Retaining walls have both practical and design-related purposes in gardens. In sloping spaces, they play an important role in helping prevent soil erosion, and they can help make the space more functional. They're also perfect for use as a design element—there are many ways retaining walls can add interest and cohesion to a landscape.
Depending on your retaining wall's material, height, and size, calling in the pros to help with the job could be a smart move—especially if you are incorporating it to help prevent erosion. Plus, you may also need to obtain a permit from your local government agency for walls above a certain height and specification.
Here are 22 garden retaining wall ideas to offer some inspiration.
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Timber Retaining Walls
While stone or concrete are the most common construction materials for retaining walls, sometimes, as is the case in this example from Supreme Green Landscaping, they can be constructed from timber.
It's worth noting that timber walls will likely need replacing sooner than more durable stone varieties.Continue to 3 of 22 below.
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You don't need to use any mortar when building dry-stack retaining walls. As well as adding less uniform visual interest, it also makes them naturally draining, and they are one of the easiest types to DIY build.Continue to 4 of 22 below.
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Home Entry Retaining Walls
The stone retaining walls used in this garden have created terraced interest leading from the pool to the modern home's entry.Continue to 5 of 22 below.
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Cottage-Style Garden Walls
It's common to use retaining walls to add texture and character in informal cottage-style gardens. Let the moss grow over the rustic stonework or create a living wall with hardy flowers growing from the cracks. Flower beds often sprawl over the edge of the walls in a riot of color. Here they complement the beautiful pink flowering magnolia tree.Continue to 6 of 22 below.
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Retaining Walls in Xeriscaping
Xeriscaping is a way to landscape a garden in regions that practice water conservation or are prone to drought. You will typically avoid or minimize lawns and use a variety of drought-tolerant plants. The walls create additional interest in a simple design.Continue to 7 of 22 below.
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Sunken Patio with Retaining Walls
This sunken patio is surrounded by natural stone retaining walls to create a lush, hidden country garden feel. Once you've got the retaining wall in, you can even DIY a firepit.Continue to 8 of 22 below.
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If you have a large sloping garden, using tiered retaining walls to create multiple terraces can add interest and help to prevent erosion. This clever design has walls that also act as raised beds to add interest, make good use of the space, and keep the garden relatively low-maintenance. They have used shrubs and hedges smartly to differentiate between the spaces.
When a garden has multiple tiers, think carefully about the plants you choose and where you plant them. Position the taller plants at the back and be aware that the higher levels typically dry quicker. Placing moisture-loving plants in the lower terraces will be better.Continue to 9 of 22 below.
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Terraced Flower Beds Soften the Pool Landscape
The natural stone steps and terraced retaining walls with a variety of flowers and shrubs soften the landscape around this beautiful pool.Continue to 10 of 22 below.
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Ornamental Grasses Take Centre Stage
These wide retaining walls are home to beautiful shrubs, flowers, and dramatic ornamental grasses for year-round interest and differing heights.Continue to 11 of 22 below.
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Cohesive and Functional
Integrating the retaining wall into the stair design leading to the house front door combines the functional and design elements well and gives a focus to the garden with the bright raised flower beds.Continue to 12 of 22 below.
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Dramatic Terraced Retaining Walls
This elevated house has a very steep, sloping garden with limited horizontal space. The multi-terraced space uses retaining walls and a mix of shrubs and flowers to create a dramatic but functional space.Continue to 13 of 22 below.
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Create Cohesion With Other Garden Elements
The stonework on the retaining walls is purposefully matching that used to build the impressive pizza oven and firepit in this garden, giving it a cohesive appearance. The wall will also help retain the fire's heat, creating a cozier space for outdoor dining and socializing.Continue to 14 of 22 below.
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Integrating Existing Landscape Elements
This architecturally designed house and its surrounding outside space fit around the old, large gum tree already in the landscape. The retaining walls will prevent soil erosion and offer a degree of privacy to the rooms on the house's lower floor.Continue to 15 of 22 below.
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Style That Matches The House Design
The gray retaining wall built at the front of this grand, imposing house match the paintwork and accommodate some neat shrubs to soften the hard lines around the property's entry and create a buffer between the sidewalk and the home.Continue to 16 of 22 below.
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This curved retaining wall adds elegance and structure to a large, uniform landscape. Keeping the wall low and simple draws attention to the large Saguaro Cacti that feature in this drought-resistant design.Continue to 17 of 22 below.
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Creating a Vegetable Garden
This large vegetable plot has a low retaining wall around its entire perimeter to create a large raised bed. This allows greater control of soil, more veggies in one space, and better drainage.Continue to 18 of 22 below.
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Integrated Water Features
This sloping garden has cleverly integrated a pretty cascading waterfall and pond as part of the retaining wall design. This leads into a functional patio area for dining, and it matches the stone shades for a cohesive look. Integrating an elaborate water feature like this might require the help of professionals.Continue to 19 of 22 below.
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Poolside Walls for Shade and Privacy
The white retaining walls used around this pool create a feeling of privacy, offer shelter from the wind and sun, and make the surrounding landscape more visually appealing by providing an accent. It is the perfect way to make use of the sloped space descending to a pool.
Ensure any plants you use in the beds above the retaining walls are suitable for use around your pool. You don't want anything messy that will leave lots of debris in your pool. Plus, they should be ones that can cope with the climate and humidity levels.Continue to 20 of 22 below.
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Retaining Wall Around a Pond
If you want your garden pond to be a particularly eye-catching feature, you could build a retaining wall around it. It can also be helpful for safety and to prevent the sides of the pond from eroding.
If you are building the pond wall yourself, be aware that loose, natural stones are difficult to stack, and the wall shouldn't be too high as this can also be tricky to build and make pond maintenance more of a challenge.Continue to 21 of 22 below.
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This is another example of multi-height retaining walls being used to create interest and soften the landscape around a pool. Here the low-maintenance beds are filled with ornamental grasses of differing heights.Continue to 22 of 22 below.
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The intricate, mixed color stonework is an eye-catching feature in this classic multi-tiered garden. The shrubs, roses, and other flowers used all fit in with this traditional style and let the showy stonework shine through.