Jason Cornish, horticulturalist
An innovative way to incorporate a garden into a variety of spaces including offices, houses with little outdoor space or apartment balconies, is through the installation of a lush, green vertical garden.
They can be tailored to suit a variety of purposes from producing food to dividing a space to softening, hiding an unattractive wall or feature or in lieu of a fence.
Constructing your vertical garden
Construction techniques can be as simple as do it yourself versions with hanging pots to a freestanding frame or as complicated as a professionally designed and installed hydroponic system mounted to the side of a multi-storey building.
For local domestic use, plastic boxes stacked on top of each other or felt mats with pockets sewed into them are the main styles. The cheaper options have aluminium or plastic frames that you can simply install and remove pots as you want, which means you can shuffle the containers around. The more permanent option of planting directly into the soil means that whenever you change a plant or one dies, you’ll have a hole in the planting
The simpler vertical gardens can be quite low maintenance, needing only water, light and fertiliser. The amount of light available to the space will determine which species of plants to use.
Ideally all green walls should have some sort of drip irrigation system installed to allow for the slow application of moisture to penetrate the growing medium. But if you’re not near a watering system, a watering can for smaller gardens will suffice.
What you can grow
As many walls are in shady positions like under eaves, you need to think about planting mostly shade tolerant plants like ferns. In terms of produce, you can grow any clumping herbs like thyme, basil, parsley and veggies – beans, cucumbers and some smaller tomatoes do well.
In part shade you can grow lettuces, rocket, silverbeet, radishes, dwarf cabbage, chives, basil and parsley. Full sun is a different story as plants dry out quickly so you need to consider drought tolerant plants, probably not edible ones.
You’ll need to protect your plants from possums, birds and wallabies with with mesh or similar physical barriers if your garden is near bush or wildlife.
How much does it cost?
A very basic home option costs around $200 in materials, and go up in price significantly when considering different models and the size of the wall you’re trying to cover.
Vertical gardens are particularly well-suited to apartment living or corporate workspaces, requiring little space, adding to the modern aesthetics of any area and providing much-needed calming green vibes. Plants that would be aesthetically suited to this setting may include succulents or cacti for sunny locations or ferns for more shady positions.
Sydney’s vertical gardens to check out for inspiration
Mater Hospital, Crows Nest
Central Park, Broadway
The Four Seasons Hotel, The Rocks
The London Hotel, Paddington
Jason Cornish is a qualified horticulturalist and licensed structural landscaper who operates Garden Estate Landscaping on the North Shore. www.gardenestatelandscaping.com.au