Vertical Gardens – Part 2 – A Wider Sweep

Patric Blanc’s exterior vertical landscape at the Caixa Forum:

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A more modern and late-seasonal look at Patrick Blanc’s seminal Vertical Wall at the Caixa Forum in Madrid, Spain. Always breath-taking, this early Autumn take reveals his sense of it’s evolving maturation and seasonal surprises. Far more colorful in Fall, by what almost seems to be a long way, we forget how many blooms it contains for Spring and Summer. If Van Gogh or Monet did walls, they might look like this.

The indoor world has burgeoned as well, recently. In an urge to make “Sick Buildings” more healthful, nothing counteracts boredom and the effects of ambient bad atmospheres like life-giving intake and emissions of deeply inhaled plant life.



I’ve decided to enlarge the subject owing to it’s new developments. This article was originally written in conjunction with the article below – Part 1 on Patrick Blanc – and will stand, owing to its relevance. But Part 3 will look closer at the nut and bolts of this phenomenon – the hardware elements which have caused its steady growth as an interesting gardening and designing adjunct, as well as various fascinating planting suggestions which have been highly successful as artful and elegant installations among us.

The article from July of 2011:

So after we admire the incredible work of Patrick Blanc, we return to Earth and find a veritable buzz over the entire Verticality thingy. 😉  We see what the PNC Bank in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania did and we do a bit of drooling. This, so far, is the single largest Vertical Wall construction in America and comes in at 2,380 square feet, a total of 14,440 plants, stuck up on the side of a building and offering something few other places have: the soft, lush organic features of plants, replete with seasonal changes:

So, First – The Massive Walls

(click any image to enlarge)


As the plantings mature, we pay attention:


While so much of the field is still experimental as it can be, the strides made by Patrick Blanc have offered immediate enthusiasm from disparate people and firms. Even the US federal Government is considering getting in on the act with the addition of a solid planted wall some 250 feet high in beautiful downtown Portland Oregon:


We realize many wonderful results from all these efforts, including impacts on air quality as well as a startling beauty – a blessedly impractical gorgeousness.

What is most interesting about any of these big constructions are the local effects. The intense plantings operate as a virtual “lung”, recycling and purifying the air aspired by the thousands of plants. From the EXPO 2005 Aichi website:

“At both ends of the central large screen, roses and other glamorous flowers are planted in pockets of the canvas made from kenaf and coated with photocatalyst. Other presentations of state-of-the-art greening technologies include sedum vegetation mats pasted over foam resin materials, vines planted over vegetation boards made of peat moss, and lovely wild flowers planted on bog moss.

Bio-lung is sprayed with mist of active water generated by ceramics. This spraying has the effect of cooling the temperature in the area. Bio-lung is designed to absorb carbon dioxide and supply oxygen with the vegetable power, in addition to the cooling effect in the summer months. It thus presents a model for future environmental equipment that will improve the urban environment and reduce environmental impact.”

I like the look, myself.


Before Proceeding: A Caveat

It may also be time for a caveat towards the entire enterprise, just to give a voice to the possibility of failure over time. It pays to go gently into this newer realm of horticulture owing to effects and implications which we are not entirely up-to-date with as yet. There have been some failures, once advertised as ‘no brainer’ success stories and triumphantly announced as the “next new wave”.

This can also happen:


A genuinely sad development, as are all gardening failures, this one the Paradise Park Children’s Centre in London designed and installed for a hefty bit of change and subsequently failed in development. The issue is broached in this article from Jetson Green’s magazine. An excerpt:

“It’s an interesting situation.  A lot of green technology is new and using it will certainly be an experiment.  Plus, here in the states, public money is chasing LEED and green building, so there will be some high profile blunders — kind of like this one.  But after reviewing all the commentary and various articles, there’s still no clear cut articulation of the what exactly happened.  Why did Paradise Park Children Centre’s living wall die?  Was it the design?  Construction?  Maintenance?  Or some combination of all three?”

The truth is, in landscaping, new technologies give us ways to deal with species’ which are millions of years old, lol. We try all sorts of stuff and sometimes we can’t help trying to fit square pegs into round holes. Some of the earlier efforts, for example, at “Xeriscaping” resulted in preposterous failures as the “drip technology” matured and we found more out about its nuances.

I’ve purloined a picture from a very favorite and quite prolific garden blogger, Alice @ Alice’s Garden Travel Buzz, who I have to insist we all visit regularly. She has also discovered vertical gardening and she has written as extensively as I have on Monsieur Blanc, including his latest effort in San Fransisco, featured in the link.

Here is Alice’s picture taken this year – another year into the floral development – at the Athenaeum Hotel:

Blanc Wall - Athenaeum Photo © Alice Joyce

Enlarging these photo’s reveals a riveting study in maturation, and in such a short period of time.

Blanc Wall Detail Athenaeum Photo © Alice Joyce

Pretty wild stuff.

Next post, we will deal with the “Next Phase” – what works and who is dealing with the future of vertical gardening. In many cases, it might just be fine enough to simply appreciate yet another design innovation made of simple materials, destined for temporary life, recyclable, ultimately re-designable as well. The primary virtue of it all is that we are indeed dealing with plants – what we do from there (outside of feeding and nurturing) is up to the artist in us all:

(this picture taken from a reprint of a photo from Scott  at Season’s Landscaping). I really like what they do, down in the L.A. Region.

Pelican-Hill-02 seasons landscaping

On a smaller scale – nothing really new here, just pretty as heck, from the Portland, Oregon Vertical gardening experts at the neat Singer Hill Cafe, where I aim to drink a cup o’ Joe in mere days from now as I visit up there:


2 thoughts on “Vertical Gardens – Part 2 – A Wider Sweep

  1. I LOVE vertical gardens. I can’t get enough of them and your photos show just how wonderful they are. I most cases they change the whole feel of the area.
    .-= Karen´s last blog ..Fragrant Garden =-.

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