Somebody wants vertical gardens in their building, and has given me the opportunity to make it. Now I have to figure out how its done, double-quick, and find a capable co-creator before the chance disappears. So here is my research on how vertical gardens of all kinds and costs can be created, with a few photos of green walls that got me excited on my last trip to Tokyo.
First you ask Patrick Blanc, the enthusiastic Frenchman who got it all started. He generously shares all he knows in this ABC Gardening interview with Patrick Blanc
no-bend vertical(?) veranda gardening.
According to Patrick, they are lovely eco-systems, becoming the home for all kinds of creatures, even frogs. They purify and ionize the air, making the area quiet and calm. Indoor gardens use plants that thrive in low-light forest floor ecosystems, and can have supplementary lighting.
They are made from a 1cm thick PVC sheet attached to a structural frame, with an air gap from the wall. On top of that is stapled a polyamide felt, which becomes the growing media. Plants are slotted in here, letting their roots run over the fabric, sometimes for meters, instead of in soil. Every three hours, the automated watering system turns itself on, delivering the plants their food and drink in the one go.
Each square meter of garden takes 3 liters of water per day, says Patrick. He got quite excited when he spoke about the work he is doing in the Middle East, where he talks about how he can run his gardens of the water discharged by air conditioners, taken from the air. "Usually people eat plants, but here, plants are eating people, living of the evaporated water from our breath".
He delights in live-giving things. That must be what gave him his pioneering energy.
He says they don't have to be expensive, that the frame is about $500, the plants about $350, and the rest of the cost is labor.
You can see commercial green walls made by the Aussie Vertical Garden creators Fytowall.
They say complete walls can cost as much as $2,000 per square meter to install. They have spent years experimenting with what will work and what wont, and that is part of what you pay for.
Here are some samples I spotted in Tokyo on my last visit:
Green Wall on a shoestring.
Ivy climes a mesh of net, sitting in regular pots on the ground.
If resourceful, you could almost make this one for free.
Earth-planted green wall with natural security system of rose thorns.
This could also provide petals for jam and salads, and rosehips for vitamin C.
ladders can extend the reach of your garden wherever you are.
A vessel at the top could gravity feed the lot.
Maybe underground car parks can just skip the cement render,
with lit plants directly into the soil as railway tracks do.
Their entire building is less than two meters wide,
but their garden aspirations are grand.
Morning glory shoots up from saved seed,
ravishing the mesh over this humble house in a few weeks,
then wanes as autum approches. The mesh is rolled up until next spring.
On the down side, most city people only have to walk 10 steps to find a perfectly good bit of neglected land we could adopt and grow things on, for the asking. We don't need to go to the expense of gardens on walls. They are dependent on high-technology and fossil fuel (for lighting). They are only easy to harvest from at certain levels. They use chemical nutrients. The death of a pot plant is easy to get over emotionally, but a $4,000 dead vertical garden would take a greater psychological toll. Last but not least, I don't know how to make them.
On the good side, they bring green where no green has gone before. This can become ecosystems homes for critters, it can even give us the feeling we are growing our own food. It follows the permaculture principle of 'use vertical space'. If stage 4 water restrictions do hit Melbourne, the only gardens we will be allowed to water will be indoor gardens, so we had better start getting good at it.
If you can help with mine, I would be so pleased to hear from you.