Vertical Gardens and Urban Gardening

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Image Patrick Blanc

Vertical gardens have become increasingly popular over the past 5 years and are now springing up in urban cities right across the globe. With environmentalists and urban residents alike, concerned over the lack of green open spaces in their cities, architects and botanical designers are coming up with inventive and unique ways to inject some greenery into our urban habitats.

Part of the appeal of the vertical garden concept is the juxtaposition between the harsh, industrial, urban landscape and the natural, fluid, greenery that green spaces provide. The problem with creating green open spaces in urban cities is quite simply a lack of space. With developers fighting tooth and nail for plots of undeveloped land (a rare find in most large cities), the chances of having any such land converted into gardens or parks are slim. Instead designers have had to look elsewhere for potential green space, and by looking up to the skies instead of down to the ground, they seem to have found a solution to this problem. Its also worth noting that no matter what type pf garden you are planning

Patrick Blanc – Inventor of the Vertical Garden

By incorporating plant-life into the vertical walls of buildings, designers seem to have found the perfect mix of urban and rural, bringing together the natural and the man-made in an ingenious fashion. The botanist credited with the invention of the vertical garden is Patrick Blanc, a dedicated and experienced botanist whose passion for plant-life has seen him design some of the most impressive and inventive green spaces in the world.

Patrick created and designed the very first vertical garden in the UK for The Driver building in Kings Cross, using over 200 different plants from native and international species to create a unique and tropical feel to the garden.

Patrick Blanc has been on a variety of research trips to inform and inspire his work – he is a true botanist, reminiscent of the old botanical pioneer explorers, travelling the globe collecting strange and exotic specimens. From the limestone cliffs of Borneo to the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica, Patrick has travelled across the world and has discovered many new specimens along the way.

London’s Largest Living Wall

Although Patrick Blanc may be the founder of the vertical garden movement, he is but one of many botanical designers creating astounding green spaces, fitting seamlessly into the cities skyline.

London’s largest living wall stands at a whopping 21 metres high and contains over 10,000 plants and 16 tons of soil, covering 350 square metres of vertical space. Designed by Gary Grant of the Green Roof Consultancy, plants were selected according to the best pollinators in an attempt to attract wildlife like birds, bees and butterflies to the urban landscape. Grant also claims that the living wall will help tackle local environmental problems like air pollution and surface flooding.

The living wall is irrigated using rain water harvested from the roofs and stored in tanks before being fed through the wall” explains designer Gary Grant. “In this sense the project is a sustainable drainage system”.

Sustainable drainage systems, otherwise known as SUDs, have been promoted by London Mayor Boris Johnson amongst others as a viable option to combat flooding in the capital.

More than Just a Garden

While the aesthetic benefits of vertical gardens are obvious, there are also less obvious environmental benefits. As mentioned above, vertical gardens have been credited with combating surface flooding in cities and sustainably utilising rain water that would otherwise go to waste. However environmentalists have also claimed that vertical garden installations can reduce harmful particle matter in the atmosphere.

The living wall at Edgware Underground Station is both pretty and practical – it is an experimental installation to measure how efficiently such walls combat particle matter in the atmosphere. Particle matter is known to cause respiratory problems and you would struggle to find a city dweller who would not appreciate cleaner and fresher air to breathe.

Stefano Boeri’s ‘Bosco Verticale’ or vertical forest towers in Milan, work by combining the ever growing demand for high-density residential development with the need for more tree-planting and green spaces in city centres. Boeri’s two towers contain as many trees as could be planted in a hectare of forest and are due to open later this year.

How to Create Your Own Vertical Garden

While you may struggle to turn the exterior walls of your home into a vertical garden reminiscent of one of Blanc’s projects, there are a variety of pre-made and DIY vertical planters to fit any home, no matter how big or how small. So you can turn your newly purchased city pad into a green and friendly dwelling.

Home Planting Systems

VertiGarden offer a variety of home-hanging systems that are more suited to the mass market, and that even a novice gardener could set up and maintain with ease. The planters come in modules complete with an irrigation system and wall fixings and can be combined to fit any shape or space.

Felt Pockets

There are a number of kits and planters available, the simplest of these is probably the felt pocket system which can be used indoors or outdoors, leaving you no excuse not to have a go.

The felt pockets are waterproof and incredibly versatile, suitable for a variety of plant-life.

Plating Trays

These rectangular wooden or plastic trays are divided into ‘planting cells’ which are all slanted at a 30 degree angle to encourage drainage and aeration. The planting cell system makes it easy to incorporate different plant species and design a diverse and beautiful vertical garden. The important point to remember here is to select plants with shallow root systems as the trays are not very deep.

You can take this method a step further by framing the tray in a timber slats and hanging it on your wall as a piece of 3D art, like this stunning tray planter.

Found Objects

With a touch of creativity and ingenuity, savvy gardeners can create stunning vertical gardens from recycled materials like rain gutters, as shown in the image below. Another method to create your vertical garden from scratch is to use old wooden shutters with slats wide enough to tuck succulents of other small plants inside.

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Frankie Chaffin-Edwards an Eco friendly property enthusiast with TheLittleHouseCompany.