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. ūüėČ ¬†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 ‚ÄĒ 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 √ā¬© 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 √ā¬© 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:


Vertical Gardening – Part 1: Patrick Blanc

I’m recirculating this post from a few years ago in order to provide some glimpses in my next post, of how things have evolved in the Vertical Wall field since. A minor industry has taken off within the landscaping field, including systems and hardware to make all of this simpler and more easily reproduced at home or on projects. The various failures have occurred to sharpen the techniques which always guide newer technologies.


Developments in irrigation sensor technology, irrigation in general and nutrient delivery systems have combined with innovative methods of providing fertile growing mediums in small spaces to uncap the possibilities of providing incredible small gardens as examples of living art amid organic air fresheners in the buildings and walls around us. The expansion of this field has been one of the most promising developments in all of recent landscaping and opens up an entire world of possibilities. Enjoy:


They had to be inevitable, Vertical Gardens, considering all the new stuff in gardening and landscaping – all the newly-discovered potentials in so many varied but congruent technologies and disciplines. The list of such technologies range from modern horticultural discoveries to irrigation technologies to – hardly least important! – waterproofing materials, thence to construction technologies in general.

So where do these modern developments lead us?

To here – Patrick Blanc’s marvelous vertical construction at the Caixa Forum, in Madrid, Spain, in 2007:

(click any images to enlarge when applicable)

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The picture above is the current version of this, at its origins:


The mind behind this gorgeous vertical garden is the preeminent designer and very seminal instigator of the field itself, one Patrick Blanc Рhis more than fascinating website accessible by hitting the link under his name. Blanc was an already-accomplished horticulturist Рa scientist and something of a botanical genius. Blanc is affiliated with the CNRS (Centre National de Recherche Scientifique) and also won the French Society Award for Botany in 1993. In short, he knows what he is doing, and is also very good at adapting his genius to a project and then making these things work. Mr. Blanc has authored a fantastic book, chronicling his efforts, called Vertical Gardens Рlink to Amazon included in this link.

The book is very cool. He speaks of his own methods of trial and error, operating in a field to which he was naturally drawn in his fascination with the upright flora he had seen in his travels. He posts pictures such as the ones below which indicate why his curiosity was so piqued by the potential he saw in these natural sights:


And these, from the book itself, where waterfalls provide the constant moisture leading to such excessive and exquisite natural beauty:


A perusal of his website reveals other wonders, just fabulous renditions of his vision and it has inspired an entire and very burgeoning school of verticality in landscaping in just a few short years – a literal explosion of interest in the gorgeousness and the design potential inherent in such a new and overwhelmingly entertaining area. Here are just a few examples of this man’s exquisite art:



As one can see, there tend to be few limits on Vertical Gardening’s amazing promise. While Blanc’s incredible efforts are not entirely new – one does indeed suddenly acquire an almost instant desire to travel back in time to Babylon – Blanc has certainly acted as the seminal innovator and living advertisement for this intriguing field itself.

The¬†practice¬†and knowledge clustered around Vertical Gardening achieved a ‘critical mass’ in an exceptionally instant, no doubt Internet-driven accumulation of schools, products, certification programs since its recent explosion. And not much of this is a bad thing whatsoever. This is a wrinkle that requires a bit more than my pick up truck and a few shovels.

In part 2, we will visit these equally entertaining places and exhibitions of their results. Here’s one now – shown here at none other than the not-so-stuffy ASLA’s (American landscape Architect Association’s) own website – a picture from the entitled names below the shots.

Anything is possible!


Just Pictures – Archives And Recent

Gleaned over the years……… and some very recent – as in last week.


A somewhat perfect Vertical Garden – from Portland, Oregon.

(click any image to enlarge)

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The lasting virtue of this relatively new technology is in its space-saving reclamation of Nature over Cement – among other things. Of course, who doesn’t like the otherwise fascinating look at small works of art hung on a wall or hallway?


Roses called in – said “Get a load of us!”

The Portland, Oregon Rose Garden proves yet again why Portland calls itself “The Rose City” – not that I doubted its claim.


Such a gorgeous setting, overall……

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This humongous Weeping Beech always captivated me. It just keeps growing, too, quite happily. The entire “weeping” element of trees has captivated me for some time –

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I began using them shamelessly in my own designs after seeing them in such circumstances – and in such profusion as exists around Portland.


I even remember when the picture above was looking like this:


But, yes, the fascination with Weeping Trees stayed. There was always something “sympathetic” about the downward direction of limbs and the coursing water looking so “in place” beside it.


It became something of a trademark in my water feature constructions –


But weeping trees may also claim their very own environment and stand gorgeously on their own in a soft, appealing gesture.

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Did someone say roses? Let’s get drunk on some.


On my most recent visit to the Portland Rose Garden, my wonderful friend Annette and her family accompanied me – or I them – Annette played with her filter on a few –

to interesting ends……….



Of course, some require No Filter – Nature does it for us……

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For some supremely stupid reason, I often laugh when I see this picture:

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My Current Quandary Is What To Like Most About Spring??

Which blooms rock most?…………..Is it the Rhododendrons?

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Crystal Springs March 3 09 208

The absurd profusions of the Spring-blooming Crabapples and Cherries?

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Or did we miss something?

Dogwoods, for example?

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Speaking of “absurd profusions”…………

Bernheim Spring 209

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This is an excellent method of exposing some archives………..Hope you enjoyed it!