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Vertical Gardening

Vertical Gardening

Vertical gardening is becoming increasingly popular all over the world for its innovative use of space and the urban sustainability issues which are addressed by them. Patrick Blanc is the most well known producer of vertical gardens having worked with many prominent architects and on many well known buildings. He was born in Paris in 1953 and has worked with plants most of his life. His experiences in natural environments around the world led him to design the first patented Vertical Garden which is a soil-less system attached to the side of buildings and walls.

Vertical gardens are being used to produce consumable crops as well as ornamental installations. They are being installed anywhere from prominent outdoor locations to urban dining rooms and backyards. They are popular because of their small horizontal foot print and adaptability to so many different situations. There has also been some study done into growing large amounts of fruits and vegetables in skyscrapers.

Green Walls

Green walls are living, self-regenerating coverings for walls of houses or any other public space. Climbing plants have been grown on walls for centuries, relying on shallow roots penetrating the concrete or brickwork for support (green facade). Modern day green walls use various cladding structures tied to the walls providing the growing medium and in many cases a watering system (living walls). The versatility of being able to have larger amounts of growing medium to support the root system allows almost any plant to be grown in these vertical gardens.

Sustainability Issues

Vertical gardens are very popular among the environmentally conscious home gardener. The plants and/or medium create shade and a thermal mass along walls which acts as insulation, reducing inside temperatures during summer and reducing energy consumption of heating systems during winter. The main cause of heat build up in urban areas is insolation, which is the heating of roads, buildings and other man made masses due to their absorption of solar radiation. The vegetation on vertical gardens only rises (in temperature) by a very small amount (if at all) when in direct sunlight, which also helps to regulate the outside environment.

Whether inside or outside the house, vertical gardens also act as air filters. Plants can filter toxins and pollutants from the air as well as taking in the carbon dioxide we inhale. A study by NASA carried out in the 1980s and 90s identified various indoor plants that are effective at filtering chemicals including carbon monoxide, benzene and formaldehyde. There is also the obvious point of plants putting oxygen back into the air for us to breathe. Gardening in the urban environment tackles so many relevant issues for society and vertical gardens are just another adaptation, bringing beauty and cleaner air to all of us.

Ornamental Topiary Gardens

Topiary is the art of shaping shrubs and trees, sometimes into neat shapes like spheres, but also into some mind blowing compositions of different colours and textures. The Beijing Olympics in 2008 were a showcase of cutting edge design and architecture, highlighting Beijing’s technological expertise. However, one of the most amazing sights at the games was the gardening display at the Olympic Topiary Gardens. The sculptural gardens depicted the cultural diversity within China, utilising 80 botanic gardens worldwide and species from over 25 countries. This topiary shows the creative detail which can be applied to gardening and its endless possibilities.

Skyscraper Farms

Skyscraper farms are not strictly vertical gardens but they are a proposal for gardening within vertical buildings so we have included them here as a topic of interest. Dr Dickson Despommier has argued for years that the world need to address its production of food to cater for the growing population and the available farm land we have. His idea is to create farms vertically in urban skyscrapers. People have been growing food in glass houses and indoor environments for a long time and this may be the next step to sustainably provide for the future. The farms would need to be efficient in terms of construction and operation and would need to employ new growing technologies to be viable. Although they are a long way off there is constant thought and debate being applied to the topic and one day we may see skyscrapers in major cities producing our food. You can see the full proposal and other related topics at