Maintenance is Key
Nobody wants a brown vertical garden. It is nothing to be proud of, so it makes sense that nobody advertises their failures. Or almost nobody.
England’s First Vertical Garden – Children’s Park, London
The following is a tale of biting off more than you can chew.
In 2005 the local council of Islington, in London, built what has been claimed to be England’s first vertical garden.
On April 23, 2010, Camden New Journal reported that the Islington council had a “row” over whether to pay an additional ￡130,000 (about $200,000) to re-grow a failed vertical garden at the Paradise Park Children’s Center in London. According to the news article, the 30ft structure had won awards and was originally described as “pioneering” when it was unveiled in 2005. The wall – which costs an estimated ￡6,000 (about $9,000) in annual upkeep – combined a colorful array of 30 different plants, including strawberries, thyme and various flowering shrubs, attached to it by steel mesh. In 2009 the wall died, due to a failure of recycled watering system. According to the Children’s Center, the Town Council plans to replant the wall in the summer of 2012.
North America’s First Vertical Garden — Vancouver Aquarium
In 2008, the trade association Green Roofs for Healthy Cities gave the Vancouver Aquarium its Award of Excellence for Green Wall Design. Randy Sharp, who designed the wall, spoke at the trade association’s 2010 conference in Vancouver. According to Sharp, the maintenance people at the aquarium let the wall die twice. Shortly after dying the first time, National Geographic magazine heard about North America’s award-winning first vertical garden, and wanted to send a photographer for a photograph. The wall was duly replanted and a photograph published in the National Geographic May 2009 issue, in an article on green roofs. After letting the wall die again, the Aquarium refurbished the wall a second time, just in time for the Green Roofs conference at which he spoke. Sharp’s 2010 conference talk emphasized that no one should design and build a vertical garden without first planning and funding a robust maintenance program. We whole-heartedly concur. We have no photographs of the Vancouver wall while “brown”, but we do have one of it as it looked shortly after its second replanting.
Singer Hill Art Garden
We have had our share of failures in our test gardens. The photo below, taken in the winter of 2011, shows an example of what happens when there is an equipment failure and the wall dries out on a summer hot day. The diagonal row of “no plants” used to be a healthy stand of Irish and Scotch Moss. All the Scotch Moss and most of Irish Moss died. Everything else survived, although some plants were hit pretty hard by wilting.
The Moral(s) of These Stories
Anticipate failure. Be prepared to replant when you make a mistake. You will make a mistake.
Make no mistake, vertical gardens can operate smoothly for month and even years without much attention, but failure on a hot day can be devestating, as can a very cold spell.
Maintenance, and close attention during extreme weather conditions, must be a part of planning before building a vertical garden.