The past few weeks I have been spending time transplanting my indoor tropical plants. As my plant collection continues to grow (combined with my inability to sacrifice flora) it is becoming apparent that I must move in to a larger home (not feasible) or reconsider how I house my collection.
One of the major design challenges of landscaping, indoors or out, in an urban environment is space maximization. Solution found: free up some of the floor and horizontal surface space by creating a living wall. It's becoming more common to see the partnerships between architects, designers, and landscape architects resulting in living structures. Check out images of the Quai Branly Museum in Paris, The Sportplaza Mercator in Amsterdam, and the MFO Park in Zurich. These structures rely on complex framing, hydroponics and planting systems. You can use these masterpieces as inspiration for a more simplified system for your home or office.
There are some special considerations to take when planning your own vertical garden. If you have epiphytic plants like Tillandsia (Air Plants) you can simply hang them from nails to create your display. If your plants require soil you will want to consider a wall system that will house the roots of your living wall.
There are various vertical systems currently on the market. One of the easiest to use indoors is the Wally from Woolly Pocket. No complicated construction is needed for installation. Just screw it in to the wall with provided screws and anchors and then plant it up. Once you've decided on a planting system or vessel, you should then consider the various needs of your plants. Since the plants will be sharing the same space you need to make sure they are provided the same amount of sunlight, soil, and watering needs. When these three conditions are met, the plants can be paired together and cohabit healthily. Just as you would consider the design of your outdoor container gardens you should also consider the composition of your living wall. Consider the growth potential of your plants during placement. If you use the Wally from Woolly Pocket for instance, vining plants can be planted towards the front of the pocket to completely cover evidence of the planting structure. Taller architectural plants can be arranged towards the back of the pocket to create a dramatic silhouette.
What used to be a blank cold wall in my house is now a sea of green that makes me forget, for a moment, that a Chicago winter is fast approaching. If you do not have the opportunity to create an indoor living wall this winter, pick up a couple of books spotlighting living walls to gather inspiration for the spring. As living walls gain popularity, it's easy to find books like 'Vertical Gardens' published by Verba Volant which will certainly make you think outside of the box when it comes to landscape design...or at least off the ground.