Vertical gardens

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In this article, we will talk about simple and affordable ways to arrange hanging gardens, about composing plant compositions, about the features of choosing plants, as well as about the required design and irrigation system..

The desire for originality always gives rise to new creative trends that will soon become fashionable, such an evolutionary development is also characteristic of landscape design. The famous tale of the beautiful gardens of Semiramis in Ancient Babylon has acquired completely real modern features and incarnation that just burst into the fashion of landscape design around the world. This happened thanks to the innovative development of Patrick Blanc – a system of vertical gardens, Blanc proposed to decorate cities with hanging gardens.

The beauty and originality of the Hanging Gardens

According to legend, the king of Ancient Babylon Nebuchadnezzar II ordered to build a fabulous terraced garden for his beloved Amitis, which would brighten her life in Babylon during his military campaigns. Nebuchadnezzar’s palace stood for more than 4 centuries and received many great guests, the last of whom was Alexander the Great. More than two thousand years later, the idea of ​​vertical gardens intrigued the genius French botanist and landscape designer Patrick Blanc, who brought to life a daring idea of ​​transforming modern Paris into a beautiful garden. Since there were few horizontal surfaces in Paris, he decided to apply his knowledge in botany and plant the walls of houses with greenery..

Vertical garden
Vertical gardens on the streets of Paris, the capital of France is considered the Mecca of vertical gardens

Patrick Bank’s main place of work is the French National Research Center (CNRS), and his scientific work is devoted to the study of tropical undergrowth plants. Blank developed a plant wall system known as the Vertical Garden System. The idea combined the traditional French traditions of planting walls with ivy and the fabulous legend of the vertical gardens of Amitis. Unlike traditional methods of planting walls with climbing plants, where plants “use” the wall of the building as an attachment, Patrick Blanc’s living walls are a true piece of landscape art. These are real gardens that are installed vertically – each square meter of a vertical garden contains several dozen plants, each composition is unique and never repeats.

When Patrick Blank developed his system, he could not even imagine that it would bring him worldwide fame. The first composition of exotic garden plants was presented in 1994 at the Paris Landscape Design Festival. The idea was so new and original that it was immediately picked up by many designers in the field of landscape decoration..

Vertical garden
Pershing Hall Hotel, Champs Elysees, Paris

After Patrick Blank worked on the Pershing Hall hotel in Paris in a creative alliance with the famous French architect André Putman, where a stunning 30-meter composition of white carnations, ferns, begonias and irises was created, the hotel became the most fashionable in Paris, orders for vertical gardening showered from all over the world.

The cost of vertical gardening according to the original Patrick Blanc system is about 500 euros / m2. Moreover, the created biological system, according to the author, does not require special care, the garden develops by itself, it only needs to be timely fed with minerals and water.

Vertical garden
Quai Branly Museum of Contemporary Art, Paris

The most ambitious vertical gardening project to date is the wall decoration of the Quai Branly Museum of Contemporary Art in Paris. On a wall with a total area of ​​800 m2 accommodated more than 170 species and 15,000 plants. Quai Branly Garden surprisingly changes its appearance depending on the angle of view.

Each vertical garden project requires an individual approach, both creatively and in terms of the microclimatic characteristics of the region. Plant walls should be a luxurious green carpet at any time of the year, even in a northern country.

Vertical plant walls and gardens have sprung up on all continents and adorn both interiors and exteriors of public and residential buildings. Vertical phyto-compositions decorate buildings of museums, public city spaces, hotels and restaurants, commercial buildings and private apartments, are exhibited at art exhibitions.

Vertical plant walls and gardens
Left: Vertical garden in the courtyard of the house. Right: BHVHome Vertical Garden, Paris

The main advantage of vertical gardens is the complete absence of pots or ampels, traditional for vertical gardening. Such a device allows for original creative experiments and create green tapestries that change their appearance from year to year..

