Australia, with our hot, dry summers, is a particularly challenging place to grow plants in such exposed positions and there are a number of factors to consider. Check to see how much sun the wall or fence receives throughout the various seasons. In some cases, walls will bake in the summer sun and then be in total shade through winter. There are very few plants that can cope with such extremes. A surface that is in full sun all year will get very hot and will require constant maintenance. Gentle, filtered shade or morning sun/ afternoon shade are probably the best aspects to choose to enable the widest plant choice.
The easiest way to create your green wall is to buy one of the numerous kits that have been expressly produced for this purpose but you can also set up your own system. The choice of containers is endless – only limited by your imagination. Anything that will hold mix for the plant to grow in can be used.
The growing medium is important, especially if you want your display to last for a long time. It must be capable of holding nutrients and moisture, but must not be too heavy. Don’t use garden soil as it will set like cement between waterings. Good quality potting mix can be mixed 50:50 with lightweight perlite, vermiculite or small styrofoam balls.
Success depends on effective irrigation. Most pre-formed vertical systems have some arrangement for watering but, if you’re setting up your own system, give some thought to watering and drainage. Hand watering will be satisfactory for a small wall but be sure to check the plants and pots regularly to ensure they don’t dry out. Those at the top of the wall or in the more open positions will need more watering than sheltered plants.
Plant choice is critical to success with vertical gardens. To start with, don’t attempt to grow anything too large. Small succulents make good choices for sunnier spots. Bromeliads do well in semi-shade and, because so many of them are epiphytes (plants that naturally grow in trees) they don’t need much root room. Their roots can be bedded into something like sphagnum moss, which is much lighter than potting mix. Strappy leafed plants with a slightly drooping habit will perform well. Examples are small dianellas, mondo grass, Lomandra ‘Little Con’, liriope and, possibly best of all, walking iris (Neomarica sp). The latter has glossy green leaves, pretty spring flowers and small, easily detached plantlets that form at the end of long shoots. Seasonal herbs and flowering annuals can be mixed in to add short term interest or colour.
If DIY isn’t your thing, you can buy ready-made vertical garden kits, frames and pots from your local hardware store or garden centre.
They come in different sizes and shapes to suit your available space and design style. For the more creative, you can make your own frame using recycled wooden pallets.
Successful vertical gardens depend on effective watering, as they can dry out very quickly. Many pre-made vertical gardens have in-built irrigation systems, otherwise DIY garden walls will need to be regularly hand watered or irrigation included in your design.
Make your vertical garden edible by planting herbs and vegetables! Not only will your vertical garden fill your salad bowls and season your soups, it will smell divine! Try the following at your place -
Other vertical gardens to try:
Tropical wall: For a lush, tropical vibe I recommend planting swiss cheese plant, sword fern and devil’s ivy. These plants will give a holiday vibe to any balcony or patio!
Succulent wall: For a lower maintenance vertical garden, choose drought resistant succulents such as golden and blue feather sedums and sempervivum (‘hens and chicks’).
Flower wall: For a colourful wall, choose petunias, begonias, orchids and mix in with some soft green baby’s tears.