As a NY living wall installer I just devoured Garden Up, Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces by Susan Morrison and Rebecca Sweet.
Humans have become very good at building up with cement and metal. We cover large parts of the planet with buildings of all sizes. We all see the value of building upwards in this way and we rejoice with each building built.
Humans are also very good at planting in the flat ground. We can make beautiful gardens and abundant farms. And of course we all see the value in that too.
But for some reason this obsession with building up has yet to apply to gardens. It is just not done. It is not part of our global culture. Most people would feel an empty back yard is a waste and that it should be planted. But nobody walks by a building and says, “Look at that wall, how come they haven’t planted it yet?”
This cultural view point is global and a reflection of our inability to see nature as our partner. We think it is perfectly fine to build massive cities devoid of nature, as if humans and nature can be separated without deadly consequences.
As we evolve we need to bring nature with us. We can’t leave nature behind. People leave their home town and go to the city. Over time they may see their childhood friends back in the little town as less sophisticated than city dwellers.
In our arrogance we view nature the same way. In our arrogance we think we can live without nature. But increasingly as our planet becomes hostile to our destructive habits nature is telling us otherwise.
One of the solutions to reintegrating humans and nature is growing up, double pun intended. Better said I mean planting up. A human made wall should be seen as a dead space in need of plants.
Living walls should become as necessary as insulation and windows on a building. We can’t afford to waste such valuable real estate. Our survival depends on increasing our exposure to nature and walls are the key.
Eco Brooklyn has invested a lot of time researching the best vertical wall and living wall installations for the New York environment. We have become active living wall installers for the NY area. New York of all cities, currently devoid of living walls and yet famous for building up with concrete, needs good living wall installers.
The Garden Up book is a step in the right direction. A handbook for DYI homeowners, the book discusses the many styles and techniques of turning your garden vertical. It may simply be a narrow part of the garden where the only space is upwards.
They suggest design styles for layering plants so that you can maximize your ground space. They list good plants and trees that are tall and slender.
They also cover the different kinds of living walls – non-soil systems, soil systems, pocketed structures, modular planting, irrigated, non-irrigated etc.
Don’t expect an in depth explanation of how to install large living walls. The book is more an idea book and an intro to what exists as options. It is full of wonderful pictures and easy small DIY projects. And don’t expect a list of native plants. They list lots of plants and it is up to you to make sure which plants are native to your area.
It isn’t a farm gardening book either. It touches on edible gardens but the techniques outlined in the book won’t solve world hunger.
The main benefit of the book is that is proposes the idea that gardening upwards is a viable and beautiful thing. The book adds to the discussion and cultural viewpoint that growing up is as normal as growing flat.
In todays society where building upwards is commonplace we need to catch up and grow upwards as well. Our balance with nature and the planet depends on it.
Eco Brooklyn is a NY living wall installer. We install sedum walls, grass walls and mixed plant walls. Vertical gardens and living walls is an increasing part of our business as we expand into ecological gardening, green roofs and living walls. We focus on low maintenance soil living walls that consume little potable water or gray water and harvested rain water.
We combine the living wall with other parts of the house so that the household gray water is reused to feed the wall. We set up rain water collection systems to route the water into the wall instead of into the sewer. The idea is to create beauty out of waste and ugliness. We take a barren wall, combine it with waste water that normally floods our sewers and rivers and turn the ingredients into a vibrant beautiful space.
The synergies are many – we divert water from sewers, increase the insulation value of the wall, increase the beauty, increase the flora and fauna of the neighborhood and ultimately help re-balance the human/nature relationship.
We do this with all out New York green contractor work but being a living wall installer is especially poignant since the addition of life is so startling in contrast to the barren wall we cover. Simply put, we love it!