Vertical plant walls and gardens
Left: Athenaeum Hotel, London. Right: Les Quatre Temps, Paris

What about the new landscape invention? Undoubtedly, it can turn the general ideas of landscape gardening and revive the dead concrete walls of modern cities..

Features of the choice of plants for a vertical garden

Plants of the tropics and subtropics

Initially, mountain plants of Thailand and Malaysia were selected for planting vertical gardens, more than two thousand species of tropical plants are able to root on rocky slopes in conditions of insufficient lighting, a small amount of minerals and a lack of moisture, so they can be used for planting on city walls where conditions are similar with mountain. Choosing plants that grow in mountainous areas is a good solution for creating plant vertical walls. Such plants tolerate winds well, have a developed root system, require a minimum amount of water for irrigation and mineral fertilizers, and are stunted. These plants are excellently adapted for high-altitude planting..

What distinguishes subtropical mountain plants is their stunningly beautiful coloration and large leaves, but they are not the only representatives of mountain vegetation that can be used for vertical landscaping. As a rule, in cold countries, subtropical plants are used for interior greenhouses, where there is a lack of light and solar energy. With their help, you can create a beautiful green composition that will not suffer under artificial lighting..

Plants of the tropics and subtropics
From left to right: South African spathiflum; Bijlia cana – “living stones”; Blossfeldia liliputana, native to Bolivia and Argentina

Plants of the tropics and subtropics
Subtropical wall in the interior

Alpine plants

For planting vertical walls located on the street, in Russian conditions it makes sense to experiment with alpine mountain plants. In addition to the huge variety of low-growing alpine grasses, numerous types of “snow plants” can be used for planting, which grow at high altitudes at low temperatures. Experimenting with a variety of lichens that have different colors and shapes would be a beautiful solution. An example of the creative use of lichens on walls is the Quai Branly Museum of Contemporary Art in Paris..

Plants that are suitable for vertical landscaping can be identified by their appearance. They have a well-branched, powerful root system, dense, soft leaves and stems, often abundantly covered with hairs that retain moisture. A number of plants with dry stems, curled leaves or thorny leaves are also found, such plants usually covered with a waxy bloom. Thus, even the usual garden or indoor plants will perfectly take root on their own vertical wall..

Alpine plants
Vertical composition based on alpine flora

Alpine meadows are an excellent “supplier” of ideas for garden compositions. The main advantage of alpine vegetation is its simplicity. Most of these plants are adapted to growing on slopes, to high rainfall, little or no soil. For example, in such conditions, edelweiss grows, as well as gentian. The brightness of the colors of the Alps is associated with the need to develop protective pigments for protection from ultraviolet radiation, as well as for pollination of herbs. Creating natural vertical compositions based on alpine meadow plants is a win-win that guarantees a stunning floral carpet on your wall almost all summer long.

Plants of Altai and Caucasus

For vertical gardening in Russian conditions, mountain plants of Altai and the Caucasus are of interest. However, the higher the plant is found on the mountain slopes of Russia, the more dull and scarce greenery the plants possess. When choosing mountain plants, it must be borne in mind that alpine flora blooms only after the accumulation of the required amount of minerals, therefore, top dressing for vertical walls plays a huge role. If you are planting in an arid zone, choose plants with fleshy leaves that can retain moisture. In the process of growth, a vertical garden based on mountain climbing plants will mix and lose its intended shape and pattern. Carpet plants will require maintenance to maintain their shape.

Ampel plants

Ampelous plants are considered an interesting and at the same time simple choice for vertical gardening, many of which belong to the Alpine flora, are now actively cultivated in gardens and have undergone selection. As a rule, all ampelous plants bloom luxuriously, have various decorative forms, many of them are bred in special breeding nurseries. These plants have creative flower and leaf shapes..

