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Retaining Walls: Best Place to Show off Easter Bulbs and Bloomers

IMG_8516Retaining walls serve a very practical purpose: They hold back earth. In some instances, retaining walls are needed to protect a home’s structural stability. For example, a retaining wall may be constructed to prevent mudslides; you may have seen this on our nation’s motorways.

Beyond these utilitarian engineering concerns, retaining walls also serve as an excellent place to showcase stunning plant specimens. Sometimes, homeowners install retaining walls mainly to create flat planting areas. Below is a look at why retaining walls are such superb planting locations, as well as tips for designing unique, eye-catching retaining walls to act as canvases for your favorite flora.

Trailing Plants: Let Beauty Cascade down Your Retaining Wall

Few sights are as cheerful as flowers cascading over the lip of a retaining wall. The vertical element of the wall creates the perfect stage for trailing plants, such as cascading petunias. Below are a few trailing species that make for especially beautiful retaining wall plantings. As you shop for trailing plants at your local nursery, be sure to check the sun and soil preferences for each species. Otherwise, your beautiful new retaining wall flowerbed could soon die and shrivel.

Aubrieta Deltoidea blooms profusely, so flowers appear to cover nearly every square inch of the plant. Typically, Aubrieta’s flowers are purple in tone. This plant will create a waterfall of brilliant color in the spring, a beautiful contrast for any retaining wall. Phlox, lobelia, and nasturtium are other lovely cascading flowers.

Trailing Rosemary, AKA Rosmarinus Officinalis, may not be the first cascading plant that comes to mind for retaining walls, but this herb is a superstar. It provides tasty flavor for your cooking all year long, while also repelling pests; many insects, including mosquitoes and flies, hate the smell of rosemary. In the winter and early spring, trailing rosemary produces white or pale blue flowers – a lovely sight in those dreary months. Finally, this is an excellent choice for dry soils, as it is highly drought resistant.

Sedum is a family of hardy, drought-tolerant ground covers that often features fleshy leaves and stems. There are many different varieties of sedums, so you can choose one that fits your own style. Sedum offers stunning year-round interest when trailing along retaining walls. To achieve the most visually pleasing effect, pair low-to-the-ground sedum with taller species for more vertical variety.

Spring Bulbs: Retaining Walls and Eye-Level Plantings

Retaining walls create an elevated planting area that’s ideal for spring blossoms. Indeed, retaining walls are often constructed so that bulbs including tulips and daffodils bloom at eye level. This orientation is perfect for passersby – they don’t even have to bend over to stop and smell the hyacinths or take a closer look at that unusual crocus.

As to the choice of bulbs for your retaining walls, the options are nearly endless. Perhaps a host of daffodils nodding gaily in the breeze could adorn the tops of your retaining walls. Or a mixture of snowdrops, tulips and ornamental alliums might be just the thing. Select bulbs that complement your home’s exterior. Again, the most effective design will offer several different vertical levels.

Tips for Creating Stunning Retaining Walls

Beyond plant selection, you can achieve a unique planting effect through the design of your retaining walls themselves.

Built-in flower pots. Leave a trough 8-12 inches deep in the top of a retaining wall, and use this as a planter. Alternatively, you can create circular built-in planters at the corners of your retaining walls.

Alternative shapes for retaining walls. Think about how you can create visual interest by incorporating unexpected shapes in your design. For instance, rather than strictly following the exact lines of your property, your retaining walls might curve. If your home is on a slope, a stair-step design will work well.

Include seating. Retaining walls may be extended to knee height to create a seating area. For instance, you can design retaining walls around your patio to double as benches.

Accentuate the corners. Add a touch of sophistication to your retaining walls by installing lighting, planters or other ornamentation at the corners of your retaining walls.

 

[ Photo by: Neeta Lind, via CC License ]

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