Vegging out

Vegging out

Features - Plants

If you’re tired of installing the same old retaining walls, then vegetative walls is something to investigate.

April 4, 2012
Brian Horn
Industry News

When Matt Ciminelli is working with a client and a retaining wall is needed on a project, he doesn’t immediately suggest a vegetative retaining wall. Instead, he gives them the common options like a stone wall, and then brings up the alternative option.

“You don’t come in and say, ‘Well, I’d plant a vegetative wall.’ You wait for your opportunity and you spring it on them … unless they are asking for it,” says Ciminelli, owner of Ciminelli’s Landscape Services in Annapolis, Md.

Green walls are still new to a lot of customers, Ciminelli says, so when he suggests it, he gets a lot of blank stares. “Even architects and engineers – they’re looking at me and I’ll have to explain it to them. So that does happen quite frequently,” he says.

One aspect that is easier about installing a green wall compared to a more common wall is you don’t have to work around the elements as much.

“You don’t have to cut every tree root you hit,” he says.

Vegetative walls are an alternative option to present to a customer. Ciminelli’s Landscape Services.

In addition, imperfections won’t be as obvious after installation.

“In the years to come, if there is disruption in the footing, people don’t notice it in vegetative wall because it’s all covered vegetation,” he says. “On an anchor wall, it’s noticeable.”

But vegetative retaining walls do have some drawbacks – namely the care you have to provide for the plants.

“The staging is a little more difficult because you are dealing with live plant material,” he says. “You have to have your plants lined up and you have to care for them.”

This can especially be a problem if you are on a construction site with other contractors and you have to wait your turn. With a non-vegetative wall, you could just throw a tarp over the materials and wait your turn, but you have to give constant attention to your plant materials for a vegetative wall, Ciminelli says.

You also have to know your plant material. Ciminelli will make initial suggestions to a customer about what plants would work, but he also consults with a landscape architect to tweak what he already knows.

“For instance if it is already covered with an invasive plant, it’s going to be hard to beat that plant out,”he says. “So you might make the call that we might just plant more of it, or we might plant something that can defend itself against that plant.”

If you decide you want to add vegetative wall installation to your service, do some for free for family members, or a business you know well.

“Give it away to a restaurant, some high profile school, do a volunteer day or something and try some different things because if it fails, it’s not going to kill you,” he says. “Just see what works and get your feet wet.”


The author is an associate editor at Lawn & Landscape. He can be reached at