Green walls not only look fabulous, they can save energy as well as pump oxygen into the air and suck out pollutants.
The most impressive green wall I have ever seen was the “vertical garden” designed by Patrick Blanc at the Branly Museum in Paris.
Considered the world’s first great green wall, it was completed in 2004, and is still a spectacular sight today with its lush, green, diverse-mix of large and small leaf plants, ranging from hostas to ferns, even the odd rodgersia and fatsia squeezed in here and there.
In Vancouver, Mike Weinmaster, owner of Green Over Grey, a company that specializes in transforming plain, ugly concrete walls into striking green garden-like exteriors, has often deliberately copied Blanc’s Branly project when it came to reworking the exterior, especially at key sites such as the 3,000 square-foot wall at Semiahmoo library in South Surrey.
Weinmaster admits he even travelled specially to France to talk to Patrick Blanc and pick his brain for inspiration and tips on how to create a terrific green wall.
As a result, the kind of striking, stylish green walls done by Green Over Grey are generally considered more European than North American in style, whichmeans they tend to be more daring, diverse and adventurous and, as a consequence, more exciting.
Green walls are not easy to do successfully. Moisture build-up, drainage and watering are all key problem areas. But when they are done well, green walls make a huge difference to a streetscape or to any boring concrete facade.
Another massively impressive green wall I saw was in the tropical Cloud Dome at Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay complex. This was a tower of lush, green, tropical foliage – a mix of colourful leaves and flowers in a stunning tapestry of plants.
Outside this done, there were giant “Supertrees” which are basically vertical gardens in a tree-shape.
In Shepherd’s Bush (White City area) of London, the immense Westfield Mall has a long, curving green wall with an elegant water course next to it.
This gives the mall a far more attractive and pleasant ambience than if the wall had been left plain grey and unadorned by plants.
The best indoor green wall I’ve seen apart from the amazing rainforest tower inside Singapore’s Cloud Dome was (believe it or not) the toilet area at Longwood Gardens in Philadelphia.
Yes, I know it sounds rather unlikely, but the walls of this washroom area are immaculately lined with lush green foliage, turning the whole area into a beautiful vertical garden. This wall is said to be the longest green wall in the world, although I think the one at Westfield would be a fair competitor.
Key benefits of green walls in a city include reduced radiant heat and an increase in oxygen, all of which enriches the environment and makes the city a more pleasantand attractive living space.
In the home garden, we can create our own living walls by putting up planters filled with succulents or lavishly planted with ferns and hostas.
For a little inspiration, here are a few other shots of impressive green walls, including walls covered by carefully espaliered pyracantha, smothered in wisteria and carpeted by Virginia Creeper.