Vertical Walls Popping Up Everywhere

Vertical Walls Popping Up Everywhere


Living walls bring the beauty of gardens to surprising spaces.

Here in the Bay Area, people are fond of the unconventional garden. Locals know that grass isn’t the only way to fill a front yard—vegetables and shrubs work, too—and they don’t shy away from a good-looking rock display, either. So it’s not surprising that living walls have taken root here in a major way.

Also known as vertical gardens, living walls are the newest darlings of the horticultural set. They’re lush, thick mats of vegetation that are mounted on vertical surfaces, like the fence in the backyard, or that empty spot above the fireplace mantel. There are a few different methods of construction, though all involve a growing medium (like soil) that attaches directly to the wall via some sort of frame. You can water the plants by hand or integrate a water-delivery system into the design. The latter ensures both even hydration and a drier floor below it. For an interior installation in particular, this is a real boon.

Assuming all goes well, homeowners end up with a gorgeous, fecund object: a kind of living Rousseau painting, minus the wild animals. It’s a project within reach of an avid home gardener, with a few stipulations.

One, evaluate the location. Does the wall get full sun or shade, or a mix of the two? A light meter can help you determine which plants will grow best. Two, consider the physicality of the plants. Some trail down, some grow vertically, others spread on all sides; take this into account when planning your design. That leads to point three: Like all gardens, a living wall is not static. It evolves over time, gradually filling out and becoming more robust. So greenery fans should design for what it will become, not just what it looks like when first planted.

The DIYer will love Woolly Pocket (, which sells excellent home kits. But if you’d rather turn the work over to a local pro, consider Habitat Horticulture (, which counts San Francisco MOMA, Facebook, and the California Academy of Sciences among its clients. Not only will Habitat Horticulture evaluate your site and tailor a design specifically for you, the company offers maintenance services, too. Now that’s an easy way to make your wall green, even if your thumb is anything but.

This article appears in the April 2014 issue of Oakland Magazine
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