suggestions for shrubs to hide concrete retaining wall

gee_ess(z6)July 20, 2005

We have just finished building a new house and have a 8 foot high by 100 feet long retaining wall about 35 feet behind our house holding back the hillside. My vision is for our backyard to look like a courtyard. There is a large patio off the house and then a curving 5 - 6 ft deep bed up against the wall. The retaining wall has been sprayed with a stucco-like mixture to take the "edge" off the concrete and every twenty feet there is a bricked column.

What would you plant as a background shrub that can grow in front of this wall? My first thought is that I need something that is fairly well contained and can grow in an upright form without overtaking the whole bed. I would like to plant azaleas in the front of these shrubs and some other mass plantings that can bloom and give color.

Another thought was some climbing hydrangeas in addition to the shrubs. Any suggestions? I live in a small town and often the greenhouse owners lack imagination.

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I don't know if you like Rose of Sharons, but I've on that's about 15' tall..every yr I have to pluck out neighboring sprouts from this plant, otherwise it'd grow along the entire length of my fence..from front to back. Toni

    Bookmark   July 20, 2005 at 10:24PM
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veronicastrum(z5 IL)

I'm picturing upright arborvitaes along that wall, spaced so that the brick columns will still show. There are several upright forms on the market with various heights and spreads, so you should be able to find something to fit your spac. The arbs will be well-behaved and not spread beyond their allotted space.

I like the idea of the climbing hydrangea vine, too. (I lost the one I planted last year to our severe drought, sniffle, sniffle!) The vine will start out slow, but in a few years it can cover over 30'.

Here's a link to a fact sheet on different types of arbs.

Have fun planting!


Here is a link that might be useful: Arborvitae fact sheet

    Bookmark   July 21, 2005 at 11:29AM
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The hydrangea vine is a good idea too..
I just thought of another vine that really looks good..I've got one growing on my stucco garage..
It's a Wisteria Vine, not the tree..Toni

    Bookmark   July 21, 2005 at 2:59PM
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Thanks for the suggestions! Now for a few followup questions:
Do you think the arborvitaes will look too formal? I prefer my shrubs to have a very free flowing natural form -no bonzai type shrubs or pruned and shaped forsythia.

Also, I didn't realize a Rose of Sharon could spread like that. Could that be a problem?

Finally, does the wisteria vine tend to get out of control? I love the thought of a vine but have never had a place for one until now. Which is the better bloomer between a hydrangea and wisteria?

    Bookmark   July 21, 2005 at 10:13PM
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Gee, no, I don't think they'll look formal.
None of my plants are grafted/bonsai types..
Well, my white and pink ROS spreads out everywhere out back, and I do mean everywhere, which means extra plucking since I don't use chemicals..I've also a purple flower, but it's still young, about 4' tall, and so far no babies..I wish I could remember when the white and pink ROS was the same height, and if it grew elsewhere..It's been a
My Wiseria's longest stem is about 8' tall..I'm counting the yrs? it'll grow over the garage and hang..It's never yet flowered, but it was basically a stick when I purchased, and I mean literally.
I've 2 hydrangeas, one I grew from seed, but it's a bush, only 5', and blooms in fall..Started the seed in 1988..
The other is about 6', but I mistakenly pruned over the yrs, so I don't know about flowering.
I'm sure all need to be fertilized to give blooms a head start..Are you looking for flowering plants, or foliage? Evergreen or deciduous? Toni

    Bookmark   July 22, 2005 at 11:46PM
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Are you trying to hide the whole wall or just break it up? I think it sounds like a cool feature and wouldn't want to cover it up too much. How about some arches against the wall or a water feature. I've seen some that were designed to go against a wall with water flowing down like a wide thin waterfall if that makes sense. I also remember someone putting old fashioned looking fake wooden doors against a garden wall. That would be interesting. You could add sconces on each side of the door.
Also since you are planting azaleas, hydrangeas would give you some late blooms. Is it in the shade?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2005 at 1:09PM
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My main purpose is to keep the wall from being such a stark feature in the landscape. It is 8 ft tall and 100 feet long with curving flower beds along the front of it.
I would like to use a mixture of plantings that will grow and become the focal point of the area instead of this obnoxious long wall.
I love to have things blooming at various times of the year. The wall gets afternoon sun and since it is concrete I am imagining that this will only increase the temp of the area. On the positive side, this might allow me to plant some things that are kind of iffy for my zone but do well in the zone to the south of me. What do you think?
THe main plants/shrubs I am looking for would be the background of these beds. They will sit directly in front of the wall and then I will plant other lower growing shrubs and flowers in front.
I am definitely planning to do some type of water feature but it needs to be a self contained wall fountain of some type and is going to come later as funds allow. I haven't really researched sources for those types of fountains yet so I am not sure what it will cost or require.
Thanks for the tips and help!

    Bookmark   July 26, 2005 at 9:43AM
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JMO, I've lived in the midwest for exactly one year today. One thing that I've noticed in this area is a decided lack of evergreens in plantings. In the winter, things get mighty darn twiggy and stark around here.

As I'm a rose lover, the first thing that I would think of is something massive like New Dawn or William Baffin, but unless you like roses and want to deal with them, that's probably not the best choice because it doesn't sound like a full sun situation.

However, to the former, I would say some strategic evergreens back there amongst something that will bloom and climb for you in the spring/summer would be in order.

At the least I would say, 'consider four season interest' when making this decision. That's a mighty long area to be stark in the wintertime.

Again, JMO.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 12:37AM
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Blue rug juniper on top to cascade down along with base plantings may be nice?

    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 1:41PM
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terryr(z5a IL)

If you like feeding the birds, viburnams are nice. Also an elderberry or serviceberry.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2005 at 11:01PM
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terryr(z5a IL)

I forgot to ask, what is the stuff that was sprayed onto the retaining wall? I ask because we bought an old house with a detached garage made of cinder block. It looks awful! I had asked about spraying a stucco type thing on and was told it would have to be done by any info you can give would be greatly appreciated!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2005 at 11:05PM
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meeperx(z4/5 Mpls)

If you want a courtyard look-you might want to adopt a "theme" for your garden, and adapt your wall to match. For example-A wall in a tuscan inspired garden might be painted in a warm golden color and be flanked with espaliers, climbing roses and cypress looking arborvitaes or upright juniper.

What is the style of your house?

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 1:23PM
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thanks for the suggestions! I have decided to definitely do azaleas since they do well in our area and are evergreen. I love them planted in masses. I am also going to probably do a climbing hydrangea for some heighth in one or two places (the wall is 100 feet long). With all of the sun, I plan to do some stella daylilies OR maybe some other type of flower that can be in the front of the beds, loves sun, and is periennial.

The style of the home is brick traditional (Southern Living plan) and the patio is scored and stained.

terryr- the stuff we sprayed on our wall is concrete mixed fairly thin, concrete stain color added and then sprayed through a "hopper" that is used to spray textured ceilings. It looks pretty good and is a cheap alternative to the hand troweled stucco look. We sprayed about three coats on the wall using charcoal color with some dk red underneath for depth. The wall is broken up into 20 foot sections with brick columns between each section.

Keeps those thoughts and ideas coming!

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 4:42PM
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