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Off the Wall

For some years we have seen grand scale vertical planting appearing on buildings throughout the world, notably in Paris where the researcher and designer Patrick Blanc has transformed many bland buildings into richly clad, almost tapestry like structures. There are also buildings in London and all over the UK, which have benefited from this approach including the Westfield Shopping Centre and many more. We are also seeing green roofs entering the mainstream, where in some cases UK planning regulations are now leaning in the same direction, with “new buildings required to have a proportion of green walls and roofs”.

The traditional method of growing vertically usually involves training climbing plants such as ivy, roses or clematis up a wall. This method takes things further by integrating plants into walls and adding structures, containers and supports to buildings to be used for planting.

However, on a much smaller scale if you are squeezed for space, vertical planting may be for you. This system would also be suitable for disabled or elderly people as it can mean no bending and a manageable area of planting. It is also ideal for use in urban environments and particularly in central Bath where many houses have courtyard gardens or are basement flats with an area outside too small for a traditional garden.

A calm green sanctuary can be created without the need for borders and this also opens up the possibilities for what can be grown taking away the need to use traditional tall and bushy trees such as conifers or climbers or trellising to screen an unsightly wall or fence. This method of planting is becoming increasingly popular as it not only makes use of otherwise dead space, but there is a huge range of plants that can be grown in this way.

As well as encouraging bio-diversity and lessening the effects of pollution, vertical planting can also reduce rainwater run off and counter balance too much concrete or hard landscaping. Another great benefit of vertical planting is that it provides insulation to the building reducing the heating costs by up to 25%. It can also be used in a very small garden freeing up space but providing a green backdrop. You can also grow edibles with this method – a very easy and space efficient way to have fresh salad or herbs as well as other vegetables.

There are several systems available on the market that can be easily installed and planted. Woolly Pockets from Garden Beet allow anyone to build their own living wall on most sized walls, shapes and wall types. Vertical gardens can also be located in the kitchen, dining room, using indoor planting.

The Woolly Pocket living wall technology is environmentally friendly as they are constructed from recycled plastic bottles. The pockets are modular which means they can be put together in any space. Each Pocket has a built-in moisture barrier, which allows the vertical garden to conserve water, as well as prevent the vertical garden from dripping, whilst allowing the soil to breathe (a must for a healthy living green wall).

Vertigarden also supplies pockets and irrigation for vertical planting which can be used for bedding plants or seasonal planting as well as vegetables and herbs. This is also easy enough to install and plant and allows you to choose how much or little planting you need for the chosen space.

Suitable plants including perennials, herbs and seasonal bedding could include: Alchemillia mollis, geraniums, ferns, Bacopa snowflake, Oregano, Mint, Thyme, Ipomoea, Chives, Coreoposis, Euonymus, Sage and of course a range of salad leaves, rocket and tomatoes. The list is endless.

As long as the rootball is not too large for the pocket then it is worth experimenting with any plants. It’s also important to choose plants that are suitable to their location, shady or sunny, damp or dry. Keeping them watered either with an inbuilt irrigation system or by hand is also essential.

Check out Patrick Blanc’s website for some incredible inspiration!

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