With Millennials choosing to live in smaller and more urban spaces, businesses becoming more aware of the benefits that green spaces provide for their employees and their bottom line — including increased productivity and improved mental health — and improvements in hydroponic technology, one trend sure to grow more and more in the future are living walls.
“Vertical gardening makes all the sense in the world, and the technology for successful vertical gardening is evolving,” said Bob Dolibois, an advisor for Local Plant Source and the retired executive vice president of the American Nursery and Landscape Association, adding that landscape architects and growers who haven’t delved into this niche should start now. “We are at the point where the greening of the urban environment, such as a green wall on a balcony, offers a new frontier for our industry.”
The most famous living walls are those of French botanist Patrick Blanc, who created his own automated hydroponic system out of a complex framework of metal, PVC and felt in the 1980s and has now worked on living walls around the world, all of which draw massive crowds and admiration from locals and tourists alike.
Living walls are now everywhere. Companies now offer consumers their own living wall technology. Living walls are popular on DIY sites. And universities have been perfecting the benefits of living walls by creating biowalls that double as air filters.
The rising popularity of living walls is good news for landscape architects and plant growers. They allow gardens in spaces that traditionally wouldn’t be considered plant-friendly, but consumers aren’t as knowledgeable about how to make them grow successfully and without hurting the structure of the wall without the help of a professional. There are specific plants that thrive in a vertical garden, whereas others won’t, and those plants provide specific purposes. Some grow up, some cascade down, some add color, some fill up space. Using the wrong combination of plants or putting them in the wrong space could spell disaster.
There are a lot of factors to consider when creating a living wall: which technology, if any, is best; the permanency of the structure; how much sunshine is available; the size; the weight. Vertical walls range greatly in size and purpose, from consumer herb gardens that grow in shoe organizers on closet walls to living walls that span the interior or exterior of huge commercial and industrial buildings.
Here are our favorite vertical gardens to offer some inspiration for your next residential or commercial gardening and landscaping project.