Should I remove this retaining wall curve?

whaas_5a(5A SE WI)February 26, 2012

Thoughts as to whether I should remove this curve? After putting it in it appears awkward.

I can keep it as is and put a slower grower conifer that will creep over it and cover it to a point or I can remove it and fine tune the grading there.

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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Are you talking about the curve in the grass - or the shorter section of brick? I'd remove them both! Taking out the curve in the grass would make the bed line flow better - and give you more room for plants :-) Is the wall section serving a purpose? (Keeping mulch from washing onto the patio perhaps...?) If so, I'd fix the grading rather than keep the wall.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 12:04PM
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Does the retaining wall serve a purpose?

I think one of the reasons it looks out of place is because it's the only straight line in the photo. I'm assuming it follows the concrete line. I think even if you remove the wall, that area may still look strange.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 12:40PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I think the reason it looks awkward is that it doesn't follow the topography. The short section follows the slope down rather than going across it. What a wall with a purpose would do at that point is (from the post/end of the straight section or slightly after it) turn right rather than continue to the left.

This would enable you to make a path across the bed at that point with contiguous paving. You've got those stepping stones through beds at another point too, and I think what I don't like about them is, they contribute nothing in terms of line. They look temporary, ad hoc, afterthought, kind of "oops, I forgot I'd be waking across here." Plus they look too small and far apart to walk on easily.

Karin L

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 1:02PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

It's the curve in the concrete that's the problem. It's part of a rectilinear construction, is obviously artificial, but doesn't relate to anything else. It is particularly at war with the support structure for the deck. The wall just emphasizes the problem.

And I agree with Woody about the bed lines.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 1:03PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Hey Woody,

I meant the small section of brick. The bedline will change as shown below...exactly like you suggest! So your vote is to move the small section?


To remove the wall and change the grade isn't feasible as it stretches across and it would impact the siding at the house, I guess trust me on this one.
Can you elaborate on what you mean by "even if you remove the wall (the small section or all of it?) the area would still look strange"? Its one static view and doesn't have any plants not sure if that has anything to do with it. Sometimes you work with what you have, including budget.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 1:06PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

I'm not sure what to tell you. The stones are planned as to where I would naturally walk. Not set back further to the right so you're walking more up hill right away. If you said you didn't like the look of the stones I can buy that (I plan to replace them, because they are ugly!lol!...thats what a buck a stone gets you). Can you please elaborate what you mean by "in terms of line"? Perhaps help me a bit with the placement. Should they go straight out?

Ok, now what? Help me out here buddy!

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 1:22PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Not sure if these additional pics will help or not.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 1:39PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Good Lord! You do love curves, don't you?! That patio has an awful line to deal with :-) The rectangle on the drawing was better! I'd be inclined to straighten the line out again on the outer edge - probably by using stones.

Your modified bed edge with the green line is better. I agree with Karin re the stepping stones needing to be replaced with a path that connects to the rest of the lines. In my garden I'd use a bark mulch/sharp sand combo but some form of paving could work. First, I'd make the bed edge across the grass match the one you've drawn in green - start by measuring a constant distance across. Then I'd make a path from the patio to the grass sort of like this:

That's starting to look less 'agitated' and flows better to me - now you need to deal with that 'burp' in the bed line on the right, near that circle... :-)

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 1:55PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

The wall appears not to have been thought out before being built. The straight wall butts into the post, then the lower curved section appears to be an afterthought. The change in height and shape emphasize the "tacked on" look. I would remove it and re-grade the dirt away from the post.

Your ultra curvy beds could make one seasick, glad to see you are smoothing them out a bit.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 1:55PM
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The pictures do help. I was envisioning the concrete looking like the free throw area in a basketball court where the sides are straight and then a curve is at the end. That's why I thought it might look strange no matter what you did.

Although the short wall looks odd, based on the last photo, it appears to serve a purpose.

Do you have any left over blocks? Maybe you could see if adding one or two near the post would improve it. My current idea is that the step down right at the post is causing it to look jarring. So if you were to continue the second level for a block or block and half before stepping it down, it may moderate it.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 2:05PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

The builder didn't give me much to work with. If I had a bigger budget or was involved with the actual grading to begin with it probably would have been done differently. I was actually going to dig in further but then I'd have to have the siding redone and the cost started escalating. With that said, for what I have to work with it sounds like the curved section of wall should be blown away.

As usual, I appreciate the visual. It so difficult to interpret a written statement without a visual. The path in line with the patio line makes sense now.

What is a bark mulch/sharp sand combo? Is it literally sand and mulch? How would that work by making a patch like that next to bark mulch that is there now?

The burp is going away. Its temporary for now. It will end up swooping out to mimic the opposing bedline.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 2:29PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Good suggestion. I'll try that before completing removing it. Although I like where Woody and Karin are going with the path line. What do you think about that? I don't intend to point out who is right or wrong, I'd just like to keep the dialogue going.

