Laura Mast of Kingwood Center Gardens adds an exciting new addition to their showcase greenhouse. Florafelt Vertical Garden Planters are hung from a metal unistrut frame and filled with a colorful combination of root-wrapped bromeliads. The historic house and gardens are located in Mansfield, Ohio.
Luxury remodel in San Francisco’s Cole Valley gets a big dose of urban green. Florafelt Vertical Garden Planters are used to fill the 30 foot tall window well with ferns. Joanna Wong and Durkin Inc. created a living wall as a focal point for their luxury remodel located in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury area. Listed for $6M with Coldwell Banker here. http://bit.ly/2f9Al4O
– 16′ wide x 30′ tall
– 6 planters wide x 15 planters high
– Total 90 Florafelt 12-Pocket Planters
– Total 1080 Plants: 6 inch potted Mother Ferns, Maidenhair Ferns, Button Ferns, Blue Star Ferns
– Simple Drip-Irrigation at the top.
– Floor Drain at the bottom.
by Steph Kantorski
A redesign of the vestibule in San Francisco’s historic Conservatory of Flowers has created a breathtaking introduction for visitors to this world-famous Victorian structure. One of the largest and most beautiful vertical green walls in the city is now on full display for visitors inside North America’s oldest public wood-and-glass greenhouse.
A drip line water and nutrient-delivery system also donated by Plants On Walls kept it lush and beautiful. Not long after, Guadalupe left the Conservatory and Nursery Specialist Mario Vega maintained it for the next few months. That’s about where I came in.
Originally volunteering as a docent, I switched to the horticulture side in 2013 out of sheer fascination with the plants themselves. I was beyond thrilled when Mario put me on “vertical garden duty.” The last three years have been an invaluable education in what tropical flora do when prepared in Root Wraps, or the recycled PET “diapers” (as I affectionately call them), and stuffed inside pockets to grow vertically.
In early 2016, the Conservatory welcomed its new Director Matthew Stephens. Among his other exciting plans, the greeter desk was moved to the other side of the entryway allowing everyone to experience the living wall up close. The larger foliage at the top has been trimmed to reveal the building’s beautiful original stained glass. With the wall now on full display, this unique and astounding vertical jungle finally feels complete.
For a small entry fee you can visit the Conservatory of Flowers and take a free tour or stroll around on your own. You can also just step into the vestibule without a ticket to experience the living wall for yourself.
Horticulturist Steph Kantorski describes her experience using the Florafelt System for the San Francisco Conservatory of Flower vertical garden.
Rebecca Sheedy of Floraform Design is thrilled that her first vertical garden is also one of her most visible. Marx Foods may be the first, but Rebecca has since spent five years creating living walls, and ran a business maintaining gardens for several years before that. “I just love plants and always find a way to be out there with them,” she says.
She honed her expertise while studying botany at the University of Washington and The Evergreen State College. “I’m really into color, contrast, texture and shapes,” she says. In fact, her expertise is international. “During college, I did research in Costa Rica to estimate the biomass of forest canopy. We found there’s more biomass in the canopy than on the forest floor.”
Rebecca’s vertical garden serenely packs a green marketing punch from its post overlooking the Marx Foods checkout area. “I started small with a Florafelt 8-pocket for the first 6 to 8 months,” Rebecca explains. “I learned what plants were happy where. It’s now 7 panels or 56 pockets.”
Plus a gorgeous frame that beautifully sets off the plants within. “The frame was Marx Foods’ idea. To hide the freezers, we incorporated the garden into the freezer wall. The garden sets Marx apart, makes a statement and generates a lot of buzz.”
Rebecca selects plants as carefully as Marx Foods shops for their clientele. The garden includes Homalomena, Medusa Bromeliads, Kangaroo Paw Fern, Vresia (a mottled leaf bromeliad), Spathiphyllum, Anthurium, Aglaonema (has a good sprawling habit and fills in the edges”), Philodendron and Schefflera ‘Soliel,’ which has stunning chartreuse leaves.
