This steep property in North Carolina is terraced to accommodate grade change and render usable leveled areas for circulation and planting zones like the vegetable garden and perennial beds. Stone retaining walls are a great way to aesthetically and functionally address grade change.
One reason for terracing is to keep the dry laid walls at 3 feet or less for safety and structural integrity. See that the wall leans into the embankment and has a base greater than the top of the wall.
One thing unmatchable of natural stone is the ‘feel’ of the material. It is the way it accepts light, the way it comes to life when wet and the permanence it gives a landscape.
Something to note about having a lot of stone in the garden, whether as a vertical or horizontal application, underground drainage trenches, or as decorative boulders, you will have an earlier spring garden than most of your neighbors. It warms the soils faster. This warm winter environment is a good habitat for many insects and small animals.
In addition, the snow will melt on the stone surfaces addressing the sun more speedily, making for a beautiful winter white display. Much of the winter dried foliage picks up the tawny browns and greys of the stone too. Most of the landscapes I design use natural stone for the hardscapes.
Having taking photos for the architecture firm where I worked, I have a tendency to document the built environment rather than take the ‘pretty pictures’. I apologize if I have done that here, but they do ‘say’ more about the subject in this manner though.
Some walls are not really walls but boulders laid to retain the embankment. Some stones are used as bed edging. Local stone blends unobtrusively with is surroundings.
Mortarless walls have the virtue of built-in drainage and not requiring a foundation below the frost line. And if frost heaved, can be fairly easily repaired.
I threw in this image for scale.
Laying stone like it fell naturally from a river embankment looks natural and also allows many places for reptiles, amphibians, and underwater, fish to hide or overwinter.
Many of the walls on this property are not particularly skillfully constructed, but they have a vernacular appeal, an earthy look that feels right with the residence and landscaping.
This is an example of the wall becoming a structure built-in to the hillside.