Ground cover plants

Ground cover plants, including mosses, which are traditionally used in Japanese gardens, can be a good choice for vertical walls. The flora of Japan is adapted to the low temperatures that are typical for central Russia. Japanese garden composition is distinguished by its special philosophy and discreet design.

Ground cover plants
Moss is a self-sufficient element of a vertical garden, it can also be used in composition with other plants. An interesting solution would be to create compositions based on several types of moss.

How to compose an artistic composition. Practical advice

You can make a successful flower arrangement if you follow simple pictorial rules. You should consider your composition in relation to:

  • colors;
  • flowering time;
  • rhythmic pattern of the texture of the “green” panel;
  • volume of mature plants.

The composition can be selected after choosing the specific plants that caught your attention, and also in reverse order. When thinking over the panel, keep in mind that the smaller the total area, the smaller the size of adult plants should be chosen. For example, large ferns can be used if your greenhouse is large enough. The selection of the rhythmic pattern of the composition allows you to create harmony not only in color, but also in rhythm.

One of the ways to plan a drawing of a plant wall will be computer design with a breakdown of the base into squares, this approach will greatly simplify planting of plants, and planting plants will resemble the process of cross-stitching according to the scheme. You can also markup with twine, it is better to use simple compositions using diagonals, circles, and also the method of the Pythagorean golden ratio. All minor imperfections in the composition will be smoothed out, the plants are so beautiful that they compensate for all mistakes.

Creating a volumetric phyto-panel based on a photo-landscape

We recommend using your favorite photo-landscapes to create a beautiful panel; they lend themselves to simplification and serve as a graphic basis for creating a phytowall with a picture. The creation of plant landscapes requires the selection of plants not only in color, but also in texture, as well as the volume of plants in an adult state, this will add volume to your panel.

Creation of volumetric phyto-panels
As a basis, we have chosen a mountain landscape, which is characterized by the presence of a pronounced inner perspective, which should also be reflected in the plant panel. Also, the landscape has many small elements, so the resulting size of the panel should be large enough, for example, 3×2.2 m

Creation of volumetric phyto-panels
Simplify the colors in Photoshop using the Filter / Artistic / Paint Daubs tool. The next step is to remove unnecessary small elements that will “clog” the composition and make a sketch

Creation of volumetric phyto-panels
Planting scheme of the “Mountain landscape” plant panel. In landscape panels, it is necessary to highlight the textured elements: flat and volumetric, in order to highlight the graphic details

Creation of volumetric phyto-panels
Parts for volumetric plants are highlighted in black

Creation of volumetric phyto-panels
The scheme of planting the plant panel “Mountain landscape”

Creation of volumetric phyto-panels
A panel made using landscape technique in the interior, any flaws in the composition are hidden by the natural beauty of plants

Vertical garden in the interior and outdoors

The creation of vertical plant compositions allows in many respects to turn people’s ideas about the surrounding space. This type of landscaping is applicable both for interior interiors and for the design of cities and gardens. Vertical compositions allow you to create a garden where it was not previously envisaged. A striking example is the design of the Pershing Hall hotel in Paris, when a luxurious tropical garden was created from a completely trivial space of the courtyard, fragrant with the aromas of carnations, begonias and irises..

When arranging vertical gardens, you need to be guided by some rules and requirements for microclimatic characteristics, which is especially important for cool Russian conditions. As a rule, tropical and subtropical plants, which have long been used in our country as indoor plants, are used for interior interiors. They form the basis of unique interior greenhouses. For the outer vertical walls, mountain plants with a good root system and adaptation to poor soils are used. When choosing plants for outdoor plant walls, consider your climatic zone and select plants with similar growing conditions. For example, for rainy and warm areas, you can choose plants of subtropical undergrowth, hot dry areas in summer with cold winters – alpine plants, for northern regions it is better to choose plants traditional for the Russian north, as well as plants of the Japanese garden.

For interiors

As noted, tropical plants are used for interior interiors, which have already become familiar in our apartments..

