Vertical Gardens and Living Walls – Greening Up the City!

What were the hanging gardens of Babylon really like? As one of the “Seven Great Wonders of the Ancient World,” they must have been pretty spectacular. They couldn’t have gotten by with a row of marigolds in cheap window-box planters purchased at the local five-and-dime, for instance.

Those Babylonian gardeners must have thought big. Really big. After all, it was something so rare and wonderful that we’re still talking about it today.

Urban gardeners such as myself are inspired to re-create those hanging gardens through the emergence of recent technologies which allow us to create gardens to cover a vertical surface, such as an ugly brick or concrete wall on the side of a building, with lush garden plantings that can reach as tall as a 4-story building and any width desired. On the opposite end of the spectrum, vertical gardens can also be made small enough to fit indoors on a wall of your house – just think of it as a living painting!

The potential for beautifying city structures using living walls is enormous. Just imagine seeing gardens sprouting up everywhere on your next walk through the city. The best part is they take up only about a foot of horizontal space, so they work really well with the idea of space conservation in a city environment.

Although the idea of a vertical garden, also known as living walls, has been around at least since the time of the Babylonians, it is an idea that hasn’t really taken off in modern times. That is, until now. With space becoming an increasingly valuable commodity in urban centers like New York, it may well be the only practical future for gardening in cities (along with green roofs).

As well as providing an unusually beautiful living canvas for spectators to admire, the living wall serves two other important functions for city living: it purifies the air of pollutants and it also absorbs the background noise of the city. If you have ever taken a walk in Central Park, you might have been amazed to notice that the sounds of the city start to recede and eventually disappear altogether the further into the park you venture. Visitors may feel transported to such a place of tranquility that they have to look up to see the rooftops of nearby buildings as a reminder that they are even in a city at all. A similar sense of being transported is created by the presence of a living wall.