Ground Zero

H&G‘s gardens editor Heidi Bertish gets the lowdown on clever retaining solutions when dealing with level changes in the landscape.

1. Steel (Above)

Eduard Smit, lead designer at Heimo Schulzer Gardens, explains that by using custom-made galvanised steel one can easily create usable flat areas instead of the garden being taken up with unusable sloped embankments. Retaining structures like these ‘steps’ are simple to install when under a metre tall, and the foundation, if needed at all, can be relatively shallow as the weight of the soil they retain is minimal. The beauty of this type of retaining is that it provides a cost-effective and manicured solution to changing levels, especially if space is tight.

2. Stone

Gabion walls adequately hold the weight of soil behind them as well as allow flow from run-off and possible ground water. When filled with recycled rubble, and faced with one’s stone of choice, they can become a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly option. Here, a fan-shaped twist on the more traditional, upright wall solution provides a sculptural quality to the landscape. Meadow-style planting is a balancing counterpoint to the hardness of the stone.

3. Rock

The naturalistic treatment of strategically positioned granite boulders can help avoid obstacles of water drainage and reinforcement one would encounter if building a traditional wall higher than one metre. Aesthetically, it offers a more natural looking solution too, and works well with soil-stabilising plants such as Plectranthus neochilus, Carex sp., Delosperma cooperi and Carpobrotus edulis.

4. Grass

On a sloping site like this one would ‘cut’ level areas into the slope using a compact loader and then craft the precise result you desire with spade hand work. Here, a traditional ground covering of well-maintained lawn provides an ultra-chic solution to changes in gradient. While this solution sidesteps issues such as water obstruction, best results would be achieved by installing lawn drainage on the level areas. This immaculate result is dependent on precision and workmanship.

Photography MMGI/Marianne Majerus