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Hot Gardens Newsletter: Retaining Beauty

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retaining wall with agaves, crape myrtle

This low retaining wall has been faced with brick and the area behind it filled with drought-tolerant plants which can survive some neglect.

 In the photo, above, silvery green Helichrysum cascades over the edge.  Gigantic agaves and large Flax (Phormium) add drama.  In summer the Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) trees provide shade and white flowers to this predominantly gray-green narrow landscape at the side of a building.  All the plants need little water and they visually break up the building's blank gray wall with big and bold combined with light and delicate. 

Retaining walls
-- whether they are made of poured concrete, concrete blocks, or stacked railroad ties--are often the most unloved features in a landscape. 

The job of these one-sided walls is to hold the earth back and keep it from crumbling or crashing into a walk, a driveway, a street, or a backyard. 

Because these walls are often low, they are frequently left plain or simply have a coat of paint slapped on them.  So here are a few ideas of how plants can turn a utilitarian feature into a beautiful asset in your garden.

retaining wall with creeping fig and grass

This photo shows a good way to layer plants. On this 4 foot high retaining wall at the front of a lawn, the owners have planted Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila) to grow up the wall.  Creeping fig should face away from direct hot sunlight and needs regular pruning.  Other climbing plants could also be used this way.

Spilling over the top of the wall is brighter green ornamental grass and, behind that on top, a low growing hedge of English Boxwood (Buxus microphylla) which encloses a traditional lawn. In desert climates Korean Boxwood is a better choice.

Grasses on top of retaining walls give a waterfall effect, especially in summer when they cascade over the edge of the wall.  

retaining wall with deer grass

Another example of the cascading effect of grasses--this time Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia) drifting down over a low river rock retaining wall at the edge of a driveway.  Deer Grass is very drought tolerant and easy care.

retaining wall with pittosporum and hawthorne

This neat and tidy double hedge on the top of a stuccoed retaining wall combines a taller drought-tolerant Pittosporum hedge in back and Indian Hawthorne (Rhaphiolepis indica) as the lower hedge in front.  In spring the Indian Hawthorne is densely covered with bright pink blooms.

retaining wall with kangaroo paw flowers

While this drought-tolerant, red Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthus) is in essentially a raised flower bed, consider it an inspiration for the top of your retaining wall.  It is a simple planting, colorful for months on end in summer and very drought tolerant.  Kangaroo Paw makes a good cut flower for your home and will rebloom into Fall if you cut the stems down to the base.

For 6 other suggestions for garden walls,
go here.


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More gardening news for you
Crepe myrtle statice and iris clematis in bloom
For a burst of summer color
count on the Crape Myrtle. 
Other trees are here.
Discover how to replace a
water-guzzling lawn with
drought tolerant perennials.
Clematis is just one of
many beautiful vines that
thrive in hot climates.

Already retired? Still need more income?
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Our 8 Most Popular Hot Gardens Newsletters: 

Mixed lantana Flowering plants that reliably bloom in scorching mid-summer heat. Australian acacia shrub. Australian plants and trees that grow well in hot, dry climates
Mediterranean fan palm Weather-proofing palms for winter; cold weather palm trees. White roses for night garden A white garden for night time viewing.
Trimmed myrtle and boxwood Topiary can be easy to create and add charm to your garden. Geranium in pot on patio Techniques to combat death by heat exhaustion of plants in pots.
Octopus cactus Cactus as security barriers for your property. Aloe in bloom South African aloes for brilliant late winter color in your garden.


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