My profession and passion is the building of greenwalls. I have been designing and installing them for over twenty five years. In this time I have learnt how to choose the most suitable plants; how to support and feed them and how to maintain the walls. I have learnt that as with all things horticultural the devil is in the detail and not all greenwalls are equal.
It seems to me that the idea of green walls or vertical gardens is the new gardening trend. Wherever I look, whether it is a blog, a magazine or a gardening show on TV there are articles and beguiling pictures of the latest examples. Some have edible plants; some are simple to install; and some are absolutely massive. Like all horticultural fads and fashions some will last and provide benefits, some will wither and die.
What is a green wall? Well, there are millions of examples in nature. When, you see a rock or tree colonised by plants, you’re looking at one of nature’s living green walls in action. These natural green walls are the ultimate testament to persistence and survival. From location to location the plant survival rates differ according to water, air, soil, temperature, nutrients and the light. It is the naturally occurring green walls that have inspired me and provided the vision of reclaiming the built environment.
Myths and Misconceptions
I find that there are many misunderstandings as to what are greenwalls. When people discover what I do, they always appear interested, but there are many misconceptions. Here I share a few of the common ones.
1. Greenwalls are all the same. There are big differences in greenwalls. I specialise in greenwalls that are built to last, easy to maintain, and of course easy on the eye. I do not build them to supply food. The ones that we design and install have several major features, including;
• The plants are chosen to increase biodiversity
• The growing media is environmentally sound
• They are maintainable. There is nothing sadder than a green wall which is dying, or dead, or sparsely planted.
2. Greenwalls are expensive to install and maintain. In my decades of experience I have built and maintained many greenwalls; some of these are enormous installations, such as the twenty two storey green wall in the Origin energy building in Melbourne.
Other installations are modest in comparison. One of my favourites is one built on the balcony of a high-rise residential apartment in Sydney.
When costings are made I have proven over and over again that these walls, with their many benefits, prove to be reasonably priced. Benefits include provision of clean air and of course there is a ‘feel good’ factor.
3. All Greenwalls are environmentally friendly. They are not. Some are designed without environmental factors in mind. It is necessary to consider structure, growing media, watering, nutrition and many other factors. Greenwalls and roofs, that are planted in massive podiums are not environmentally friendly, the carbon footprint of these engineered solutions is large. At the Greenwall Company we use recycled materials as our growing media. We also endeavour to place the walls so that they are designed as an integral part of the building and so save additional construction costs.
4. Green walls are a new idea. Not really, there are some very early examples; including those possibly grown in Babylon in 600 BC. What is new is that they are now very popular, but not all examples meet expectations.
5. Greenwalls are just decoration. Well some are, but a well built wall can contribute to the environment in a positive way. Well designed walls contain species of plants that are grown to promote biodiversity, minimise maintenance, provide insulation and replicate nature.
6. Singapore leads the way in greenwalls and greenwall legislation. Many countries are now embracing the idea of green walls. A well-designed wall ensures that all components are constructed with environmental consideration in mind. Over engineering of structures, for example, provide green walls that are far from carbon neutral.
At the Greenwall Company we strive to provide green walls that provide biodiversity. We also have a dream of greening the built environment; and to this end we replicate nature as far as possible. Twenty five years of experience means that I build environmentally and beneficial walls. They are not ‘bits of green, decorative, fluff’. I would love to receive readers’ thoughts on green walls and on our quest to improve biodiversity. In a future blog post I plan to share which plants we select for our projects and why.