stone wall. But many “out of the box” options you can consider.

Retaining Wall Designs Everywhere!

Recently, while walking down the streets of Atlanta, I noticed something unique; lots of interesting uses of retaining walls throughout the city.

Most didn’t have an attractive view, some looked out of place, especially those near well-designed and striking buildings. This got me thinking, and I decided to look for some creative design ideas used in making garden walls.

I wanted some artistic and innovative ideas that went beyond railroad ties or a stone wall. Here’s a few ideas I found.

First a stone wall idea called a Gabion wall – where natural stone piled together with wire frames creating both an industrial and natural look. Constructing the garden wall with a wire mesh frame and filled with natural stones. A gabion wall looks amazing. Even if you live in an area where natural stones just aren’t “natural”, you can dry stack the center with other heavy and sturdy materials. Like concrete cinder blocks or use high-quality stones arranged on their sides against the gabion face where people can see them.

Another idea used rust-ridden sheet metal. Most of us use sheet metal to make a garden shed or garden wall, but this project actually used them to make a retainer wall for flower beds planters (flower bed retaining wall). The garden needed some added texture. Over time their appearance the “patina” changes and the discoloration looked natural and complimented the surrounding.

Of course poured concrete or precast concrete walls can look simple, sleek and surprisingly sophisticated. I asked myself, how can I build a concrete wall block? Does it require a structural engineer? However, the construction requires only plywood forms, some framing, and wire! Not as difficult as one may think.

Other Landscape Wall Ideas Include:

  • Stacked stone may look super expensive to build, but surprisingly quite affordable.
  • Wood-look concrete – concrete dries against wood planks, they leave wood grain impressions creating an entirely different look
  • Lightweight aggregate blocks – available in light and dark gray finishes

For the basics on building a retaining wall… enjoy the video! For more creative ideas on retaining walls, check this post via houzz.

Building A Retaining Wall

Does your landscape look plain and boring? A boring landscape in the backyard or around a patio can come alive with the addition of an attractive block retaining wall.

This project uses blocks with a locking flange, making the installation easy. Walls can be up to 28 inches high.

Here are 2 tips to keep in mind when planning the layout:

  • Make sure the downspouts do not point at the wall
  • If the wall is right up against the house, keep the soil bed well below the siding

Outline the shape using a rope of hose. For straight lines, use stakes, string and marking paint mark the entire bed area.

Determine how many blocks you’ll need per row, divide the total length of the wall by the length of the block. To see how many rows you’ll need, divide the ideal wall height by the height of the block.

Before installing any blocks make sure you have a good strong level foundation.

A plain garden bed gets a brand new personality with the help of a block retaining wall.

Building a garden can be very rewarding, and one of the most prized elements of a good garden is neatness.

In this video tutorial from Lowes Home Improvement, a step-by-step informative walkthrough is given on how to build a retaining wall for your outdoor space.

Not only does it make an area look more attractive, but it also helps with maintaining weeds from spreading to your more coveted plants. The bricks are locking so no slipping and make installation easier!

Watch the incredibly helpful video tutorial from Lowe’s:

Using Garden Retaining Walls In Your Landscape

Garden and retaining walls were originally the true walls of stone, brick or other similar material (as distinguished from fences) built around a garden or an estate or a portion of either, for the purpose of protecting the cultivated plants grown within.

In the old days such protection was needed from poachers or from small animals, such as rabbits, as well as from the larger deer and domesticated animals allowed to stray. Hence the garden wall was originally a practical necessity, and has come to be regarded as a luxury only now.

Advantages But High Cost Of Wall Construction

A different but very real advantage of this sort of substantial protection is becoming apparent as the pressure of city population impinges upon the countryside and trespassers upon private grounds grow bolder and more ruthless.

However, the extremely high cost of building masonry walls works against their restoration to the important place which they once held, and it is probable that other protective barriers will come into use as need for protection or desire for it grows.

The enclosing or protective type of garden wall has been omitted from gardens in America almost universally, and to come upon a real “wall garden” is now fairly unusual, outside of some really large estate. Perhaps it was the abundance of wood and the ease of preparing it for use which was responsible for railings and fences taking the place here of walls such as those common in England.

Apart from the need for protection, there are two occasions when a wall demands consideration as a feature in or adjacent to, the garden.

The most common of these results from the proximity of buildings on adjoining property. Walls of garages (especially) often abut on the garden of the small home and force themselves into the garden plan.

Other walls are required by changing levels, when it becomes necessary to hold back the earth to prevent soil erosion and control drainage on higher portions to lower areas.

Such retaining block walls are essential in irregular, hilly surroundings; and they have become a popular garden feature wherever grading can bring about even a slight change in ground levels, because they afford opportunity for the culture of unusual plants in their crannies.

Because stone is a natural material and takes its place easily and naturally in garden surroundings, it is always acceptable for garden walls, whatever the material of the dwelling and other buildings.

Brick is similar in this respect though it carries a suggestion of formality which stone – especially rough stone – does not. This makes brick especially appropriate to use in retaining walls near to or leading from the house – walls in the intimate portions of the garden – and also for small areas, where it carries the appropriate scale. There are even DIY “retaining Wall kits” making them easy to build.

Walls of stone may be laid either dry or with cement; brick walls of course require mortar. Dry walls afford great opportunity for landscaping on top of retaining walls and culture those special plants which delight to grow in crannies between stones.

Such plants (retaining wall plants) should be placed as the wall is being laid. Or seed may be sown in the crannies by mixing it into a ball of moistened earth or mud and thrusting this mud-ball back in the cranny, into the earth behind the stones.

There is no better way to unite a house with its garden and reconcile it with its site and surroundings, than to build a wall of the same material as a continuation of the house wall.

Retaining Wall Tools – The Building Materials

Brick, stone, stucco concrete or wood – each is capable of excellent effect. Especially good are the concrete cinder blocks in random shapes and sizes which are so generally employed in fine building. Some of the recently evolved fabricated materials give promise of excellent effects also.

The best solution of the vexing problem presented by a neighboring garage abutting on the garden will be found in accepting its wall as the beginning of an extended structure of similar material along at least that side of the garden.

Such a wall space broken by a niche holding a small image or a wall fountain, is a charming asset anywhere. And to take advantage of threatened liabilities of this kind which are forced upon the garden, and turn them into assets, is the very essence of good garden design in limited surroundings.

By observing the principles of proportion (which means both relative size of garden space and relative character of material for construction) and by giving thought to the surface texture or finish and to the color of the wall, and by such planting as shall enhance the value of these things without obscuring the structure, it is possible to immeasurably increase the beauty of a garden by putting a wall around it.

Details on: Building a Retaining Wall, What’s involved from Time, Money & Skills at MrHandyMan