As always I greatly appreciate the help.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 2:38PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Yes, the mulch/sand path is literally 2/3 fine pine bark mulch and 1/3 concrete sand, mixed together. The combination looks natural in the garden and packs down nicely. (If you click on the My Page link beside my name and then click on my home page link and then the Backyard link when you get there, you can read the information/see pictures re my paths...) What kind of mulch are you using? If the pinebark is a different color, the path would still be visible across your mulch. You could also use more sand in the mix or use some kind of crushed stone that would pack down hard and pick up the concrete color....

I'm glad to hear that the burp is going away :-)

From these later pictures, it is clear why the wall is there. I agree with Karin and tano as to why it looks odd. I'd be inclined to square off that curve in the concrete patio by laying stones and then replace those bricks with a matching stone wall, stepping it down as per Karin and tano's comments.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 3:17PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

There are a couple of solutions for fixing the retaining wall curve. They all leave the problem of then fixing the patio curve. That is going to be the hard part.

How about regrading the slope so instead of curving to the left after the post, the wall curves to the right, making a mirror image of the patio curve? I know, not another curve, but really....

Also, I'd like to get back to the idea of the 'river' of grass flowing downhill. A nice 'pool' of grass out from the patio would make a lot of sense in a lot of ways. It would make topographic sense, if I understand the lot, and it would make useful sense.\

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 5:13PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

I'd suggest that you relocate that short retaining wall so that you can wrap a gentle curve around the back side of the post, leaving a small width of level soil at the edge of the concrete patio and fronting the wall. This would allow you to form a more natural cur e transition and also keep soil away from the post. Having the walls abutt the post just doesn't look right to me. As to the general recommendations by others to smooth out all those curves; I think the streamlined lawn edges are less interesting than your original layout. The only area where the curves really appear a bit too fussy/forced are the squiggles adjacent the deck/patio. I thought most of your curving lawn edges would actually complement a plant collection style planting design by giving you more smaller individual curved bays to set off your plantings.

I think you'll be better served if you think upon the various conflicting advice received so far and evaluate it looking at your larger picture rather than assuming each opinion should be incorporated into your new plan. Design by committee usually results in an end product that pleases no one.

I don't know if my observations make any more sense than the others, but they do attempt to work within the curvilinear style you've started with, but also rationalizing the edge condition at your post/patio. Pulling that wall back from the patio edge would allow a softer curve and also allow for either a decorative low ground cover as foreground at patio to below make the wall disappear with plantings above and below.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 6:07PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Bahia - I agree re designing by committee, but different viewpoints can be helpful in giving someone lots of ideas to think about. I suspect whaas is well able to sort out which suit him. Somewhere along the way, he mentioned wanting to think outside the box. As I've said before, my ideas tend to be wildly out of sync with the norm so I figure I'm pretty far outside his box! :-)

On the curved bay issue, I'd look mainly to the right side where that circle is with the deep bay behind it and try to work with that to make it a striking feature, perhaps making a similar bay on the other side.(The other side currently has a couple of wimpy wiggles instead of something with more presence like the one on the right.) The basic problem I have with wiggly edges like these is scale - similar lines on a property several hundred feet wide wouldn't look so bad to me because they would be stretched out more appropriately to look like something that is following natural undulations in the landscape. But compressing them into this small a scale just looks wrong (busy/agitated) to me. When I started our backyard garden, the edges were more 'natural' but never looked right to me, in part because one of the major viewing points was from the living room window above. From the elevated view, the 'negative space' aspect is more obvious and it needed strengthening. Since whaas has a deck looking down on this, I think he should pay attantion to the 'negative space' view too.

I think you're dead right re moving the wall back and planting in front of it!

(Can you tell I VERY bored with winter and am looking for any opportunity to talk gardening...?! I'll shut up and leave whaas alone now.)

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 7:59PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

I'm going to noodle on all this a bit more.

In the meantime here are a few more pics to help with the lay of the land in the back.

Please go easy on me as this is the initial pass with just 6 months to work with. Those plantings burned up quite a bit of time too.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 8:37PM
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whaas, I would remove the ret. wall extension from adjacent to the patio and turn it toward one of the (light grey) positions shown in the plan view sketch. Functionally, it would still allow grade retention and, eventually, it would be covered with plants and unseen. Exactly how you tie it to the other ret. wall or post I'm sure you can figure out. Don't take my sketch too literally. It's just a scheme. I think keeping the patio front open "feels" better...less confining.

I admire all your hard work! When it's all grown I'm sure it will be spectacufabulous!

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 8:45PM
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Whaas, what is this plant in your neighbor's yard?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 8:53PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Yard, I think I only put it that way to follow the curve of the concrete. After walking downstairs today I realized the "real" issue is that it was blocking the lower view if you will. I'm leaning towards removing it if I can. Otherwise I may gently swoop it out if I can't fix the grade.

I haven't gotten a close up but I'm 99% sure its the classic Spirea prunifolia (Bridalwreath spirea).

All, thanks for the help so far. Yard and Bahia, I appreciate the compliment. I was getting the feeling that I completely jacked this up!lol!

Here is my last home. Although loaded with issues its the general look I plan to achieve with this new home.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 9:22PM
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"I was getting the feeling that I completely jacked this up!"

