Decorating Ideas

Living Wall Art

Vertical gardening is the latest, most talked about trend in horticulture. Cities are displaying outdoor vertical walls planted with anything from succulents to vegetables, and gardeners are eager to create the same look on their outdoor walls at home.

If you’ve been to Raleigh’s Cameron Village recently, you’ve seen this hip garden movement in action. The walls are alive with art. In Durham, the entire wall at West Elm’s checkout counter has a vertical garden display spanning at least 30 feet. My first experience with living wall art was near the bathrooms at Longwood Gardens. It was love at first sight.

Get the Look at Home

photo by Helen Yoest

To meet home demand, companies like Wooly Pocket and Grovert offer products that make it easy to plant and hang living wall art. Recycled materials such as pallets can also be used. With a quick internet search you can find step-by-step instruction for making living art with this otherwise discarded lump of lumber.

There are some tricks to growing vertically. First, it’s best to grow out your plants for at least a month before you hang your art. This not only helps their roots get established (and are not as likely to fall out once hung), but also allows the plantings time to grow upward. As the plants are growing in the holding area, occasionally pinch back the plants so they will fill out. If the living wall is hung immediately, the plants will want to promptly turn towards the sun and you will loose the opportunity to create a desired fullness. The fuller the plant, and the lower the profile, the less obvious it is that the plant wants to grow up instead of out.

Fill your hanging container with a light potting mix. We asked Leslie, designer of the living art at Cameron Village, what she recommends. “Weight is critical in these walls. To make a mix at home, I recommend taking a standard potting mix and making it lighter by adding bark, perlite, vermiculite, and peat.”

As with most container gardens, you will want to water nearly everyday. The sun exposure and heat will determine the frequency. In the shade, you may only need to water every other day. In full sun, you may need to water twice a day. These types of containers are also heavy feeders, so you will want to fertilizer every two to three weeks.

The plants will also need to be pinched back regularly. Unlike putting a plant in a pot and letting it grow with little help from you, living art needs some help along the way.  We learned from Leslie it doesn’t have to be a delicate operation. “I have found that grass clippers with flat sides work best for this type of pruning.”

If you get a chance, take a spin around Cameron Village and see this cool collection of vertical gardening, then feel free to try your own at home.

Helen Yoest, author of “Gardening with Confidence®–50 Ways to add style for personal creativity,” is an award winning garden writer, garden coach and a sustainable gardener caring for her ½-acre wildlife habitat, Helen’s Haven, in Raleigh.

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