Rebecca shopped around before settling exclusively on Plants On Walls. “Back then a lot of people created walls themselves in a Patrick Blanc style, stapling felt to a wall. But I made sure to use a Compact Kit – it’s fully contained and operates on its own. I like how the hardware is invisible. People saw it and got in touch with me.”
Since then, Rebecca has created distinctive and beautiful vertical gardens for restaurants, homes, wine shops, doctors’ offices, you name it. Interestingly, doctors request the gardens for their examination rooms. “There is a big alternative medicine scene here – doctors prescribe plants as medicine,” she says.
Grateful for the spent fury of Jonas, our thoughts turn to that other superstorm, Sandy – and recall a vertical garden so tough, a historic hurricane couldn’t bring it down. In fact, for renowned New York restaurateurs Laurent Kalkotour and Leslie Affre, and acclaimed landscape designer FireDean Schilling, the logical thing was to build two more.
October 29, 2012: what is now Atrium DUMBO had been open just six months, following a year of pressure and preparation. The restaurant lies just a few feet from a waterside park in the eclectic and happening DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighborhood in Brooklyn.
For the opening, FireDean designed and installed a gorgeous 16×5-foot living wall made with Florafelt. “Vertical gardens are ideal for hotels and restaurants because you need a memorable experience,” he says. “There is an undeniable energy that resonates – maybe it’s the higher level of oxygen!”
A dark moment.
When Sandy hit, more than five feet of seawater barreled through the back door. Just about everything was demolished. The owners rang up one of their line cooks and then all went to the restaurant during the hurricane, but all measures to protect it were in vain. Closed for months, no federal assistance was provided to rebuild.
About the only thing that survived was FireDean’s green wall. “It was kind of an inspiration. It looked pretty good, but with a completely destroyed restaurant around it,” he says. The owners brought him back, thinking it also needed replacing, but FireDean said not necessarily.
“We took out most of the plants, cleaned them up, replaced them and fixed the irrigation system. We also kept the structure.” In addition, FireDean donated toward the rebuild, helped with the cleanup and promoted fundraising efforts.
To date, FireDean has created a second wall and is busy designing a third for Leslie and Chef Laurent’s newest restaurant as well. “Green walls make complete sense with their impact and beauty. They’re practical and they work. If you make it pretty, they will come.”
With 20 years of experience, FireDean is an urban landscape guru, tackling tough spaces, rooftop gardens and living walls. He’s excited about the future, too. “There’s a huge cultural shift. Young people are growing up with this. Coupled with an architectural background, we have a generation of people who will incorporate this kind of design in urban planning,” he says. “Before building, planners and architects now ask: where will the plants go?”
With New York City no stranger to sub-zero temps, FireDean takes care to help clients learn what works best in their climate. “I generally choose from a spectrum of plants that adapt to low light and feel like you’re walking in New York State. Look at the High Line (a public park built on an old rail line above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side). They chose scrub oaks and stuff that already grew there. We test growth habits, whether it’s a natural cascading effect or aggressive vine. And we emphasize maintenance to always look 100 percent.”
Seth Stottlemyer’s first vertical garden is a stunner! Trained in Washington, DC, apprenticed in New York, and now headquartered in Sarasota, this entrepreneur brings a little northern exposure to the sunny South.
As a rising star landscaper, Seth is big on keeping up to date ─ not surprising since he managed energy efficiency programs at Con Edison, received professional certification from Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (headquartered in Toronto), and studied at the New York Botanical Garden. He apprenticed at the renowned Town and Gardens firm in New York City, rising to manage high profile residential and commercial sites.
One might think that in Florida, only tropical plants that soak up the sun all day survive – not so. “Our vertical garden is north facing and doesn’t get a lot of direct sun. In fact, there is a slight roof overhang,” says Seth. So he created a masterpiece including ferns, philodendrons, bromeliads and peperomia, which work well in lower light. Peperomia’s many varieties include silver and burgundy stems and leaves for added punch; that and its attractively mounted compact habit make it a great wall companion.
