Vertical Gardens, The Joy Of Living Walls

 In Garden Design, Uncategorised

Have you ever considered how living walls could enhance your outdoor spaces? In this blog we’re taking a close look at vertical gardens.

Living walls. They’ve been around for centuries but it’s only in the last decade or so that they’ve become more mainstream. Spend a weekend in London and you’ll see living walls almost everywhere you go. Big name companies use them indoors and outdoors to reduce their carbon footprint and boost the wellbeing of local communities. But what ARE living walls and how can they enhance gardens in Somerset?

vertical garden on a hospital in France

This hospital in France is adorned with a series of living walls making it feel more welcoming and less clinical. All of that extra insulation also helps to regulate the temperature inside the buildings and reduces energy use.

What Is A Living Wall?

A living wall is essentially a vertical garden. In its simplest form, it might be a hedge or a Virginia creeper cladding the outside of a building. But living walls in the modern sense of the word are really quite sophisticated. 

Pockets of growing media are supported on a robust framework and then filled with an array of beautiful plants. You can adapt living walls to almost any conditions. Indoors they are breathtakingly beautiful and an intrinsic part of biophilic design. (Biophilic design is about connecting people with nature to enhance wellbeing). 

Outdoor living walls perform a whole host of functions beyond just looking great. Benefits include cooling the air, insulating buildings, trapping particles of pollution and creating wildlife habitat. They also have great potential for urban food production. Which means that you can use them in your garden for strawberries, salad leaves and all kinds of yummy things .

living wall system with water blade installed by SilverBirch Gardens of Somerset

Newly planted vertical garden in a SilverBirch Gardens project in Woolavington

Why Put A Living Wall In A Garden?

I can think of lots of reasons to include living walls in garden design. 

  • Great way to introduce more plants into a smaller space.
  • Blurs boundaries by disguising fences.
  • Creates a focal point, especially when combined with lighting and/or water features
  • Absorbs noise. Use living walls to insulate against road noise.
  • Insulates against cold – great for the exterior of garden rooms to reduce heating bills
  • Cools the air in summer – for a wonderful fresh, jungle like feel to a garden
  • Terrific at creating wildlife habitat. Shelter for birds and insects alike.
  • Blends structures into the landscape around them.
  • Perfect for food production, keeps crops off the ground.
  • Very tactile – brings plants to touching and sniffing height.
  • Beautiful when lit.
  • Incorporates beautifully with water features.

What to Plant In A Living Wall

Plant choices for living walls are more varied than you might think. Of course you need to think about the final size of the plant. You’d need an industrial sized framework to support fruit trees etc. And plants with particularly invasive roots are probably not ideal for this style of planting.

Think about the aspect of the wall and how exposed it is to sun and wind. Living walls usually have a built in irrigation system so you don’t need to worry too much about water requirements. Although plants normally found on pond margins may find conditions too dry for them.

Perfect plants for a first time living waller include, ornamental sedges and grasses such as Carex or Fescues, Heucheras, Bergenia, Sedum spurium, Salvia nemorosa, Scabious, Vinca, Strawberry,   evergreen ferns, Erigeron, salad leaves….the list goes on.

My advice would be to enjoy experimenting with different plants. One of the joys of living walls is that you can get really close to plants without bending over. They’re great for wheelchair users too.

Take a look at this case study for a garden we built in Woolavington where vertical planting takes centre stage.  

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