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Living Walls and Vertical Gardens
Walls add permanence and establish boundaries within a yard or landscape design. They also offer privacy and block undesirable views, like your neighbor's side-yard junk pile. Plants that adapt best to walls are those that are climbers or that spill or trail over the walls.
A Brief History of Walled Gardens
The concept of walled gardens has been around for centuries. Records show that Egyptian gardens in 3000 B.C. established the tradition of compartments separated by plant-covered walls and arbors. The paradise gardens of ancient Persia were vast, park-like areas with monumental walls covered with grapevines and fruit trees. Moorish architecture and gardens influenced North Africa, Italy, and Spain, with features that included intimate and enclosed gardens with high walls.
While the gardens of ancient Greece focused more on crops and enhancing public spaces, Greek architecture incorporated central columned courtyards and outdoor living areas. Formal Roman gardens influenced western Europe for about 500 years. Middle-class Romans lived in townhouses that featured small enclosed gardens used as outdoor rooms.Continue to 2 of 10 below.
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Unbeknownst to other garden designing civilizations at the time, Machu Picchu was an architectural and engineering marvel built by the Incans in the 15th century. This ancient Peruvian city in the Amazon jungle above the Urubamba River was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911 after being "lost" for more than three centuries. The subtropical climate and fertile soil of Machu Picchu have blessed it with lush, terraced landscaping and vegetation-covered walls on a mountain high above the clouds. In this amazing region, various trees, moss, bushes, and ferns thrive, along with exotic flowers—most notably, exotic varieties of orchids.Continue to 3 of 10 below.
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Patrick Blanc: The Vertical Garden
While the climate and plants that grow so well in Machu Picchu aren't easily adaptable to most environments, the idea of green, living walls certainly is achievable. One of the biggest proponents of living, vertical walls is Patrick Blanc, a botanist, artist, and author.
Blanc's vertical garden projects have brought growing plant life to public and residential walls from Paris to Bangkok and New York to Singapore. His life-long passion for vertical nature has transformed drab concrete walls into refuges for biodiversity.Continue to 4 of 10 below.
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Wall of Lettuce
Not only does this living wall designed by Aralia provide privacy, a touch of nature and color, it also is a smart solution for growing varieties of lettuce and herbs that are just an arm's reach away from the outdoor kitchen. It's kind of a gardener's/home chef's dream come true: a kitchen outdoors with a vertical garden featuring a cornucopia of exotic baby lettuces and herbs.
On a smaller, more attainable scale, try vertically positioned pots or pocket containers, which work well for this type of crop.
Depending on the time of year you plant your crops, you will want to ensure that the wall of lettuce gets enough sun—at least 5-6 hours per day; more in winter.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Wall Pocket Systems
Other types of wall gardens include living walls in which plants are fitted in crevices or planted in containers that allow them to grow vertically and cover all or part of the wall. Woolly Pockets (pictured) is one such system that has been around for awhile and has perfected its products.Continue to 6 of 10 below.
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An Eco Solution
Vertical gardens are growing in popularity, for several good reasons. Among them:
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- They take up less space, especially when the yard, patio or balcony lacks ample room.
- They can disguise an ugly wall or block an unsightly view.
- They allow people to start or continue gardening—including vegetables and herbs - in small spaces that usually wouldn't accommodate a normal-sized planter.
- If healthy and well designed, they can be strikingly beautiful.
- An environmental choice: Many vertical planters and wall systems are designed from recycled or repurposed materials.
- Vertical gardens are often grown and thrive via a hydroponic system—basically a soilless alternative.
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Living Walls: Succulents
Most succulents are drought tolerant and don't require regular water, making them a sturdy plant for living or vertical walls. Their rich colors, textures, and fascinating shapes make them a beautiful medium for living wall art or tapestries. This wall thrives in San Diego County, California.Continue to 8 of 10 below.
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Bare exterior stucco walls without windows can be made more interesting with the addition of a vertical wall planter. Make sure the planter is sturdy enough to hang on a wall and has a flat back. Use the container rule of thrillers, fillers and spillers for a wall vase or pot.
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- Thrillers are taller, visually striking plants that go in the center or toward the back of a container and can be viewed from all angles.
- Fillers are more rounded or mounded plants and fill in the middle of the container. They tie things together and make he combination look fuller.
- Spillers are the plants that spill or trail over the edges. They are usually placed close to the edges of the container so that they can crawl up and over it for that natural spill-appeal.
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Mexican Courtyard Wall
A small courtyard patio in Ajijic, Mexico—near Guadalajara—wisely uses its walls to hang wall pockets. A lush vine climbs up the walls to add even more greenery and vegetation. With living green walls, this courtyard patio provides a nice, colorful retreat.Continue to 10 of 10 below.
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Patrick Blanc Living Wall
A close-up of one of the living walls in France designed by Patrick Blanc, the father of the modern vertical gardening movement.