Serpentine Walls – Also Known As Crinkle Crankle Walls
What is that? I love the names for things in gardening and garden design. My husband is forever accusing me of making things up — the latest Latin…Kirengeshoma palmata (he thinks I made that name up), now this morning…crinkle crankle walls….No, I am not making this up.
Other names for it are ‘serpentine walls’ or ‘ribbon walls’ which are perhaps somewhat more descriptive. But in many places (particularly in England) they are called Crinkle Crankle Walls. They are also found in the Netherlands (having thought to originate there in the 16th century) where they are called slange muur—snaking wall.
Crinkle Crankle walls have curving lines following a serpentine path rather than a straight line. This layout gives the construction added strength and does away with the need for buttressing. Strength is the primary reason that they exist – the curvy walls are stronger against lateral forces that push against them. In order to get a strong straight wall, buttresses are required as well as multiple layers of materials. These walls are built with a single layer of brick and are narrower (using less material) but are stronger.
Serpentine walls are also frequently used in conjunction with growing fruit as it is thought that the curve of the wall traps and radiate the rays of the sun, which assist the fruit in growing and ripening in a short season.
These walls have be constructed throughout history and are still very relevant for modern garden makers. Why?
- Serpentine walls are beautiful
- They are more economical (due to less materials used) than standard straight walls.
- They help plants grow by reflecting heat and creating effective microclimates.
So this is a new regular feature here. My husband insists that is should be called “WTF is that?” While I agree, that does seem the perfect name, I am struggling to commit to the ‘F’. I am an avid ‘F’ user but to have it as the title of a regular post seems a little unprofessional and pushing decorum slightly too far. But then I think, WTF? What do you think? Anyway, here is the new feature — maybe you can help me decide what the name should be.
Update: I’ve opted instead to go with the much more helpful title – Garden Design Basics. There is a whole series of these posts on the way!
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