Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Living wall, green wall, vertical garden, Le Mur Vegetal: they’re all names for a new type of garden design rapidly gaining respect. Pioneered by Patrick Blanc in Paris in 1994 vertical gardens are popping up on façades when there's no other room to plant. Green walls are akin to greenroofs, but run vertically, often in a place where passers by can admire them, sometimes on an interior wall.

The structure requires plastic sheeting, a metal frame, and fibrous materials
to hold the roots in place. There is no soil. Plants are watered from the top
with a carefully metered solution of water and nutrients. This mix trickles
down; excess is captured in a trough at the bottom, then returned to the top
to reuse. Interior green walls need special lighting as well.

Eager to see an example and
not ready to spring for a trip
to Paris where I could see at
least six gardens designed by
Blanc, I hoofed it to E. 86th St.,
between 3rd and 2nd Ave. in
Manhattan. My eye was
temporarily distracted by a
fruit stand at curbside. I walk-
ed right by the garden, which
reaches from the second to
third floors above the Pure
Yoga Studio. If you look only
in the storefronts, or at the
strawberries on the cart,
you’ll miss it.

On this heavily commercial block, the garden makes an aesthetic statement, and a small contribution to reducing air pollution spewed out by trucks and the crosstown bus. I took some pictures but decided to wait until spring to write about it, tracking the stability of the garden through two more seasons.

Alas, on my visit last week
'scaffolding scourge' had over-
taken the garden. By law,
facades of New York City build-
ings over six stories must be inspected “periodically”. Once a company comes to inspect and make repairs, the scaffolding remains FOREVER. The plants were totally shielded from sunlight except for a small band above the construction. They looked ratty,if not dead.

So beware if you hope to install
a vertical garden: check out your
building’s plans before you start,
or try this small scale version of
a green wall in any limited space.
(As seen at the New York Botanic
Garden Home Gardening section).


Robie said...

Not sure if you know of this, but there's a LEED gold-certified bar in Williamsburg, BK with a green wall too -- check the inhabitat post here: http://www.inhabitat.com/2008/04/02/oulu-bar-and-eco-lounge/

Ellen Spector Platt said...

Robie, I didn't know but will check it out. Many thanks for the tip! esp

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