Recently I was reading my Horticulture and Crop Science magazine from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and was fascinated by an article about living walls with vertically growing plant gardens. Alumnus David Brenner has been creating beautiful living walls with his company Habitat Horticulture since 2010.
One of his most famous walls is the “largest continuous living wall in the country at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art”, which measures 150 feet by 29 feet. It is filled with native California plants. Brenner first encountered living walls of plants in Europe and these inspired him to create his own design, planting, irrigation and maintenance systems.
The company’s website states that “A living wall is an ever-evolving installation, and its continued success relies on upkeep and upkeep.” Plant selection and irrigation are essential. Their living wall irrigation systems are often fully automated, although some only fill the reservoirs once a week. The company maintains its walls, either weekly, monthly or quarterly.
The benefits of a green wall, according to Habitat Horticulture, are cooling, additional insulation, lower energy costs and lower carbon emissions. They purify the air. Plants dampen noise, whether it’s coming from a freeway or echoing in a large room. Their outer living walls provide habitat for various organisms and increase biodiversity. A green wall is an efficient use of space and can be used by those with small patios, yards or in a tight urban environment to grow flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables. And, just like traditionally planted greenery and flowers, plants in a living wall can support mental and emotional well-being. Besides all these advantages, Habitat Horticulture’s wall installations are superb works of living art.
The plants “root directly in the medium attached to the wall”. Doing this, rather than growing a plant such as a vine through the wall, avoids damaging the wall surface. They claim that their irrigation system does not leak and distributes water and nutrients evenly. Their planting medium does not need to be replaced and allows the plants to propagate. Their products are 100% recycled using recyclable materials.
Living plant walls are an ingenious solution for spaces without horizontal planting space. The Chicago Botanical Garden has living walls which are beautiful. Saw a beautiful luscious wall near the bay in Port Townsend, Washington. I would like to see if this technique could be used successfully here in our arid and windy environment, with our large temperature swings and late and early freezes. I wonder how difficult irrigation management would be. They could certainly be installed indoors in small or large spaces.
— JoAnne Skelly is an associate professor and extension educator, emeritus, cooperative extension at the University of Nevada. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.