Raised beds and Retaining walls

These raised beds in Norfolk take the backache out of gardening, raise our client’s plants closer to eye level and bring them closer to the senses of touch and smell. They present an opportunity to create new shapes and textures with hard landscaping in gardens, like the smooth Mediterranean style rendered walls seen here.

The rounded shapes (formed here from civil engineering pre-cast chamber rings), are clad in a warm coloured render and make a big impact on the shape of this large courtyard style space to the side of our client’s house. The recessed bays between the rounded wall sections are more intimate spaces than offered by the original area.

Raised walls quickly build distinct areas within a garden, perfect for urban living where space is often a commodity. They integrate well with other hard landscaped features, such as timber decks and patios. As seen in the illustration above they build partitions and allow for the garden to be built in tiers.

Retaining walls are an essential garden feature if you live on a sloping site, but they can be built so that they offer more to the garden than just performing a functional role. In this garden in Yarmouth we used recycled Australian Jarra hardwood sleepers to create two distinct flat levels where before there was an unusable slope.

With many species of plants, too many to name in full, their variety and complexity is staggering. Rhododendrons, Hydrangeas Polystychiums and Acers, not to mention countless other shrubs, grasses and trees.

These retaining walls of naturally fitted stone form part of an extensive rockery and make for a prominent feature within this garden. Each rock is carefully selected in order to find an accurate match; the result is a wall that looks as though it is a natural feature of the landscape.

The raised beds shown in the illustration above depict how an increase in elevation can alter the surrounding space immeasurably. They provide extra room for the bedding of plants and also act as walls to train plants against.

The curve of the wall brings a strong flowing shape to the garden and made the lower level wider so that a large lawn area could be made for the children of the house to play on. Although technically challenging to build, the curves of the wall created such a strong impact on the look of the garden in our clients design drawings that they felt it worth the extra work, and were extremely happy with the finished garden.

Retaining walls were essential to this large garden where the slope of the ground made it impossible to maintain it. There are tall trees to the south of it which meant that grass would not grow well in the garden, so the soil was left open to weed seeds and tree saplings. Only by flattening out the gradient could we lay a weed suppressant membrane and gravel mulch.

As the wall needed to be positioned close to the house we realised it would have a strong visual impact on the views from it, so we decided to make its shape as dynamic as possible. One side of the wall has an S shaped curve and the other a C shape and the both converge on a spiral style set of steps in the centre. The shapes of the wall act as a springboard for the other curves of the patio and paths in the garden, and its smooth rendered finish accentuates the dappled shadows from the trees and surrounding planting, whilst it’s reinforced concrete blocks make an extremely solid retaining structure.

Further to our clients request, we decorated the retaining wall with a coat of red paint. Adding a splash of colour to a very stylish and modern looking garden.

Seen here, the addition of a retaining wall can provide the opportunity to offer a barrier that allows for an immediate transformation between the various areas of a garden. The slate and sandstone mulch contrast yet compliment each other.

Retaining walls can be formed from many different materials, the most natural of these is rockery stone where the forms of the individual rocks are fitted together in an artistic way to mimic nature and yet conform to the contrived shape required to fit with the garden design. The simple sweeping curve above in Norwich softens the impact of an imposing house by raising up the plants around it and bringing a natural material to offset its red brick frontage.

In this Suffolk garden above we built a valley with retaining walls of stone on each side. In the woodland setting here ferns set their spores into the stones and moss grows on them too, spreading naturally and making a wild garden in miniature. These are living walls that retain about 1.5m of soil at their highest and create a cool, damp atmosphere all of their own.

This tightly curving retaining wall wraps around a small circular sandstone patio and would have been difficult to achieve in a material other than rockery stone. The wall actually forms an S bend beginning some distance away from the patio and forms a serpentine division between 2 different levels in the garden.