Gorgeous Green House

The Renovation Journey of a 1940’s ‘Traditional’ to 2015 ‘Contemporary, Green & Gorgeous’

Vertical Garden: an exceptionally glorious green moment

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Patrick Blank Vertical Garden

The first time I stumbled  upon an image of a Patrick Blank vertical garden I was transfixed.  The beauty of his work is indisputable  and the idea of clothing the hard surfaces of buildings with vegetation quite mesmerizing.  I had already walked the path of research on roof gardens so knew that there would also be insulation benefits, but to be really honest at that moment I just wanted one! I had an inkling that there would probably be quite a lot of science in the process of a successful VG and began looking into it. I learned very quickly from viewing a hotel in Johannesburg that maintenance could be quite a big deal as they had many sections in re-hab mode even though the garden had been installed a few years prior. Once you get a few metres above ground level logistics have to be considered.

green wall vertical garden thailand.jpg

Pula Water Pot System

The Patrick Blank process is basically hydropics with irrigation behind the greenery. I became nervous of my ability to re-create this aesthetic in our hot tropical Durban climate  and then discovered the pot/container method which is a viable alternative.  Here you are planting in soil so essentially you are gardening a large volume of pot plants (that are also carefully irrigated) and a very pleasing result is achieved. My research took me to Pula Water whose system of this kind is no doubt the best in SA and probably globally.  A major advantage is that an almost immediate ‘full’ planted result can be achieved.  I was just about to commit!

James Halle Green Wall

James Halle Green Wall

I then arrived to work on the Botanical Society stand at the Home & Garden show and to my amazement saw that our center piece was a magnificent mini Patrick Blank, designed and developed by our own James Halle:  james@halle.co.za . Over the next few weeks of volunteering at the Indigenous Plant Fair James and I spent a fair amount of time together and combined with further research of my own this is what I learned:

  • Plant selection is the most important factor in determining the success and long time health of your wall.  Patrick Blank has walls that are over 30 yrs old and the reason they thrive is because he chooses plants that grow on rock faces with little soil.  Naturally you locally indigenous (native species) are best.
  • One must study very carefully the aspect of your wall in terms of the micro climate it exists in. The amount of  sun it gets in winter and summer further informs ones plant selection.
  • A great vertical garden is a science and an art.  I strongly advise you consult a plant expert who firstly understands the species that will grow best (science) and then knows how to put them together to create something beautiful that has the potential to get richer and stronger over time.  James Halle is a special talent in this regard.  He talks about ‘plant communities’ that will work together, weaving into a gorgeous tapestry where no species dominates and crowds out the others.  He thinks about the vertical plain in the multi layers it will become over time, ensuring that some gaps are left for mosses and smaller treasures to take a foot hold.  James ensures textures are contrasted and flowering seasons considered so colour will always be present.  I truly cannot over exaggerate how valuable his expertise has been.  On reflection, I know (on my own) I would have started off with a pretty design that would have eventually amalgamated in mash of reduced diversity.
  • If you are an instant gratification person this technology (images to follow) is not for you.  Small plants are inserted into the fabric as they have the greatest likelihood of ‘taking’ which means a lot of the background material is visible in the first few months. However, the rewards long term are greater than the pot bound system (I believe) as the wall can become an interwoven living system that grows from strength to strength.

So here is my (early stage) extraordinary and beautiful green wall of art (thank you James):

A PVC board id attached to a stainless steel frame

A PVC board id attached to a stainless steel frame

James's specially developed hydrophilic fabric (2 years in R & D!)

James’s specially developed hydrophilic fabric (2 years in R & D!).  Two layers are installed with irrigation between.

Planting begins.  Each small plant is provided a nest of coconut husk, nutrient and a few secret ingredients to give it a fantastic start

Planting begins. Each small plant is provided a nest of coconut husk, nutrient and a few secret ingredients to give it a fantastic start

Planting to plan, note the chalk marks on the fabric

Planting to plan, note the chalk marks on the fabric

James graciously gives my space to participate.  Emotional - I'm still pinching myself that this incredible thing is installed on my house!

James graciously gives my space to participate. Emotional – I’m still pinching myself that this incredible thing is installed on my house!

All done!  Use your imagination to see where it will be in a few months

All done! Use your imagination to see where it will be in a few months.  Note the trough below. When the pond is complete (a few meters away) it will be stocked with Tilapia fish whose waste will provide the nutrition for the plants.  (Watch this space!) Note also the bar near the top.  I am having a custom ladder made with hooks to secure me in place for easy maintenance in the years to come.

Note the diversity of form and colour

Note the diversity of form and colour

Another angle!

Another angle!

Streptocarpus sp.

Streptocarpus sp.

 

Begonia homonyma

Begonia homonyma

Begonia sutherlandii

Impatiens hochstetteri

Impatiens hochstetteri

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23 thoughts on “Vertical Garden: an exceptionally glorious green moment

  1. Absolutely fantastic – well done James – such an exciting concept.

  2. its a pity I am not as pretty as the plants, its awesome I cant wait for it to fill out!

  3. I am making a list of invitees. Driveway going in which is making access to the property tricky. As soon as that is done we will make a plan.

  4. Well done Jane! This is amazing! I especially like the idea of feeding the plants with the Tilapia waste from the nearby pond. I have seen this done in glasshouse hydroponics. I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes 🙂

  5. Absolutely stunning! I can’t wait to see it…so well done Jane.

  6. Green walls are amazing! I saw a video of one being made on an Australian gardening show and have been smitten with the idea of them ever since. 😊

  7. Well done Jane for your courage and passion to create this wonderful growing vertical garden and to James for adding the expertise to bring the dream to reality!! I am waiting for your invitation to come and visit.
    Love
    Coral

  8. Like!

    Mark Liptrot

    Afripack – Group Sustainability Manager

  9. Well done Jane and James. It is amazing, indeed a work of art

  10. Its really awesome!

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