Ever since I heard Patrick Blanc’s presentation on vertical gardens at the Australian Landscape Conference held in Melbourne in 2007 I have had a narrow view of what constitutes a vertical garden but the wide variety of vertical garden styles on display at the Singapore Garden Festival (Singapore GF) has caused me have a rethink.
The vertical garden that I usually picture is perhaps more accurately described as a greenwall – a fairly solid structure completely covered in plants as epitomised by Patrick Blanc’s works that are dotted all around the world. His vertical gardens include huge works of living art adorning high rise buildings and even sculptural works such as those at the Chateau de Chaumont in France which I spoke about on an earlier blog.
It seems to me that many greenwalls are installed primarily to create an instant wow factor which they do admirably. Some of the other styles of vertical gardens on show at the Singapore GF were more practical in style but many also looked very attractive and dramatic. After hearing Patrick Blanc’s inspiring presentation I wanted to create a vertical garden for myself. It took a while before an opportunity presented itself but eventually I was able to design a greenwall into a courtyard where, despite its modest size and simple plant selection, it created an instant focal point. (see left)
Generally greenwalls are designed and installed by professionals because they are fairly permanent structures where knowledge of design, engineering, building regulations, reticulation, drainage and horticulture all have to be integrated.
Although greenwalls were featured at the Singapore GF there was also a huge range of exciting new products, many of which were of the ‘do it yourself’ variety. Often the plants were grown in decorative containers unlike those of the greenwalls which are usually black modules where the aim is to hide the underlying structure with the plants. It isn’t always obvious but most vertical gardens (including greenwalls) are grown hydroponically and this feature was quite visible in some of the vertical garden planters on display at the Festival.
In the past in Perth (and most of Australia except perhaps the densely populated centres of Sydney and Melbourne) there hasn’t been the same need to garden vertically as there is in Singapore. Most people here have the luxury of living on a property that suits the level of gardening that they want to do however this is changing as more apartments are built and suburban lots become smaller. Recently we have seen many traditional vegie patches shrink to become raised vege planters and a few people have created their own vertical vegie gardens but in Singapore they are embracing very sophisticated vertical garden systems to grow all sorts of edible crops.
Although most people are aware of the benefits of having indoor plants they haven’t been that popular over the last few years. Perhaps there will be a new trend to do so using vertical garden planters if the displays at the Singapore GF are anything to go by. Instead of having the odd pot plant tucked away in a corner or sitting on a table the new way would be to have them hanging on the wall or displayed on specially designed stands. Sadly because of the limited market in Perth the variety of vertical garden planters available is very limited. I would really love to try out a few different styles so hopefully the range will be expanded in the near future. I didn’t have time to buy any while I was in Singapore last time but I’m heading back there soon so maybe I can pick up a few to try!