The retaining wall is a marvel of landscape engineering. It transforms hilly, unusable dirt into lush, clean planters, flattening slopes into areas for lawns and patios. Whether the wall is made of interlocking stones or stamped concrete, it becomes an essential piece of your home.
These walls can also have secondary uses. In addition to holding back slopes and increasing yard drainage, consider adding these four features to provide more usable garden space.
1. Actual Benches
A common feature of retaining walls is a low, wide edge that doubles as a bench. These are wonderful additions, but they can quickly become dirty from soil that the wind blows out of the adjacent bed. Also, if you're working on the plants in that bed, soil can edge its way up and out onto the bench section.
If you have a rather tall retaining wall, add an actual bench in front of the wall. This doesn't have to be a separate structure; you can build a bench into the wall, with the rest of the wall acting as the bench's back, as if it were a very large step contained in the structure.
This not only gives people a place to sit, but a place that lets them fully relax. After all, you can't lean back on a simple ledge because you'd end up lying down, crushing the plants and ending up in the dirt.
2. Vertical Planter Spaces
Why have a plain wall? Add some vertical planter spaces so you can have more plants. These would be great for small bunches of flowers, easy-to-replace annuals, or even an herb garden. You would conserve horizontal space while expanding what your garden could produce.
Vertical planters can be built-in divots with soil and drainage in stone walls, or you can install systems that allow you to attach the planters in varying patterns to the flat outer surface of a wall. If you like variety, that second option may be best because you can add or remove planters as needed. But don't discount adding plants to the crevices between stones in that style of wall -- they'll not only make the wall look less barren, but they'll also help a bit with erosion control.
Add small LED lights to the wall to light up an adjacent pathway. You can get relatively flat lights that won't intrude on any pathways and that won't interfere with anyone leaning against the wall. You may want to have these lights on separate controls from your regular outdoor lights; for example, you might have most of your lights controlled by a switch on one circuit, but these wall lights could be motion-activated.
Chances are that you're not going to be able to plant a very big, shady tree on top of that wall; the large roots and weight of the tree would cause damage rather quickly. But you can add supports for a lightweight awning that would provide shade for people walking past or sitting on the wall.
This option takes planning - you want the awning to cover certain areas during the neat of the day, but you also don't want to block the sun from those plants that might want it. In other words, if you add an awning to the edge of a retaining wall, that awning could prevent plants on the other side of the walkway from getting any sun during the afternoon as the awning's shadow extends across the path. Plan carefully so your entire garden can thrive.
If you're interested in seeing what you can do with a retaining wall in your landscape, contact J&L Landscaping. You have plenty of hardscaping options that will be both useful and beautiful.