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Landscaping and Retaining Walls


Whether your current landscape “design” is planned and intentional, or random and unintentional, there are a number of things you need to think about when it comes time to upgrade your landscaping.

In an ideal world you want to avoid a collection of randomly chosen and haphazardly placed plants, plants that are too wide, grow too tall or too small, shed their leaves into your pool or shade all your sun from your entertainment areas. Or maybe they’ll need constant pruning or pest treatments or they’ll attract animals you don’t want or they simply get in the way.

Here are some guidelines or helpful hints that you can take into account in your landscaping:

  1. Aim for unity, simplicity and balance in your landscaping plans and decisions. Use this as your overall guiding rule.
  2. Understand the purpose of each segment of your landscape design plan. If you are working on an area that requires some degree of privacy then you want landscaping components that will achieve that.
  3. Make your focal points stand out, but not “stick out”. They need to be connected and part of the overall landscape, but still a main feature.
  4. Stay informal and flexible if you can. Overly formal gardens can create all sorts of maintenance problems in the future and can progressively become more and more costly to maintain.
  5. Use your landscaping to enhance your house, not hide it. Mould the two components together for best effect. Don’t design your garden and landscaping in isolation.
  6. Plan for an all-year-round garden, not one that is barren and uninviting for 6 months of the year. Choice of plants, location etc. all come into play here.
  7. Understand your garden’s “growth timeframe” and ultimate size. Balance your plants so that they not only look good when they are planted but will still be in balance with those around them in 1, 2 or 5 years.
  8. Be prepared to start or restart from a blank canvas by removing overgrown and inappropriate vegetation, fencing, paths etc.
  9. “Curb your Curves” by not going overboard with too many curves. They can get in the way and complicate the garden unnecessarily. They have a definite place, but maybe not the dominant role. However the choice is a personal one.
  10. Add components that bend gently with the breeze and create added interest through their movement, rather than maintaining too much rigidity.
  11. Plan for any necessary equipment access, whether that’s the lawn mower, a wheelbarrow, a trailer or painting trestles … allow space for them to get through.


If you need to hold the earth back then you’ll need a good retaining wall. Timber posts, concrete, blocks or some other construction. Engineered or “out-of-the-book” retaining walls for all purposes.

According to Wikipedia, “Retaining walls are built in order to hold back ground which would otherwise potentially move downwards. Their purpose is to stabilise slopes and provide useful areas at different elevations.”

Seems simple enough. Stack some stone, block, or timber up and that’s it … done.

But in fact, retaining walls are carefully engineered systems that have to be involved in an everyday battle with gravity. Why? Because they can end up restraining tons of saturated soil that would otherwise slide away and potentially damage the surrounding landscape.

Even small retaining walls have to contain enormous loads, and even though they are simple structures, a casual check around your neighbourhood will probably reveal lots of existing retaining walls that are bulging, cracked, or leaning in the wrong direction. Some will have already fallen over.

The secret is in the foundation, or the depth and angle of the piles, and often you are better to create two smaller walls on two terraces, rather than one large one, as the amount of weight a wall has to hold back increases geometrically as the height increases. Adequate drainage behind the wall is essential as well.

Common materials include timber, interlocking block, stone or brick, poured concrete or block walls.

They are simple to get right if you know what you are doing, and follow some basic engineering rules. But they do come with a very precise set of construction rules and requirements, and even a small retaining wall could need Building Consent!

So, give us a call and let us handle your retaining wall requirements.

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