Landscape retaining walls are used on sloped properties for a few different reasons. However...it is often better to re-grade if possible. This will save you lots of money! This is not always possible or desirable though, but I just wanted to bring out the fact that it should be considered.
Different materials can be for walls, some more expensive than others. The height and length of the wall, along with the materials used, will determine the cost. Some materials to consider are decorative block, brick, and natural stone (my favorite).
Sometimes a combination of re-grading and walls works well too. This will reduce the height of the walls and also the cost.
Natural stone landscape walls are just one type...expensive but beautiful.
There are various situations where a retaining wall might be a good idea in your landscape design. Most of the time this would be to create a level area.
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In this design, large boulders are set into a wonderful stone wall. The stones have variation in color, which provides even more excitement. This wall is dry laid for a natural look. Plants and flowers serve to soften the stone wall. Differing plant heights are used also, but the wall is still able to be clearly seen.
Slopes should be kept to a maximum of 3:1 (33%). What does this mean?
It means that for every 3 feet of distance, the change in height should be no more than 1 feet.
Example: The difference in elevation for a property area that is 30 feet long should not be more than 10 feet...maximum.
This will help you determine if walls are needed and how many. You can do design one taller wall for one large area, or you can incorporate a few lower walls and have the areas divided into sections between the various walls.
Landscape retaining walls should be no more than 4 feet tall, in most cases.
You can read more about the heights of retaining walls.
Planted Wall Areas
Be sure to leave an adequate amount of room next to landscape retaining walls if you are planting at the bottom (or top) of the wall. The absolute minimum depth I use is 18". This would be for terraced areas or planting beds along a patio wall.
Always keep safety in mind when incorporating landscape retaining walls. A child or adult can fall over the wall. To eliminate the need for fencing at the top of a taller wall, create a planting bed at a minimum of 3 to 4 feet wide. Use fairly tall and wide evergreen shrubs, such as Blue Holly, Rhododendron, Boxwood, Cherry Laurel, or the larger varieties of Japanese Holly.
There are many different materials that landscape retaining walls can be made out of.
For a finished look, a bluestone cap (top of the wall) can be used with any of these materials. It should have between a 1/2" and 1" overhang on all sides. If there are to be plants at the top of the wall, you may choose some plants that will hang over the wall, such as Ivy or some types of Junipers. In this case, you can eliminate the wall cap.
"Susan, what a pleasure it was to work with you. You made me feel like I was your only client - responding late at night and always so quickly! Your design is amazing and we only hope we can do justice to it when we plant. You have such fantastic ideas and you are so open to suggestions and changes. Loved working with you - now if you could only come to Canada and plant it!!!"
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