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Newbie Here: Can We Talk About Raised Bed Planters?

15 years ago

I'm a regular over on GW's Kitchens, Decorating and Organizing Forums, but this is my first time here. I could really use some ( actually a lot as this progresses!) advice and ideas, as we plan our total backyard landscape.

We live in the mountains of New Mexico, south of Santa Fe (Zone5 and at approx. 6000' elevation). Our home is a 15 y/o one-story adobe hacienda-style home on approx 3 acres of land. Same with everyone around us. Great mountain and mesa views. Backyard area is pretty much untouched with some pinon and juniper trees, yucca and dirt. LOTS of rocks and boulders inground! It faces south and west. Critter problems: rabbits, packrats, rattlers and some deer (and wild horses occasionally).

Our basic backyard plan is to have adobe-look (cement block covered w chicken wire & stucco) perimeter walls, approximately 5-6' high built. Inside these walls will be our two coverd patios at both ends of the house, connected by a covered walkway. Also planned is a kiva-type fireplace built into the back wall, possibly flanked by bancos, with shaded seating area in front of it. In addition to this area, we plan on having a raised hot tub, landscaped to look more like a raised small pond with a waterfall cascading near it into a lower pond. Built-in grill area will be on main patio off back of house.

My questionable, controversial plan . . . and this is where I need your thoughts and advice: I want to have no in-ground planting, only large, adobe/adobe-look planters.

This is for three reasons: (1) the ground here is almost totally filled with huge boulders and stones. Digging into it has always been a major nightmare. Large raised beds can be filled with good quality, water-retaining ammended soil and drip irrigation(2) We want to conserve water, while still having beautiful plants and trees. It's too dry here to drip in-ground trees and not have huge water bills.(3) easier maintenance as we age.

OK, please think: Walled Spanish Garden with lots of shade. That's our goal.

I'd like to have some planters attached to the inside of most of the perimeter walls. Where we need to block afternoon sun towards the SW, we could have the planters wider to accommodate patio trees for shade. I do realize that I'll be limited in the tree species that I can plant in these. Another option would be to pay to have larger trees planted outside the SW walls, to accomplish the same, but with more height potential, using the inside perimeter planters for bushes and perennials.

What I want to do throughout the rest of the yard is to have several large, free-standing oval or rounded planters built. I'm thinking 24-28" tall that can be used for seating also. The inside diameters would have to be at least 6'x6', although I'm looking more towards 6'x8' on a couple. Each planter would have a patio shade tree of some sort and underplanted with annuals and perennials. I've actually seen similar planters at patio restaurants along the coast highway between LA and SanFrancisco, but can't find pictures to show prospective landscape people. I also recall seeing them in Ghirardelli Square in SF, I think.

Groundcover would probably be crusher fine for the time being. Patios are already brick. Large fountain to be placed somewhere out there, too. The rest of the details are still to be worked out. I'm looking for winding paths flanked by shade trees in planters, on both sides of the yard with the fireplace seating area straight out from the main patio. The views from our back patios are incredible. I don't want to block them, but do need more shade out there.


(1) do you see potential heat build up problems with all the hardscape/planters, even with the planned shade trees in them and, perhaps, outside the SW walls? This is one of the reasons we're thinking dirt or crusher fine for the walkways, instead of more brick.

(2) Does anyone have ANY pictures they can show me/us of this kind of backyard/patio?

(3) what extra steps can I take/request to conserve water back there?

Gosh, I realize that this is a long, detailed post and I apologize for it. But, if this forum is half as good as the Kitchen Forum, I know that I've come to the right place! Many thanks in advance.


Here are two pics of my home. This is the walled side garden, which is already finished. We want the same type of look out back, but with taller wall and planters.


This is the view from my main back patio:


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