Needless to say, the living wall creates “A lot of buzz. I think this will take off big for me,” Seth says. One project gained as a result is a 9×11-foot wall for a new client’s dining terrace, which is surrounded by indirect light.
Seth also creates gorgeous container gardens and raised vegetable beds, and is particularly adept at xeriscaping ─ the process of creating water-efficient, striking landscapes that replace those water-hogging grass lawns. (Xeros means “dry” in Greek.)
“Xeriscaping is taking off down here,” he says. “We’re using hardscaping like shells and rocks and drought resistant plants. There is a lot less maintenance: no need to cut, weed and fertilize all that grass.”
Seth grew up gardening and running the family business in Sarasota, but after years of work and education up north, he enjoys getting to know the southern plant palette again.
“We have a lot of courtyards where vertical gardens would be perfect,” he says. “I want to promote herb gardens and lettuces, which are popular here. With my experience in New York City, you have to bring your professional A game to high-end properties. I’m also excited to bring in my own artistry and flavor.”
Holy bromeliad, Batman! Jeffrey Allis of Tru Vine Design creates spectacular living walls and adds real value for his clients just by looking around.
“I don’t sell just green walls −it’s an environment,” this South Florida designer and horticulturist says. Passionate about plants since age 13, he’s built much of his success by embracing the scientific principles of biomimicry. Put simply, biomimicry is an approach to finding sustainable solutions by imitating nature’s own patterns and strategies. For instance, the design behind velcro actually mimics how burrs grab and hold on in nature!
Jeff sees biomimicry in action through his extensive travels through the U.S., Europe and Central and South America. It’s in these latter regions − Panama, Brazil, Nicaragua – where he finds inspiration for his Florida gardens. He observes how plants act in their natural environment and comes back with new and often surprising revelations.
“I never thought agaves would work, but I traveled to Nicaragua and saw agave sticking out of a wall. I saw it grown in nature,” he says. “The philodendron family likes to crawl up, over rock faces, so they’re a good choice. Bromeliads also do well.”
“God’s got this down. Don’t be complicated, be observant.”
Jeff has built a distinguished name for himself as a trusted expert on which plants work together in a vertical garden and which don’t. Often his walls contain more than 1,000 specimens. “Lots of people build green walls that are meant to fail,” he says. “There are so many nuances: wind, sun, light, time of year. I’ve turned down projects that won’t work. Be honest. When I turn down business, I gain business.”
Jeff also calls himself a biophilic designer, biophilia meaning the instinctive bond between human beings and nature. “There’s evidence that our environment shapes our feelings and has a positive impact on us,” he says. “Plants make people feel happier, healthier. They have positive energy and affect our psychological well-being.”
With this in mind, Jeff works with each client to deliver an intensely personal experience. And that’s not all. “I want to take biophilic design to another level and get involved with a children’s hospice, creating gardens to help people heal,” he says.
Jeff thinks we’ve just begun to tap vertical gardening’s potential as a healing tool for ourselves and for the planet. “Right now, America designs green walls for decorating mostly,” he says. “In the future, green walls will be more recognized for their ability to cool spaces, bring the electric bill down, and use water wisely.”
What’s better than the gift of clean air? Thanks to her unique skills in green building and regenerative design, Amanda Goldberg of Planted Design has the air quality thing down, so breathe easy. Learn more about her vertical gardens, also available for rent, and innovative ideas that combine beauty with healthier air, inside and out.
Did you know? 70% of the detoxing our bodies need is supplied by breathing (perspiration provides 20%). And yet, dangerous volatile organic compounds released by carpets, copiers, and most any synthetic item in our lives rob us of clean air daily!
“People often don’t think about the VOC gases given off by fresh paint, flooring, carpet and cleaning products,” says Amanda. “More people in a room also raise carbon dioxide levels. Too much CO2 makes us sleepy and causes headaches, nausea and sickness.”
With all those hazardous compounds and carbon dioxide hanging around, Amanda creates living walls that work hard to remove ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and other toxins from the home and workplace. Thanks to photosynthesis, plants also replace toxins with vital oxygen.