Vertical garden in the interior and outdoors
Succulent is a houseplant native to the subtropics. There are many types of succulents in various colors. Compositions can be made by planting succulents in an almost chaotic manner. You will get a bright and cheerful picture of multicolored pink-bottomed plants

Vertical garden in the interior and outdoors
Ferns, spathiflum, as well as anthurium of different colors will be a beautiful combination for the interior..
Delicate tropical medinilla will be a beautiful addition to the composition; it is distinguished by “creative” large dark green leaves and delicate flowers..
Akalifa, a fluffy red flower that resembles a fox’s tail, certainly interestingly diversifies the interior composition. Unconditional green lace decor of the vertical wall will be tropical selaginella

Vertical garden in the interior and outdoors
A good choice for an interior vertical garden would be a colorful caladium. Several species of this plant are found in nature. Breeders captivated by the beauty of the leaves have created numerous Caladium varieties that are simply breathtaking.

When choosing plants for interior vertical walls, it is necessary to take into account how developed the root system is. Avoid choosing flowers with a weak root system, such as bromeliads. Also take into account not only the appearance of the plant, but also the maximum size of an adult flower, give preference to small plants that will create the necessary texture, but will not rapidly increase in size. For indoor vertical greenhouses, we additionally recommend the following indoor flowers from the tropics:

Vertical garden in the interior and outdoors
1. Vriezia has beautiful arrow-flowers and elongated dark green leaves. 2. Lace arrowroot. 3. Aerial gloriasis. 4. Liana of Diploma. 5. Dieffenbachia with large mottled leaves. 6. Various types and colors of zebrin. 7. Blooming Ixora. 8. Calathea with beautiful decorative leaves. 9. Graceful clerodendrum.

Vertical garden in the interior and outdoors
Vertical composition in the kitchen made of edible herbs

For exterior

For outdoor green walls in cold areas, it is better to choose mountain plants, many of which are already used as ampelous plants. Here is a small list of traditional ampelous plants.

Vertical garden in the interior and outdoors
1. Bacopa. 2. Lobelia. 3. Terry petunia. 4. Verbena is bred in almost all colors. 5. Columnea is an ornamental evergreen plant. 6. Begonia.

Alpine compositions are perhaps the most striking solution. If you want to fill your garden with colorful paints, decorate the walls of the house with stunning decor – phytowalls with alpine flowers. When planting ampelous plants, it must be borne in mind that it is necessary to create dense groups, single plants look really lonely. The basic rule of landscape design is applied to vertical walls – planting of plants is carried out in large groups, which will give the phytowall volume and texture.

Vertical garden in the interior and outdoors
Ampel plants will help you easily create beautiful vertical compositions in the garden, they stick well to the base and form large flower caps without much plant care. Choose ground cover plants as a basis and decorate them with bright floral inserts

Vertical garden in the interior and outdoors
The simplest compositions of vertical gardens are usually the most win-win. Geometrically correct compositions create the impression of order, the plants themselves give the necessary surplus;

Vertical garden in the interior and outdoors
An important point in creating original vertical compositions is bold experiments, for example, experiments on growing berries and lettuce on the balcony. This garden is very beautiful and will provide you with your own greenery and strawberries

A beautiful solution is to create phyto-landscapes based on different moss. The use of moss helps to give the phytowall a beautiful appearance during the period until the plants have reached their adult size. Mosses not only decorate the composition, but also create the necessary microclimatic conditions for the soil, they are also an excellent insulation. You can make a phytowall only on the basis of moss – this is an amazing picture. Note that moss is an invariable element of the Japanese garden and perfectly complements traditional Japanese plants. Moss can be used in both interiors and exteriors.

Various ornamental grasses will be an original addition to the vertical garden; we can say that phytowalls based on ornamental grasses will have Slavic eclecticism. During the growing season, grasses strongly change their color, so a composition based on ornamental grasses at different times of the year will play with a variety of colors. This herbal supplement perfectly diversifies any phyto-picture. For planting, choose short grasses that will create an interesting relief, but will not disturb the composition during growth..

