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The Father of Vertical Gardens

Vertical gardening has been around for a while. From the ancient wonder of the world that was the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, to English manor houses covered in ivy and other climbing plants, people have enhanced their outdoor living space by growing plants upwards for thousands of years.

The Origin of Today’s Green Wall Concept

The modern vertical garden or green wall, though, is the creation of one man – Patrick Blanc. A botanist from France who specialises in tropical plants, Patrick Blanc’s vertical garden concept emerged in 1986 with a massive green wall at the Museum of Science and Industry in Paris. He had become fascinated with the idea of creating a wall that was the growing medium itself, not just one that was covered in “traditional” planters. In the past, this was very difficult to realise because it was almost impossible to set up and then successfully maintain such a wall. However, with modern technology and materials, not only was this possible but also much easier than before.

To this end, he developed a closed hydroponic vertical wall garden system. His original conception was as follows:

  • A load-bearing wall supports a 1-cm thick PVC plate.
  • Two layers of polyamide felt, each 3 millimeters thick, are stapled to the PVC plate.
  • The felt layers support the roots of the plants, which are “planted” into them.
  • Pipes pump water with the necessary nutrients and minerals in it, right to the top of the wall.
  • When turned on, the water flows down the wall through force of gravity.
  • The felt is soaked and soaks up the nutrient solution, the roots of the plants take up the nutrients they need, and the rest of the water flows to a gutter at the bottom.
  • The water is collected in the gutter and then fed back into the pipe network.

This works as a closed system, with little input and energy needed to keep the plants growing and healthy. Since it’s a hydroponic system, no soil is necessary, which makes everything much simpler – no need to fix hundreds or even thousands of kilograms of soil to a sheer vertical surface.

Patrick Blanc’s Vertical Garden System

Of course, not all plants are suited to such a growing environment. That’s where Patrick Blanc’s expertise in tropical plants in outdoor living wall systems came in very useful. He was able to identify plants that thrived in such difficult conditions and used them in his garden walls. Because of his engineering skills and knowledge of plants and after several successful and acclaimed projects, Patrick Blanc gained international recognition.

Since his first green wall, Patrick Blanc has created vertical wall gardens in Singapore, Sydney’s Central Park, the New York Botanical Garden, Bangkok and more. In interviews, Patrick has stated that his mission is to bring nature back into towns and cities, which is especially important nowadays since most of the world’s population lives in urban environments and many have lost touch with nature. At the same time, sustainability is important, both as a goal in itself and because of practical reasons. Maintaining vertical gardens, especially large ones, is difficult due to uneasy access, so the plants in his “living work of art, evolving slowly by itself” should be able to stand the test of time and weather in the location they are planted in.

At The Plant Man, we believe in vertical wall gardening that improves the lives of the people living and working around them. Vertical gardens benefit homes and businesses not just in a psychological, aesthetic way, but also in a very practical one – by shading walls and windows, vertical gardens can reduce air conditioning costs. Contact us to find out how we can create something calming, beautiful, and practical for you!

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