‘Living walls and Living Art’
Doing the article on Jenny Raymond’s garden, and her clever use of trellis and air plants on the walls, reminded me of the ‘living walls’ I saw on one of my journeys to France and the UK. I was gobsmacked by their beauty: the clever design of flowing lines, the variety of textures and colours, let alone the condition of the plants, was awe- inspiring! The drab exteriors of the buildings were transformed into green oases, lifting the spirit of any city dweller. Unfortunately it can’t be said for the attempt here in Knysna; the West -end entrance to the Mall leaves a lot to be desired!
A green wall is a wall, either free-standing or part of a building, that is partially or completely covered with vegetation. The concept of the green wall dates back to 600 BC with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The modern green wall with integrated hydroponics was invented by Stanley Hart White at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1931-38.
There are two main categories of green walls: green façades and living walls. Green façades are made up of climbing plants; while a living wall consists of modular panels, often made of stainless steel containers, or geo-textiles, with a growing medium and vegetation. Irrigation systems are sometimes incorporated in the systems.
There are three types of growth media used in living walls:
- Loose media: Soil-in-a-bag system – soil is packed into a shelf or bag and are installed onto a wall. These systems require their media to be replaced at least once a year on exteriors.
- Mat media: Made from either coir fibre or felt mats which is quite thin, and cannot support vibrant root systems of mature plants for more than 3 – 5 years before the roots overtake the mat and water is not able to adequately wick through the mats.
- Structural media: These are ‘block ’mediums, neither loose or mat, but incorporate the best features of both into a block that can be manufactured into various sizes, shapes and thicknesses. This media is longer lasting, can have a lower or higher water holding capacity and is easily handled for maintenance and replacements.
With a little research on the net I found some wonderful ideas about how to create ‘living art/walls’. By using the ‘Block’ medium, one can create beautiful small ‘living art pieces’ for hanging on walls, either on patios or in the garden. The following illustrations show you how to create beautiful living art.
Materials: Rustic vintage frame, wire mesh (small gauge chicken wire is fine) plywood backing board for ‘shadow’ frame, staples, shadow frame (depth of frame not less than 8Omm), good potting soil mixed with a little bone meal, succulent cuttings (cut 2 days before use, cuts have to hardened off to promote root growth)
Cut mesh to fit frame, place and adhere to frame. Cut backing board to fit shadow frame, nail to shadow frame.
Fill box with potting medium, shake a few times to compact soil.
Place the stem of a succulent cutting into the planting hole, allowing the rosette to rest on top of the wire grid. Tuck in larger plants first, followed by smaller ones. Place as close together as the grid allows. After planting you may see hints of wire, but as the succulents grow, the gaps will close.
After planting keep the living picture first out of direct sun for a week or two to allow cuttings to root, gradually increase light values to full sun. Best to hang picture when plants are rooted. (two to 3 weeks after planting) Do not water for first week.
Water once a month, lay frame on a flat surface and thoroughly moisten soil. Protect plants from the midday sun.