Garden Walls – Walling, although the most expensive kind of boundary, is immensely durable, and can form the perfect perimeter to any garden. There is a wealth of materials from which to choose, from natural stone, or reconstituted stone, to patterned concrete. Most walls are free-standing, but remember that retaining walls, supporting a bank or higher level, can also become an integral part of the garden framework.
Brick is the most widely available walling material, and the small modules of a brick wall give it an intimate and attractive character. Brick walls can make the perfect link between house and garden, but take care to match the bricks as closely as possible.
Brick has a strong local character, and colors vary. For garden walls, a ‘facing’ brick will usually be the best choice, but where a similar brick is used, perhaps on a 19th-century house, or in a modern architectural setting, crisp ‘engineering’ brick with a glazed or semi-glazed surface may be better. A free-standing wall, exposed to weathering on both sides, must be well built and protected by coping at the top, and a damp proof course at the bottom.
Single thickness brick walls are cheaper, but correspondingly weaker, and also lack visual strength. Coping can also be a problem, and the best solution is to use a precast concrete strip. If you stand bricks on edge, they look visually uncomfortable on top of a single thickness wall. A curved or ‘serpentine’ wall has greater strength than a straight run, although it requires quite considerable expertise to build.
Another variation on the single thickness brick wall is the ‘honeycomb’ wall, where bricks are laid leaving gaps in alternate rows of approximately 100mm/4in. Such a wall filters air currents, making an excellent wind screen, and provides a host for climbers, as well as partial vision. It is much better than the ubiquitous concrete screenblock wall.
Stone walls. Because stone usually comes in uneven sizes, it makes a far less formal walling material than brick, and if it has been quarried in your area, will generally suit the surroundings. Traditionally, stone was laid dry with no mortar between the joints; this was and still is a highly skilled job. Dry stone walling has the additional advantage of allowing plants to self-seed or be planted in the crevices.
Concrete is a much maligned material, particularly in UK, where it is seldom used to its full potential. In North America its worth is recognized as a durable, low cost, flexible and elegant landscaping material. Concrete can be used either in block form, when it can be laid in a similar way to bricks, or cast in situ, when reinforced wet concrete is poured into a mould. Either could be faced with stone or brick to link with other parts of the garden.