Of the multitude of ways I have used boulders and rocks in designing and installing landscapes, there are few which rival wall-building for match-up and congruency problems. But making walls is so utterly satisfying for lovers of grade-changing and earth-moving, they are always nearly worth it. There is something totally satisfying in making a severe slope a more tamed edifice.
Walls in a landscape can be used for a variety of purposes. Naturally, they deal well indeed with changes in grade, offering terracing options which allow plantings to obscure much of their actual composition. In fact, in so many cases, we end up with a great blend of some softening plants cascading down the walls and providing a contrasting “soft” element to the hard surfaces of the walls themselves.
A landscape wall such as the one pictured above we used to provide just such a terrace. The level of the house foundation is obvious, to the right, and was more than 5 feet higher. Inasmuch as the property line was along the tree line to the left, and all homes are responsible for containing and driving any water collected on site to the street, we needed a landscaping solution that would allow us to address all these issues.
Below, we have an alternative material – one of many in wall building – in this case railroad ties. This was another situation where there was a very obvious grade change, much too steep in fact for a mere tightly-planted slope. Fortunately, we were called in early in the game, even before the building’s foundations were set, so we were able to build here with machinery, for the most part. Believe me when I say we were thankful for that. The fact is, we used over 7,000 ties on this project. The wall goes for quite a distance, well over a quarter mile.
Another, and an increasingly more popular choice in wall construction are the prefabricated, pre-engineered cement wall blocks. Their versatility is quite amazing. And their durability is equally amazing. These little workmen wall blocks provide some serious stability in some awfully impossible spots. Their segmented nature allows them to bend a bit, making them arguably superior to poured cement and all the problems implicit in monolithic pieces. And, for my money, they are prettier:
I have always loved working with wall-building. It is just so earth-moving and earth-changing somehow. To me, it a hugely satisfying structural element in landscaping. It also provides marvelous opportunities for all sorts of tricky stuff, from recessing a “grotto” into the earth in the middle of no where, to raising a patch of land to new dimensions, just to say you did.