World-famous French botanist, landscape designer and professor Patrick Blanc takes vertical gardening to a whole new level, designing astounding living walls of massive size, and has overseen the installation of his designs in urban centers all over the world. Patrick originated the concept of vertical living walls back in the late sixties, and was granted patents on his inventions in 1988 and 1996.
The construction starts with rigid frame which supports the entire living wall. The frame may be stand alone, or attached to a wall. To this structure a waterproof PVC backing is attached, then a felt-like series of layers of polyamide or material of similar composition is attached, then slits are cut in the outer felt layer to create pockets into which the plants are placed.
Plant selection initially began in the field, in sometimes remote landscapes(i.e. Sarawak), studying environments where hardy plants grow on rocks, in hallows or on the surface of large trees, in crevasses or other areas where water and nutrients must be gathered without requiring much of a root system. Another criterion is the plants chosen must require minimal maintenance owing to the difficulty and expense of accessing to the upper reaches of the wall.
This allows greater plant density, greater design latitude and higher survival rates when placed on a vertical wall with limited space for roots to spread out.
Furthermore, sets of plants that can survive in each of many different climatic zones were researched and assembled, as installation may be in a northern city such as Paris or London, or in a tropical location such as Kuala Lumpur.
Plants were chosen which grow naturally in rocky areas of little soil, and plants are arranged with the drought-hardy and sun-loving at the top, and those plants requiring more shade and moisture at the bottom. Within these parameters, Patrick creates a design of varying colors, textures, and leaf size, as demonstrated by the photo at left. A pump and drip irrigation system supplies nutrient-laden water, which slowly cascades down the wall through the felt material layers until reaching the bottom where a collector recovers the excess for reuse .
In the following video Patrick Blanc explains his design strategy:
Here we see another of Patrick’s designs, this time a stand-alone living wall of a lesser, more manageable scale than the previous examples, one that the backyard gardener could conceivable construct in a small yard or tight space (although, in some areas, you may need a permit).
In further posts on down the line, we hope to assemble lists of some of these plants to help you create your own vertical masterpiece, but for now, all we can offer are some pictures.
You can access the English version of Patrick’s website at http://www.verticalgardenpatrickblanc.com . This is a flash site, and may not work well if you have a slow internet connection. You will find videos and pictures of many of his projects, some of the plants he uses, and certain of the remote areas where he ventured in his quest to find plants.
Patrick also has written a book about vertical gardening.