Ideas for garden retaining walls

A retaining wall can serve multiple purposes in your garden. Some are used purely to add a decorative element to the area while others serve a structural purpose by providing support to land that features a vertical slope or helping to combat erosion. If you are adding a retaining wall to your garden, several different types of materials are available that you can use to build the wall. To determine the best option, consider the style of your garden and the overall look that you want for your retaining wall.

Brick Masonry

For a formal-style garden retaining wall, few materials beat the look of brick. In most cases, however, the wall is actually made from blocks of concrete, and the brick is mortared to the front of the wall. In addition to presenting an attractive, traditional look, this type of retaining wall is usually the most durable as well. To give a brick masonry retaining wall a more decorative look, top it with a bluestone cap, which can be used for seating on the wall or to hold plants and other greenery.

Concrete Pavers

Concrete pavers are an ideal option if you want to give your garden retaining wall a decorative look. Pavers are available in many different textures and colours, so you can create a wall of all the same style pavers or combine pavers in different textures and colours for a more individualised look. In addition, the construction of a garden retaining wall made from concrete pavers is fairly easy because the pavers can simply be stacked on top of one another to create a platform of the necessary height. As a result, you may want to install your own paver retaining wall and save money on installation costs.


For a natural look, a garden retaining wall made from timber is an attractive choice. Many types of wood may be used, but two of the most common types used for retaining walls are treated pine and red gum. Timber retaining walls are usually supported by metal or sleeper uprights that hold the wood in place. However, while timber retaining walls have an attractive, natural look that complements the greenery of a garden, they are prone to moisture damage, rot and termite infestation. Sealing the timber can help, but to avoid these problems entirely, you may want to build a concrete block wall and use wood over the concrete for decorative purposes.

Dry Stone

Many types of natural stone can be used to create a durable and attractive mortar-less garden retaining wall. You may choose from granite, limestone, sandstone and other fieldstones. Dry stone retaining walls do not require mortar because the weight of the stones anchors the wall in place. When choosing stones for a retaining wall, examine the overall size of the wall. In general, a shorter wall looks best when made from smaller stones. To give the wall a more decorative look, add large boulders to each end or spread them throughout the wall to provide visual interest.

Wet Stone

Garden retaining walls made from wet stone are similar to those made from dry except that mortar is used to the hold the stones together. This type of retaining wall is usually the most expensive but is sturdier than dry stone walls. In addition, wet stone retaining walls are a better choice if you need to hold back a great deal of soil in your garden.

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About the Author

Based in New York City, Jennifer Blair has been covering all things home and garden since 2001. Her writing has appeared on, World Lifestyle, and House Logic. Blair holds a Bachelor of Arts in Writing Seminars from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.