A retaining garden wall is a special kind of retaining wall that is specifically dedicated to garden design. Some of these walls are used to actually contain gardens.
Others are built inside the gardens themselves in order to create multiple levels of vegetation. This can add vertical impact to your garden, or it can be used to transform a sloped area in your yard from an eyesore into a premier spot of special interest.
In most traditional and Old World style landscapes, they are usually built out of some form of stone or brick. On contemporary landscapes, many are built out of concrete so as to support the highly eclectic and inorganic characteristics of contemporary garden design.
Because these walls vary in size, there are many places on the landscape where they can be constructed. In many instances, they are built near significant hardscapes in order to bring vertical impact and organic presence right up to the edge of a structure, gathering area, or zone of special interest.
One of these places is near a patio. A swimming pool patio, for example, looks much better when a retaining garden wall is built adjacent to its perimeter. A short stairway can be built that descends past the wall to create drama and interest.
Guests seated around the pool can look up at lighted gardens and feel a closer connection to nature—even though they are gathered around one of the most elaborate manmade structures in the yard.
Another patio design that often features one or more retaining garden walls is an outdoor fireplace. Here, guests are seated around an outdoor flu and chimney on a custom hardscape that is often removed from the main activities of the yard.
These patios are seldom flat to the ground, but rather feature multiple levels. Unlike swimming pool patios, which cannot have vegetation too close to chlorinated water and diving areas, outdoor fireplace patios give us far more opportunities for garden design.
Rather than building the patio with four angular corners, we can actually vary its elevation and build retaining walls within which we add softscape elements. This gives the outdoor fireplace the feeling of a courtyard, and superbly contributes a vibrant sense of life and vitality to the fine masonry and warm glow of the firelight.
Entry gardens are another favored place to build these walls. Here, they can be used to gradually focus attention toward a custom fountain that is illuminated with underwater lights. By building two walls that curve toward the fountain, we can direct the eyes of the viewer along the fine brick masonry of the walls to the climatic finale of the water bubbling up from a mysterious, illuminated source.
As grand as such structures are, smaller retaining garden walls can also play a very significant role on the landscape. Walkways are often the hardscape arteries of many landscape master plans because they connect motor courts, swimming pool patios, morning gardens, formal gardens, and entryways to the house itself.
In places where these walkways twist and turn beneath trees and pass through special zones of interest, a retaining garden wall adds aesthetic to the scene, and it can introduce any key point of interest such as a natural swimming, an outdoor kitchen, or a lighted seating area beneath a pergola or a wrought iron arbor.