Living wall ideas – how to plant a living wall to create a vertical garden

Make your walls come alive with greenery
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  • Living walls are one of the hottest gardening trends to emerge in recent years, increasingly making their way into residential gardens. Living walls are vertical gardens, where plants are rooted into a structure that is attached to a wall – creating a lush wall of foliage.

    ‘A living wall is a great way to introduce greenery into your home or garden and refresh a space, creating a modern and sophisticated look that will add interest and colour’ says Marcus Eyles, Head of Horticulture at Dobbies.

    Living wall ideas for gardens

    A glorious living wall makes great use of any limited outdoor space in any garden idea. Systems can range from something as simple as plant pots hung on the vertical frame, to highly sophisticated modular, hydroponic panels from which water and nutrients are delivered and electronically monitored.

    1. Surround a courtyard with a vertical garden

    Small courtyard garden with living wall and bright furniture

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Robert Sanderson

    Eve the smallest of outdoor spaces can accommodate a living wall. In fact for some small garden ideas it can help to make the space feel more ambient, with a feeling of being surrounded by nature. Vertical planting is favourable for concealing brick walls or enclosing fences that make an already compact space feel all the more oppressive.

    The softness of planting helps to make a limited outdoor space feel enrich and closer to nature. Even a tiny balcony garden idea can feel more like a lush plot with a thriving living wall.

    2. Welcome a wild planting scheme

    garden living wall with climbing plants

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole

    Keep the look loose and on-trend for wild meadow planting by using unexpected plant species. Use an abundance of long grasses to add depth, while embracing climbing ivy to provide a thorough coverage.

    Foliage plants such as heucheras and ferns should be tidied up by snipping off tatty leaves, as needed. Annuals, in particular, benefit from a liquid feed every couple of weeks in summer, although any display that’s in place for any length of time will need feeding to keep it looking its best.

    3. Add colourful blooms to the planting scheme

    living plant wall RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018
    Image Credit: Amy Cutmore

    Incorporate colourful bedding plants to ensure your living wall is bursting with colour. When choosing flowering plants, as always, you’ll need to deadhead flowers to encourage new blooms later in the season and to keep the wall looking its best.

    If you’re attaching your green wall to the side of a house, Dobbies recommend attaching a waterproof membrane to the wall before you begin, to prevent damp issues.

    4. Take the hard work out with ready-made panels

    living plant wall outdoors on decking area next to dining table

    Image credit: Dobbies

    This planting trend can be brought to life in our own homes with a helping hand of pre-planted modular panels. Dobbies garden centres were one of the first places to pioneer Living Wall Planters. This easy gardening idea allows walls to look blooming lovely with minimal effort.

    ‘The Living Wall Planters can be easily fitted onto any solid area’ explains Marcus. ‘The walls can be built indoors or out, can be as large or small as you like, meaning it can be tailored to suit the size of your space.’

    5. Keep it leafy with ferns and evergreen foliage

    living wall with ferns

    Image credit: Future PLC

    Soften hard landscaping and exterior walls with a richly planted vertical garden. Pre-planted modular panels covered with assorted greenery including fern and other leaf based plants.

    The living plant wall needs watering around every two- three days depending on climate (unless you’ve chosen to add an automatic irrigation system), more in summer – check by sticking a finger into the soil to see if the compost is dry.

    6. Plant a living gallery wall

    Stone wall with planters

    Image credit: FuturePLC/Tim Young

    Break with tradition and create a gallery wall outside by hanging plants in pots and frames – a brilliant budget garden idea to boost an outdoor space without breaking the bank!. This quirky approach to a living wall idea involves less gardening expertise and therefore requires less maintenance.

    To recreate the look simply hang an assortment of planters, securely to one wall, to elevate your planting.

    7. Encourage climbing plants to get the look

    Garden patio with wall of plants

    Image credit: Future PLC

    Faux the look with a climbing plant idea to provide the lush coverage of walls without the need to put in an irrigation system. You simply need one well supported climber to establish itself and take over a whole.

    ‘Supports for the climber will need to be placed before planting’ advises Chris Bonnett from GardeningExpress.co.uk. ‘Planting near a wall or fence can create a ‘rain shadow’, which means that rain does not reach plants’ roots.’ So be sure to water thoroughly, as you would any living wall.

    8. Take the look indoors

    green living room with framed plants on wall

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Georgia Burns

    Scaled down but still as stylish for indoors this characterful grey living room idea features a spectacular living wall of sorts. A striking gold frame is used to encapsulate two planters overflowing with lush ferns, to add a touch of nature beauty to the decor. Get creative and make your own by attaching wall planters to a MDF backboard then framing it.

    You can create a living wall using a range of different systems, including wall planters where irrigated troughs are attached to walls; a live panel modular system where plants placed in small cups root into a mat behind or a panel of planting pockets, that is hung on a wall and simply topped up with water once a month.

    How to make a living plant wall

    1. Choose your space

    You can build a living plant wall on any solid wall or fence – build straight on to the side of your house, a garden fence or even a sturdy shed. For indoors a custom made wooden wall allows you the freedom to move it from room to room.

    Once you’ve chosen a structurally sound wall or fence, simply screw in rows of 2in BY 1in treated battens 38cm apart to fill the space. Checking with a spirit level as you go, to make sure they’re straight.

    tray with votive next to planted wall

    Image credit: Dobbies

    2. Screw in the planters

    Using an electric screwdriver and working from the bottom up, attach the plastic planters to the battens. Click and lock the planters into each other and build up your wall in staggered rows.

    3. Get watering

    Starting at the top, water your wall with a hose or watering can. The reservoir system is designed to keep plants watered for up to two weeks.

    4. Green up your wall

    Fill the planters with your chosen plants using 12-13cm pots. Either remove the plants from their pots and plant them straight into the planters. Alternatively to make changing the scheme really easy, place the pot directly into each planter – making sure the pot touches the reservoir base.

    What plants should I choose for a living wall?

    A range of herbaceous perennials, grasses, small shrubs, herbs and even fruit and vegetables can be used. Try including scented plants, seasonal flowers and bulbs. Seek advice from your local garden nursery about plants that will suit the aspect and microclimate of the wall on which they will be grown.

    Plants to create a living wall:

    • Adiantum (maidenhair fern)
    • Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’ (sedge)
    • Fragaria ‘Mara des Bois’ (strawberry)
    •  Galanthus (snowdrop)
    • Heuchera ‘Purple Petticoats’
    • Liriope muscari (lilyturf)
    • Pachysandra terminalis (Japanese spurge)
    • Pelargonium peltatum (ivy-leaved geranium)
    • Saxifraga x urbium (London pride)
    • Tiarella cordifolia (foam flower)
    •  Vinca minor (lesser periwinkle)
    wall overgrown with foliage

    Image credit: future PLC/ Douglas Gibb

    There’s no saying you have to fill an entire wall, you could just create a plant oasis at eye level along a fence or if indoors you could create a small-scale herb garden for your wall.

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