With more than 20 years in the industry, Belgard is a top manufacturer of products landscape designers use every day to create one-of-a-kind spaces. Here, Joseph Raboine, director of Belgard design studio, answers a few questions about what’s hot now in elevated spaces.

Retaining walls are often seen as functional — to hold off erosion or help with grading on a property. How do you think they are being viewed in today’s landscaping projects?

More than ever, retaining walls are being seen not just as a functional requirement, but also as an opportunity to add interest to the overall property. The available styles and colors allow designers to create just about any look within their imagination.

What are some of the aesthetic or outdoor living uses you see being incorporated with retaining walls?

We are starting to see much more integration of features into retaining walls, especially adjacent to outdoor living areas. Features such as seating benches, vertical gardens and tiered fire pit areas are being incorporated. We are also seeing features such as kitchens and fireplaces being used in conjunction with walls to help retain hillsides.

What are some of the most popular materials being used for retaining walls? Why those materials?

We are definitely seeing more concrete segmental wall systems being used. Unlike natural stone, which can be costly and labor intensive, or wood walls, which can rot (even if treated), SRW walls are designed to be cost effective, easy to install and long lasting. With a huge variety of face styles (sculpted, chiseled, tumbled and ashlar), the design options help to mimic natural stone — but at a much more affordable price.

How does drainage or permeability need to come into play on some properties these days? What products help with these concerns?

Drainage is always a concern with any retaining wall project. The integrity of the wall is at stake, so it’s critical that contractors follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. If they are in a situation where they are unsure what the best installation method should be, they should contact a team of specialists and engineers to help guide them through it.

What are the trends that clients are looking for? What other features are being added to retaining walls that may be new or unexpected?

I think the trend is starting to shift away from the idea that a retaining wall is just a functional requirement and instead can be a beautiful addition to their property. There is definitely a trend toward more natural-looking products that mimic stone. With advancements in our molds and equipment, we are able to offer those textures in a way that helps blend them with the products being used on the facades of their homes. Accent products such as banding and coping can be added to create even more visual interest.