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Tabitha Breese illustrates how to take your gardening to new heights using living walls

By | April 4, 2017 | Category


Living walls are vertical gardens connected to the interior or exterior of a building. They provide eco-friendly, urban eye candy to those who want to take up the challenge. The plants are rooted in a felt matrix and fed nutrients via a hydroponic pump system. ‘It is a feature that requires love and attention, but the results are worth the extra effort,’ explains landscape architect Leon Kluge.

1. Hydroponics Using (Above)

The hydroponic system, plants have been landscaped in an ordered, wave-like design. A combination of bigger leaves and darker colours give an air of cool sophistication.

2. Grey Matters

Cape Town’s Bistrot Bizerca features a decorative green wall where the designer has taken a naturalistic approach, using flowering grey-leafed material and small leaves for a less structured effect, as well as a functional version that provides the restaurant with salad leaves and herbs.

Photograph: Lar Leslie


3. Inside Out

The indoor green wall at Joburg’s SLOW in the City in Sandton, makes use of rainforest-style plants, creating difference through colour and textural variation. One of the bonuses of having an interior living wall is the added release of oxygen via photosynthesis, cleansing the interior air. It also acts as a thermal insulator, providing an alternative to conventional methods.

Courtesy of Kevin Frankental


4. DIY Alternatives

An ideal option for those intent on doing it themselves is the ‘loose-medium wall’. This is achieved by packing soil into a wall grower such as the simple-and-easy Green Garden Wall Grower (above) by the Big Heart Company available at OM in Knysna. Urban Choreography’s Donovan Gillman also recommends using geotextile bags or, alternatively, try the Boskke Sky Planter, both of which provide a green fix to small outdoor spaces.

Photograph: Courtesy of OM, Knysna


5. Plant Material


An advantage of vertical gardens is that they elevate flowers often overlooked in the garden, such as Begonia cucullate. Take advantage of having your flowers at eye level and pick a calm base colour such as a medium or dark green, which can be peppered with bursts of bold colour. Try the Streptocarpus — it makes a fantastic light-green highlight as the leaves are big and there is the added thrill of purple flowers in the warm months.


Tufting, mounding and clumping plants are a good choice for gardeners looking for a controlled result, while trailing plants, like ferns, can give a wild or less stylised effect — a good option is the Nephrolepis, also called Boston Fern.

Growth Habits

Variety and textural difference are key. Try to choose plants which are densely foliated and tough, like Liriope muscari, and avoid deciduous flowers to prevent periods of patchiness in your green wall. ‘Select flowering plants for their foliage, not their flowers — blooms are a bonus,’ advises Carrie Latimer of Heimo Schulzer Gardens.

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Elsa Young

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