Vines can help soften the appearance of a concrete wall's surface.

Gardening Ideas for Concrete Walls

by Joshua Duvauchelle

Concrete walls serve many benefits in your home's landscape. For example, concrete walls help reduce the annoying sound of traffic so you and your family can enjoy a quieter backyard. Concrete walls can also serve as privacy screens to block out prying eyes. But don't just view your garden's walls as strictly utilitarian. With the right landscaping ideas to inspire you, you can turn your backyard concrete wall into yet another opportunity to work some gardening magic.

1. Cover With Vines

The stark appearance of a concrete wall can create a jarring contrast against the plants in your landscape. Training evergreen or deciduous vines to grow up onto the vertical surface of the concrete can visually soften the wall's hard lines to help it blend into your backyard better. Covering a concrete wall with vines can also keep the wall, and thus your backyard, cooler during the day because the vines help shield the wall from absorbing the midday heat. Example vines commonly used to help cover walls include scarlet firethorn (Pyracantha coccinea), which is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 9, and English ivy (Hedera helix), which thrives in zones 4 through 9.

2. Add Shrubs

Shrubs planted in front of a concrete wall will visually break up the empty expanse of the wall's face and also help insulate the wall against heat and cold. You can plant shrubs and let them take their traditional shape for simple visual interest. However, if you're worried that a concrete wall looks empty and boring, a simple row of shrubs may also look uninteresting to you. As an alternative, prune the shrubs into unusual vertical shapes known as espaliers, which the University of Florida notes is "especially effective against a blank wall to relieve the monotony of a row of shrubs." In general, any shrub can be used as an espalier. Plant it approximately 6 to 8 inches away from your concrete wall, and prune away unwanted branches to create the vertical shape you want. As the shrub grows, continue to trim it to maintain the shape you like.

3. Brighten Up with a Flowerbed

Arranging a flowerbed up against your concrete wall will distract the eye away from the concrete wall and lend visual interest in terms of color and texture. To keep your backyard looking balanced and proportionate, the flowerbed should be as deep -- the measurement from the back of the flowerbed to the edge nearest you -- as the concrete wall is high. For example, a 5-foot-tall concrete wall would look out of proportion if it was fronted by a small 1-foot-deep flowerbed. Arrange the plants in the flowerbed so that the tallest flower species are planted against the concrete wall, then place the medium-height flower plants in the middle of the bed and the shortest flower plants at the edge of the bed furthest from the wall. This staggered look ensures all of the flower plants are visible and also will better disguise the wall behind the flowerbed.

4. Hang Containers

Spruce up the concrete wall itself by adding hanging container gardens to the wall's surface; you can even add flower boxes to the top of the wall to add visual interest to the concrete. Most garden stores and nurseries sell hanging flower pots that have one side that's flat, allowing the pot to sit flush against a flat, vertical surface. Consider using pots that compliment the architecture or color palette of your home. Hang the pots on metal hooks drilled into the concrete, then fill the pots with your favorite flower plants or hanging vines. Or, for a more sensory experience, populate some of the pots with scented herbs. Because the pots are hanging closer to your head, you can better appreciate the various aromas from the plants.

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