Whaas, I can appreciate much that you do and also be jealous of all your wonderful plants! You carry THEME AND ART out and I can see that it will be a lovely place to visit and stroll about.

About the bridal wreath, I noticed that without a single leaf it had a fair amount of screening ability. I like the form and thought it would look great in a giant pot about 5' tall by 5' wide.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 9:55PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Nothing to do with the design issues of your design, but I notice the new concrete patio buries the wood posts supporting the deck. This is a terrible detail for more rapidly rotting out that post base.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 11:34PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Yardvaark has drawn approximately what I tried to explain. I think the additional pictures may help to refine the concept.

Looking at the second picture of your deck, the one showing 4 plants, you could actually just extend the bulge in the patio into a path that stretches toward where you are standing to take the picture. And rather than rotating the wall right at the post, you could actually turn the last stone that is currently installed and then have it follow the path... again, toward where you are now standing, and then, have it turn further left to retain the descending slope.

I keep commenting about the wrong thing on the wrong thread but I'll say here that I think the core flaw in your overall yard design is visible in these pictures, and the reason is suggested by your photo of your old yard. I think you planned this yard as if it were flat like your old yard and didn't really work with the topography. As someone who has little topography, let me tell you it is a gift! But only if you use it. You've run all your beds and lines with the slope. I think your lines should be going cross-slope wherever possible - like the lines drawn by PLS in taterville's thread.

And what is that curvy line that circumnavigates your whole yard?

Karin L

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 12:17PM
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Every house that has a walk-out basement has one thing in common; a 9ft grade transition between the front entry floor elevation and the floor elevation at the basement door. It often results in a slope that is a problem.

There never seems to be a good time to mitigate the problems due to the grade differential. While the house is under construction is the most economical time. But house contractors don't want to bring up the issue because it adds to cost when they are in competition to get the job.

After house construction, the new homeowners are often short on cash and want to get some landscaping done immediately, and there is no money for an expensive slope problem.

And after the initial landscaping, homeowners don't want to tear everything out to fix the problem.

A majority of homeowners live with the problem area subject to erosion and or a maintenance nightmare. Over the years it's the area of their yard they grow to hate.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 1:03PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Karin, your suggestion to run beds against the slope would seem to negate the concept of a lawn pathway that circumnavigates the property, unless I am misunderstanding your point. I don't see the layout as a flaw, as it does give a good circulation flow throughout the garden, and the gradients aren't too steep for easy lawn mowing. If this garden were located in a climate where irrigation was necessary, then all those slopes given to lawn would be a design issue, as slopes require more water and run off more quickly. Also, it looks fairly obvious that the wavy line corresponds with the schematic plan's bed configuration.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 1:19PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

I prefer not to landscape across slope. Flaw is probably the wrong word and I'll just assume it wasn't the intention. I apologize but I read your paragraph several times and was unable to interpret your comments regarding the second picture reference. I felt as if I was trying to decipher one of Ink's posts.

Yeah I went back and forth with the posts. I received confirmation on the wood type so we went ahead and put felt around the posts and buried them with 4" of concrete. The post itself is on a footing. The post next to the retaining wall isn't buried.

Not sure if you're just making a general point about improper grade or not. The only thing I would change is that I'd have the area where the retaining wall is now cored out further past the post. I still might do this...probably not though as the wall following the line of the concrete and ending where the deck ends above looks good to me. I currently don't have any erosion issues and actually happy with the grading.

At the end of the day I've gotten some great feedback and will take in certain elements to refine the plan. I'm feeling better about what I have and the changes I plan to make. I'll post an update in a few months.

I'll leave you with this. This is what a professional landscape designer put together. I took issue with the boring straight line plantings around the lot lines but took some ideas from the perimeter of the home.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 9:11PM
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"I felt as if I was trying to decipher one of Ink's posts." I am glad for you that you got that hit in whaas: now you can run.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 10:18AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Ink - I supect he was teasing - you're the forum's enigmatic guru :-)

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 10:40AM
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You have collected so many lovely specimen trees - is that why each of them is highlighted in their own island or peninsula?
What is the columnar pine tree near the corner of the house with the gas line and the fine red leafed tree directly facing the deck?

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 10:55AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Run from what? Yes, I was teasing.
That was way too soft and subtle to be a hit, even the INK effect should know that!

You have collected so many lovely specimen trees - is that why each of them is highlighted in their own island or peninsula?.
You bet! I typically like to curve out with a collection of dwarf plants varying in color and texture or simply to highlight a specific specimen. Its the same concept in which curves highlight features on a car or the human anatomy if you will. I really dislike straight lines if you haven't noticed! I have a feeling its a generation thing too.

The conifer near the gasline is a Picea abies 'Cupressina'. Very tall and narrow selection. Its the backdrop to a Firebird Crabapple to highlight the bright red berries.

The red leafed tree is a Acer palmatum 'Emperor 1'. Its more of an experiment if anything. This species in general doesn't do all that well in my zone 5a (cold dry winter winds)and therefore lacks vigor/subject to dieback. Its been a zone 6b winter here so maybe a good thing to help the establish.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 2:03PM
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