Short on garden space? Try a living wall
PUBLISHED: 11:02 30 August 2018 | UPDATED: 12:12 30 August 2018
If your garden is short on space, a living wall might offer you a new way to breathe life, and colour, into your patch.
It’s no secret that Britain’s houses are getting smaller – but so are their gardens.
It is predicted that by 2020, 10.5pc of homes will not have access to a garden at all, and increasing demand in urban areas means that, in the coming years, this figure is only set to rise. Even new-build homes, out of the city, are offering less patch for your pennies as more and more rooms are squeezed into a single plot, and more and more plots squeezed into a development.
So what does this mean for our nation of gardeners - and, perhaps more concerningly, for our health?
Many people are choosing to bring the outdoors in. Sales of indoor plants have rocketed in recent years, with some areas reporting a 300pc increase. According to Uhi Millington, nursery manager of Urban Jungle in Norwich, sales of house plants are continuing to do well, with hanging plants and those with patterned leaves among their bestsellers so far this year.
But houseplants aren’t the only answer. Some gardeners are simply adapting their approach, choosing to grow upwards rather than out. Vertical, living walls – which can be grown both indoors and outside – allow green-fingered gardeners to design, cultivate and prune their plants, even when space is at a premium. Colourful, tactile and sometimes aromatic, they can offer the same, bright aesthetic that you might find in a more traditional garden.
“Interest in living walls has increased in the last two to three years,” says Uhi, although fewer customers seem to be opting for them in 2018. “They became popular around 10 years ago,” she adds, but were originally invented in 1938 and popularised by French botanist, Patrick Blanc, around 40 years ago.
Nowadays, vertical living walls are “really easy to make,” says Uhi. “You can buy premade walls with built-in irrigation systems, or you can make your own with pallet wood and landscaping fabric, which you weave in and out of the wood to form pockets.”
“Plants grow really well vertically,” adds Uhi. Rather than being confined to their pot, growing down, they expand to fill a space.
But just like a traditional garden, care needs to be taken. Temperature, sunlight and how and when to irrigate are important considerations to make. If you want your wall to flourish, year-round, opt for evergreen plants, Uhi advises.
And living walls don’t just offer recreational benefits – they are environmental, too.
When you create a living wall, “you are creating a habitat,” says Uhi. They can improve peace and mindfulness in what might otherwise be a grey space – and can be built both inside and outdoors.
Some plants can improve air quality and help to draw out unwanted impurities in the air, says Uhi. “Plants can create lots of humidity, which can help to beat viral infections. Some can even help with mould spores.”
According to the Royal Horticultural Society, putting leafy green plants on the outside of a building can also provide an additional layer of insulation, helping to reduce energy loss, improve air quality and minimise noise pollution. As a result, they are becoming a popular option in urban areas.
You will have spotted at least one living wall in Norwich already. The city centre branch of Marks and Spencer constructed its own back in 2012, as part of the company’s drive to improve sustainability.
With 112 plants per square metre, its improved thermal performance and reduced carbon output creates a cost-effective, environmentally-conscious addition to the urban landscape – and provides plenty of luscious, green leaves to look at from a busy city thoroughfare.
In 2015, the University of East Anglia also acquired its own living wall. 77m of green and purple plants adorn its accommodation block, Crome Court, and the building has already won a number of environmental awards, including the 2015 Green Gown Award for the Built Environment.
Created by Biotecture, it uses grey water recycled from baths, sinks and kitchen appliances to irrigate the plants – species of which have been specifically chosen for their flowering capabilities, and ability to attract pollinating insects.
According to research released by the university, it produces 95% less Co2 than the same building under regulation standards and uses recycled aggregates in as much of the building work as possible.
With their ability to combine environmental benefits with unique aesthetic designs, it is no wonder that living walls are becoming such a popular design choice. And for those of us who aren’t so au fait with a pair of secateurs, they also provide us with some much needed green space when we are out and about, too.
For more inspiration, check out Beautiful Homes and Gardens.