Amanda’s top plant picks for healthier indoor air
Amanda created her first vertical garden while working for Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, helping companies such as Aveda design products for a sustainable economy. Last March, she “took a leap” and started her own business bringing walls to life. She started with an 8×4-foot mobile vertical garden for the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim, CA, then installed it in her client’s office in Palo Alto, CA.
Now her creativity knows no bounds. With her unique custom portable gardens, Amanda is tapping into, and ramping up, the market for living wall rentals – weddings, conferences, photo booths and more. Because these gardens need backlighting, company logos and other special touches, Amanda turns to a whole community of artisans to bring out the best in her projects. As a ceramic artist and industrial designer who created a “living desk” for her college thesis, perhaps it’s only natural. “I enjoy the collaborative spirit. It inspires and invigorates me,” she says.
Partners in design: Amanda and Brandon Pruett from Living Green Design co-created this living wall in San Francisco’s Mission District, turning a sterile heat island into a thriving green oasis.
Amanda says she’s happy with the ease and flexibility of Plants On Walls‘ Florafelt system. “You can put plants in, then exchange them for a different aesthetic as your style changes.”
How much is enough? For a 1,800 square foot house, a NASA study recommends 15 to 18 good-sized plants that clean the air and give off oxygen.
Monet would be proud. Living Green Design is a noted San Francisco firm that, in their words, “takes a unique approach to garden design that crosses borders, styles and trends.” Their folks believe strongly that interior design, plantscapes and style should all connect to the exterior garden seamlessly. A vertical garden was an ideal way to incorporate this concept of unified indoor and outdoor living.
Davis Dalbok, founder and principal designer, and Brandon Pruett, who specializes in creating multi-dimensional vertical living walls, installed a large, 20×10-foot vertical garden at their San Francisco showroom.
They filled the Florafelt system with a vibrant textural feast of ferns, grasses, yellow oxalis and even trees − Japanese maple!
Oxalis is especially versatile when “painting” a vertical garden: besides yellow, the profuse flowers are available in pink, purple and white, and their foliage adds even more color and texture: chartreuse, purple, maroon, silver, purple-black, speckled combos and more.
Oxalis also thrives in part shade and likes well-drained, moist soil. Reliable up to zone 5, the plants can be treated as perennials in warmer climes; they’ll need overwintering inside if grown in climates like the Midwest, or they can be treated as annuals.
Davis says the garden is a hit. “When clients enter, they are so impressed by the diversity of plant material, and the sheer scale, that they almost always begin to figure out how they might incorporate something similar into their home or office. Most of the ambient natural light comes from skylights above, so this garden provides the perfect opportunity to ‘zone’ the placement of plants in the overall design, demonstrating how one can achieve a successful installation by addressing all of the particulars.”
Plant materials for their showroom were repurposed from the 2013 Decorator Showcase in Pacific Heights San Francisco. Birds of prey was the title of this exhibition that featured grasses and conifers, maples and ferns.
All plants which are not typical to vertical gardening but were a total transformation of this enclosed space to a lush landscape of lore.
The Living Green team continues to delight and amaze with their unique vision that delivers an experience to be remembered.
Florafelt Wall Planters are employed to grow a variety of vegetables at a sustainable future farming concept greenhouse. The entire vertical garden system was supplied by Eden Green Walls for the Humble By Nature’s Solar Aquaponic Greenhouse in Wye Valley, UK.
Led by Kate Humble, Aquaponics UK are providing technical expertise to explore sustainable food growing techniques using aquaculture, farming fish, and hydroponics with few inputs and many, high value outputs. The goal is to recycle the nutrient rich water into soil-less vegetable production filtering the water in the process so it can be constantly reused.
This passive solar greenhouse is designed to house a productive, edible ecosystem which is also combined with a variety of other complementary farming techniques such as producing fish and poultry food from insects, growing mushrooms from used coffee grounds and growing poultry, fed from by-products of the system.