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Announcing Our New Design Guide to Retaining Walls

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Announcing Our New Design Guide to Retaining Walls

July 6, 2018

Retaining walls are the unsung heroes in many a landscape. On a slope, they prevent erosion, control rainwater runoff, and create terraced levels for patios and garden beds. In an ideal world, retaining walls do their jobs quietly, focusing attention on the plants and other hardscape elements they support with their quiet strength.

Gabion walls, pony walls, and check dams are all retaining walls, each designed to make a specific landscaping problem disappear; well-designed retaining walls will last for decades.

Does your hardscaping project require retaining walls? And if so, what is the right design and material to use in your garden? Use our brand-new guide to Retaining Walls for inspiration and tips on everything from materials—from poured-in-place concrete to stone, metal, or pressure treated wood—to designs to complement your landscape.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll find in our new Retaining Walls 101 field guide.

Pony Walls

A granite pony wall creates seating for guests at landscape architect Matthew Cunningham’s Maine garden. Photograph by Matthew Cunningham. For more, see Landscape Architect Visit: Clamshell Alley on the Coast of Maine.
Above: A granite pony wall creates seating for guests at landscape architect Matthew Cunningham’s Maine garden. Photograph by Matthew Cunningham. For more, see Landscape Architect Visit: Clamshell Alley on the Coast of Maine.

Pony walls are low barriers you can see over in a garden (a term that goes back to the days when you needed a wall high enough to keep livestock out of the garden without blocking the view).

As low retaining walls, built-in seating, and backdrops to plants, pony walls are useful features today (even in gardens without livestock). See more in Hardscaping 101: Pony Walls.

Gabion Walls

“Using regional materials ties a new space into the culture of a place,” says landscape architect Christine Ten Eyck. She transformed an abandoned parking lot into the Capri Lounge, a community gathering space for the Thunderbird Hotel in Marfa, Texas. Photograph by David Lake.
Above: “Using regional materials ties a new space into the culture of a place,” says landscape architect Christine Ten Eyck. She transformed an abandoned parking lot into the Capri Lounge, a community gathering space for the Thunderbird Hotel in Marfa, Texas. Photograph by David Lake.

“Derived from an old Italian word, gabbione, meaning ‘big cage,’ gabions are enclosures that can be filled with any sort of inorganic material: rock, brick, or concrete debris,” writes Janet. “The cages were originally wicker, but now are usually a welded mesh made of sturdy galvanized, coated, or stainless steel wire that won’t bend when filled with rocks.”

See more at Hardscaping 101: Gabion Walls.

Poured Concrete Walls

Specht Harpman Architects (now Specht Architects) won a  Gardenista Design Award for a landscape created in collaboration with Gunn Landscape Architecture. See more in Best Architectural Garden Feature.
Above: Specht Harpman Architects (now Specht Architects) won a 2013 Gardenista Design Award for a landscape created in collaboration with Gunn Landscape Architecture. See more in Best Architectural Garden Feature.

See more at Hardscaping 101: Poured-In-Place Concrete.

Dry Stone Walls

See more of this landscape at Homestead Act: A Family Trades City Life for a Farm on Martha’s Vineyard. Photograph by Matthew Williams.
Above: See more of this landscape at Homestead Act: A Family Trades City Life for a Farm on Martha’s Vineyard. Photograph by Matthew Williams.

“Dry stone walls have been created for thousands of years and, if done well, will look as if they have been in place for at least that long,” writes our contributor Clare Coulson. See more in Hardscaping 101: Dry Stone Walls.

Cor-ten Steel Walls

See more in Landscaping Ideas: 8 Surprising Ways to Use Cor-ten Steel in a Garden.
Above: See more in Landscaping Ideas: 8 Surprising Ways to Use Cor-ten Steel in a Garden.

“What sets Cor-ten apart from regular steel—and one of its biggest benefits in the garden—is that it becomes harder and stronger when exposed to weather over time,” writes Meredith.

Retaining Walls: A Primer

See more of this garden at Architect Visit: The Medieval Mist and Mystery of Big Sur. Photograph by Joe Fletcher, courtesy of Fougeron Architecture.
Above: See more of this garden at Architect Visit: The Medieval Mist and Mystery of Big Sur. Photograph by Joe Fletcher, courtesy of Fougeron Architecture.

Do you have more design questions about retaining walls? Start with our primer, Hardscaping 101: Retaining Walls.

See more inspiration and ideas (and materials) in our new guide to Retaining Walls: A Field Guide to Design. Read more about hardscape design elements in our curated guides to Hardscape 101, including Driveways, Fences & Gates, and Decks & Patios.

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