By Joel Berlin
Living Walls are becoming the latest gardening trend. In the past, attempting to create your own living wall was a chore. One had to make boxes for the plant material or use chicken wire stuffed with soil and wrapped with sphagnum moss. Then came the daunting task of hanging it on the wall, which was tedious and often futile.
Today, companies such as BrightGreen have made it easy for living walls to be assembled, watered and grow into healthier plants. They are pushing living-wall design boundaries by allowing any vertical surface to become a place for planting, regardless of size or shape. The 80-percent recycled plastic trays clip onto support rods for easy installation. These trays, which now have deeper pockets angled about 30 degrees, hold the soil effortlessly. Each tray locks into position with the tray below. A simple ¼ drip system feeds water to the top tray. The water then passes through the trays from top to bottom via a vascular water track dispersing the water evenly to each plant. Any excess water just drips out the bottom. Should the wall be indoors, a collecting trough just clips right on.
Living walls are becoming focal pieces in urban settings, small gardens and courtyards where actual planting space is prime real estate. We are seeing them in boutique shops, restaurants, hotels, shopping malls and even on the walls of public schools.
What is so exciting about these living walls is getting to paint with living plant material. By grouping colors and textures together, many geometric and organic shapes are formed, creating a peaceful, serene and impressionistic painting. Indoors these vertical gardens can grow several popular houseplants and tropicals, while the outdoor vertical gardens often use succulents and herbs. The key is to use plants that have shallow root systems and heights of no greater than a foot. This will keep pruning and maintenance of your living, growing art piece down to a minimum
The benefits to these vertical gardens are not only the possibility of growing your own food but they reduce the urban heat island by absorbing solar energy, helping our planet stay cooler and greener. And any living wall will increase that wall’s “R factor,” keeping your home cooler during the summer and warmer in the winter.
If you want to create an interesting, cool focal piece in your garden, look at your vertical wall spaces. Adding a living wall to your garden will definitely be the center of discussion at your next garden soirée.
Next Month: Aquaponics and small urban farms
“The Urban Garden” will bring you the newest technologies to green, urban gardening and landscaping. It is my hope through this series of articles that you will be inspired to look to new directions in sustainable gardening and landscaping practices. The face of San Diego is changing as water diminishes and urban sprawl continues to grow. Be inspired and make a change.
Joel Berlin owns Anandascapes in North Park.