Posted by Felicity Waters on 30th January 2012
Gardening on the fence, the balcony or a wall is the latest trend in gardening around the world. It is referred to as vertical gardening. Vertical gardening enables people in small spaces to have a garden in some of the most unusual spaces. Vegetables can grow along a balcony’s railings or on the kitchen wall. Plants can even grow in the bathroom or living room wall.
The idea was originally made popular by Patric Blanc, the French botanist. His gardens make fabulous works of art and have inspired many. Some of his vertical gardens cover the facades of large building and can be taller than 30 storeys high. Blanc uses a system of PVC boards with layers of felt stapled to hold starter plants – water tubing runs behind the felt and feeds the plants with water and nutrients.
Blanc’s vertical gardens create a green aesthetic and they also claim to provide a reduction in energy consumption through thermal insulation.
While it is possible to replicate the walls that Blanc creates thankfully there are now a range of do it yourself vertical gardening products on the market that make a vertical garden affordable and less complex.
These products are often referred to as wall planters or vertical planters and are readily available throughout USA, UK and Europe.
The best vertical garden products on the market enable a plant’s root system to breathe. Allowing a plant’s root system to breath prevents a plant from becoming pot bound and therefore eliminates the need to re-pot every couple of years. The plant’s root system simply stops growing when it feels air. Given that vertical gardens can reach dizzying heights this is certainly a useful feature to look for in any vertical gardening product.
Before installing a vertical garden consideration needs to be given to the maintenance of the plants. There is nothing worse than a dead living wall.
Is access a problem and if it is how is the garden to be watered? A drip irrigation system can overcome the need to reach heights on a daily basis but long term maintenance will require access during various times of the year.
Vertical gardens can be expensive if you wish to create a large densely planted green wall. There is however a way of reducing costs. Avoid plants that have a small leaf mass and a large root ball. Trailing succulents such as Mother of Pearl or Pigface are great candidates for dry climates. While trailing lotus with its foliage drops over one meter are very useful for more tropical climates. Also be aware that deciduous plants can make the wall look terrible in the winter months and evergreens need to be frost tolerant in the harsher planting regions.
You will also find that your vertical garden will use more water than horizontal planting beds as the water tends to drains readily. There are of course various systems available that use less water than others but on the whole water consumption tends to increase when plants are placed on a vertical surface. It is advisable to avoid plants that like water logged soils. Plants that require good drainage are perfect. If you live in a region where clay soils dominate vertical gardens certainly open up the planting palette.