Saturday, 18 May 2013

Vertical Gardens

Mavis introduced us to Vertical Gardens at our last Garden Group Meeting - 30 April 2013, the following are her notes.

Patrick Blanc is  a botanist specializing in tropical plants at the French National Centre for Scientific Research.  He is the modern inventor of the 'green wall' and he takes his inspiration from wherever he travels, starting as a young man in south-east Asia.  He describes his work as a 'living tapestry' which can clothe buildings in urban areas which lack green areas and particularly lack of space.  His installations are now found all over the world.

The Museum Quai Branly is a new museum instigated by President Chirac and is next to the Eiffel Tower.  The museum has a garden in front under the canopy of a very modernistic building, but the interesting thing is the administrative building next door which is clothed in greenery leaving just the windows showing.  The administrative building is 40 ft high, 650 ft long with a curve at one end.

How is it done:
On a load bearing wall or structure a metal frame is fixed with a PVC plate 10 mm thick.  On this are stapled 2 layers of polyamide felt (capillary matting) 3 mm thick.  These layers mimic cliff growing mosses and support the roots of many plants.  The plants are pushed in pockets made in the felt.

There is no soil, the plants being sustained hydrophonically.

A network of pipes controlled by valves provide a nutrient solution, containing dissolved minerals needed for plant growth.  The felt is soaked by capillary action with this solution which flows down by gravity.  The roots of the plants take up the nutrients they need and excess water is collected at the bottom of the wall in a gutter which has a closed circuit system of recycling.

Plants are chosen by their ability to grow on this type of environment depending on available light, inside or out, temperature variations.  Usually grown on north facing wall but copying the natural walls we see all around us.  In our foraging walks I have been amazed at the beauty and diversity of the plants found covering walls even in our dry climate!!

It is  like cleaning the windows of high buildings.  The walls need little but regular maintenance (pruning, replacing and taking away debris).

The average number of plants per square meter is between 10 and 20.  It is possible to make interesting tonalities of green intersperced by colour.  Shade and moisture loving plants go at the bottom.  Never use plants with deep root system, but there are many shrubs in the walls not just small plants.

Obviously Ferns, but also Ivies, Heucheras, Fuchsias, Hostas, Violas, Geraniums, Bergenias, Viburnums, Hydrangeas, Honeysuckles, Veronicas and lots of herbs, mosses, liverworts and wallflowers.

Patrick Blanc's work now numbers over 250 gardens and installations all over the world and obviously he has to work with architects.  The following are some examples of his work:

At least 15 pieces are in Paris.
The Atheneum Hotel, Piccadilly - London
Aquarium - Genoa
Il Fiordaliso Shopping Center - Milan, which has 44,000 plants - his largest living wall.

French Embassy - Dehli
An Arch at the roundabout at the Grand Theatre of Provence - Aix en Provence
North face of shopping centre - Avignon
Working on a tall tower in Kuala Lumpur

For more info google Patrick Blanc and look at the Patrick Blanc video and U-tube video from last year's Chelsea Flower show, other info R.H.S. Magazine.

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