When planning the composition of a vertical wall, it is necessary to take into account not only the color variety, but also the shape, the picture must not be allowed to be excessively thick, as well as the uneven distribution of volume over the panel.

Features of fastening the structure of a vertical garden

To create a vertical garden, you need a special structure – a metal frame, divided into cells, where blocks with a fertile composition will be attached. Each cell should have free spaces or holes in the walls for watering and feeding using an irrigation system. Each soil block must additionally be reinforced with wire, this will avoid the loss of plants along with the “earth”. Blocks can be fixed with a thin felt that protects the plant from freezing during the cold season.

Features of fastening the structure of a vertical garden
Growing vertical garden on the wall of a house based on Peter Blank’s polymer felt

Features of fastening the structure of a vertical garden
Left: Appearance of a growing garden based on sphagnum moss, which is attached to metal cells.
Right: Metal structure of a vertical garden on the wall of a house in Spain

The main problem of creating plant walls was the search for a bearing fertile base that would not crumble under the influence of gravitational forces, wind and rain. Patrick Blank uses a microcapillary structured polymer felt that conducts nutrients and water from the irrigation system. This method of arranging gardens is patented, so other designers use a natural material similar in its properties – sphagnum moss.

Soil for vertical gardens, plant care and watering system

Topsoil for vertical gardens

Sphagnum moss is traditionally used for the cultivation of tropical plants such as orchids. At the moment, many plants are grown and sold in sphagnum. Moreover, the common fertilizer – peat, is precisely rotted sphagnum. Dry moss is capable of absorbing 20 times its own weight in water. It is ideal as a fertile base for vertical gardens.

The name of this type of moss was given by the Greeks, “sphagnus” in Greek means sponge. In addition, sphagnum moss has antifungal properties, has antibacterial and disinfectant properties, and has excellent breathability. Sphagnum moss is used by “lazy” growers, such flower feeding guarantees less care, and the plants always grow healthy and have a luxurious deciduous system, and also bloom well. At the moment, most demanding plants are rooted with the help of sphagnum when breeding..

It should be noted the insulating properties of sphagnum moss, even in the old days they used to insulate huts, and gardeners insulate plants with moss before frost. Such a litter allows you to preserve even non-frost-resistant plant species..

The sphagnum moss almost immediately attracted the attention of designers engaged in vertical gardening, precisely from the point of view of imparting certain properties to the soil layer, which should not lose its properties when installed vertically.

Irrigation system for phytowalls

The boom in vertical gardening contributed to the release of industrial systems for automatic irrigation and plant nutrition. Due to the capillary properties of the polymer felt, which was proposed by Peter Blank, as well as the properties of sphagnum moss, the liquid freely descends along the wall under the action of gravity, and excess water is removed and supplied with a pump to the top of the wall. Thus, the fertile layer absorbs moisture just as much as is required for plant growth..

Irrigation system for phytowalls
Irrigation system for vertical gardening

The irrigation system for vertical gardens is simple enough to make it from scrap materials, for this you need several pipes, a storage tank for water with a pump. With the help of a pump, water rises to the top, from where it enters the micro-drip irrigation system, which irrigates the phytowall. You can do without micro-drip irrigation using a perforated pipe located at the top of the phytowall, as well as a system for collecting excess water at the bottom of the plant bed.

Vertical garden care

Caring for vertical garden plants is conceptually no different from caring for regular flowers. In the spring and autumn, it is recommended to feed the plants; in the winter, the vertical walls must be carefully insulated so that all the plants overwinter well. During the flowering period, it is necessary to remove inflorescences that have faded, as well as excess shoots. Despite the fact that Peter Blank says about the absolute lack of maintenance of the vertical garden, maintaining it in a beautiful condition will require some effort..

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