Greening the wall

In any urban setting, our spaces are defined by walls. They contain us within our homes and delineate boundaries between our neighbour’s and us. As our cities densify, we have less horizontal space.  Yet the walls, which surround us, offer endless opportunities to ‘green’ our confined spaces, by gardening vertically.

In some instances, it is appropriate to leave walls ‘un-touched’ as they are features in themselves. One need only think of the architecture of Louis Baragan or Tadoa Ando who express walls so beautifully. The surfaces are intended to stay blank and show the passage of shadow on them.  However, very often an ordinary wall is not a beautiful thing.

One may want to disguise the wall.  And what better way than smothering it in greenery, otherwise known as greening the wall. In doing so it blends into its surrounds and disappears. Greenery softens angular corners, and grounds an otherwise imposing facade. This can be achieved quite simply by training a creeper onto a façade.  Trachelospernum (Star Jasmine) is a solid favourite – it is evergreen, so its glossy green leaves offer consistent coverage throughout the year.  It will require cables to train it, while Ficus Pumila (Ticky Creeper) or Parthenocissus tricuspidata (Boston ivy) attach themselves with suckers to the wall.

Similarly, greenery can also be cleverly used to enhance a feature. Here, an entrance way is framed with a spectacular Bouganvillea, thereby accentuating the doorway, enticing and welcoming visitors.  It’s really about knowing which walls to leave blank and which to celebrate with greenery.

Sophisticated vertical gardens synonymous with Patrick Blanc have developed in response to a desire to either accentuate walls and envelope buildings with greenery. While we don’t all have the means of these high tech vertical walls, here are some examples of how one can achieve this effect more simply.

A simple gabion steel structure becomes a cradle for planted terracotta pots.  The structure and the pots are features in themselves. Consider a system of shelves or bars, provide opportunities to place or hang potted plants. ‘Framed plants’ can be mounted on wall surfaces, as one would hang a piece of artwork.

Text: MARY MAUREL

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