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Book review: ‘Vertical Gardens’ by Leigh Clapp & Hattie Klotz

Arno King

Arno King

February 26, 2017

Vertical gardens have become very popular in recent years and it is great to see a new book on the topic. I was looking forward to learning more about vertical green walls and also to see some more Australian examples. Leigh Clapp’s photos are stunning and many of the green walls shown are quite innovative.

Vertical Gardens – beautiful photographs by Leigh Clapp


Upon opening the book, I was surprised to find that only the first 9 of 17 chapters were actually about vertical gardens, and that the majority of the book was about other garden related topics: trees and accent plants; raised and terraced beds; hanging baskets etc. These latter off-topic chapters are predominantly images with captions. It gives the impression that the authors ran out of pictures or content and had to pad the book out.

Vertical Gardens contents page – only the first 9 chapters are about vertical gardening


Many of the projects also seem to be temporary show gardens or new installations and I am left wondering about their potential longevity and maintenance issues. Chapter 9, “Vertical Gardening for the Long Haul” even appears to question the long-term viability of green walls, an attitude I consider to be a little concerning, given the long term success of projects around the world.

Vertical Gardens – beautiful images but a lack of sound technical input


However my biggest concern is the general lack of research and content and I am left feeling that Hattie has been commissioned to write some text to accompany Leigh’s images, in a hurry. As an example, in Chapter 1, “History”, I would have expected to see reference to the research and work undertaken in Singapore over the last 30 years. The book is obviously aiming for the novice market, but given the lack of sound technical input, which is necessary to address a topic such as this, I wonder how successful any novice will be if they rely only on the material in this book.

Not very helpful plant lists


Chapter 8, “Which Plants Where” is once again sadly lacking in content, with 5 short lists of plants and accompanying images, and little consideration of climate (except a list of ‘tropical plants’), aspect, or any discussion of interior and exterior locations, or grow under artificial lights. I would have expected to see recommendations for planting media (using no organic media), automatic irrigation (spear emitters) and the benefits of using epiphytic and lithophytic plants.

Primarily aimed at the English market and with many noted products unavailable in Australia, this is a book you buy for the images and the inspiration. Pair it with a more technically based book and you have the information you need to get your vertical garden up and running.

Vertical Gardens
Leigh Clapp and Hattie Klotz
New Holland Publishers 2016. RRP $49.99


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7 years ago

This was a valuable review for me- perhaps I will check it out in a library instead of buying.