Upwards is the way to go
Alice Spenser-higgs discovers a new approach to vertical gardening
WHEN there is no space left to garden, the last resort is upwards. Vertical gardening is regarded as the practical way to make the most of space but it can also be used for decorative purposes, of making an aesthetic statement far removed from the practicalities of space saving.
This is certainly the trend overseas and examples of this could be seen at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, the Hampton Court Flower Show and at the Ball-colgrave annual open gardens.
In addition to the usual structures associated with vertical gardening, such as obelisks, lattices and archways, there was a new system on display. It was the modular Vertigarden system that has been developed in the UK.
I saw two applications at the Hampton Court flower show. One was in the alfresco garden and consisted of panels of salad vegetables growing within easy reach of the dining area; an invitation to pick your salad in your own time. Each Vertigarden panel was framed, making it a work of art.
A more ambitious project was the creation of a green wall, featuring varieties of heather in different shades of green.
The entire wall consisted of modular panels linked together but it was so well done that the joins were seamless. One had to peer behind the exhibit to see how it had been constructed.
The Vertigarden was also on show at the extensive Ball Colegrave gardens, which are opened annually to introduce new varieties to the gardening public.
A garden shed was clad entirely with panels. The result was a shaggy green roof and flowering walls. Only the English would take it that far but it did demonstrate the versatility of the system.
That system is now available in SA. It consists of a completely enclosed growing module, with built in irrigation, and appears to be an efficient and practical way to grow plants vertically.
Each module can be displayed as an individual unit or as a larger display by linking two or more panels together.
There is no limit to the number of panels that can be linked together and the result can be spec- tacular, creating the effect of a living tapestry of plants.
One of the problems of growing plants on a wall panel is the weight of the structure itself as well as of the soil, plants and water. To overcome this, the Vertigarden modules are made from incredibly light materials. Each kit consists of a lightweight outer metal frame, a tough but light plastic growing tray and lid, a mesh top and inline irrigation system.
Each panel is 500mm tall, 400mm wide and 90mm deep. The irrigation pipe is connected to a water tank that is mounted separately above the panel and gravity draws the water down through the panel.
Apart from the kit, all that is necessary to get started is potting soil, slow release fertiliser and 16 seedlings. The wall or other surface should be able to support the full weight of the planted up tray which is about 10kg and the water tank which is about 3kg when full.
Herbs lend themselves to this application because a panel can be positioned close to the kitchen and the regular picking keeps the plants neat.
The system was tried out by Louis van Aswegen of Healthy Living Herbs and he used herbs such as parsley, lemon thyme, golden oregano, and basil “Red Rubin”.
He found that the more com- pact growing herbs were better and that the best place for the panel was where it received morning sun but afternoon shade.
His kept the panel flat after planting so that the plants could settle in.
The plants were watered as if they were in pots and the soil was allowed to dry out before watering again. The panel was ready to hang three weeks after planting.
According to Louis, the frequency of watering depends on the position of the panel. It will require more frequent watering in summer and less in winter. The panel can be replanted at the end of the season.
Cut the ties that keep everything in place, remove the plants and the potting soil. Wash everything with a mild detergent and then re plant using new potting soil and new ties to secure the system.
For a flowering panel it is pos- sible to use bacopa, begonia “Million Kisses”, ivy geraniums, impatiens, Bidens, lobelia, petunias, and verbena.
You could also try tufted ornamental grasses like Carex, Acorus, or Mondo grass as well as Liriope and groundcovers.
Taking the Verticgarden system to its outer limits.
Verti Garden panels are a solution for apartment living where space is limited.
A work of art that keeps on growing.