This may be a new concept for many of y’all out there, but a wall is perfectly acceptable place for a garden… Some folks have been experimenting with vertical gardens (aka living walls) for some time now and have some pretty incredible examples to show for their time.  The man with the most experience is French botanist Patrick Blanc.  He has created some absolutely epic vertical gardens around the world, partnering with many top-notch architects including Jean Novel, Herzog et de Meuron and Francis Soler.  Let’s take a peak at a few of his installations.

Ok… pretty much reality-altering, right?!?… Completely agree!… Next!

Believe it or not, the science behind living walls is pretty basic.  For starters, the idea that plants need soil is a common misconception…. I bet you didn’t know that 2,500 of Malaysia’s 8,000 species grow without soil (If you did, you are a botanic god!)… All that is needed for photosynthesis is water, some minerals, light and carbon dioxide.  Plants can therefor thrive on rocks, tree trunks and other soil-less slopes.

Without the necessity of soil, installations can be very light and as I’m sure you’ve noted, can be done on interior walls.  Three simple steps is all that is required:

1.  A metal frame (hung on wall or self-standing)

2.  A 1 cm thick PVC sheet rivited to metal frame (waterproofs the structure)

3.  A felt layer (made of polyamide) stapled to PVC (the roots grow on this felt)

Not only do the vertical gardens create a dynamic aesthetic, but they act as natural air filters, inhaling toxins and exhaling oxygen.  Indoor air quality can be greatly improved with vegetation and the same idea applies to exterior applications, particularly in urban areas where car emissions and pollution are much more evident.  The Quai Branly Museum in Paris, designed by Jean Nouvel, is a great example of an external living wall.

Perhaps my favorite installation of Patrick Blanc’s is a residence he did for some friends of his…. I remember reading about it in Dwell a couple years back and being absolutely enthralled by the idea.  I was able to scrounge up a couple pics from this article…

…I wonder if they welcome resident birds?

If you are not adventurous enough to build a custom vertical garden, several manufactured options are currently available.  The most popular system is from Elevated Landscape Technologies (ELT).  20″ x 20″  recycled plastic square panels cost about $70 each and are easily installed.  This setup is different than Blanc’s and require the use of soil…. pictured below is the panel by itself and a finished installation.

So there you have it… you now know how to take ‘going green’ literally!


About Joshua Foss

Joshua is a leading voice for transformational change. He is the editor of Metro Hippie, co-founder and director of development of the Ecala Group, and adjunct faculty at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He is also an ambassador for the Living Building Challenge and is a frequent speaker at national conferences, trade shows and summits.