November 15, 2012
By Phil Charal
LO President

phil charal In a column a couple of months ago, I wrote about balcony and terrace landscape design and construction. I would like to add to that topic on the issue of vertical landscapes.

Lately I have been faced with the challenge of landscaping some small spaces, particularly balconies and terraces in high-rise condominiums. This challenge resulted in my firm designing and building vertical gardens, or green walls. Some people refer to them as living walls.

Essentially, a vertical landscape is a living garden growing on a wall. These landscapes are very practical and designed to be modular, quick and easy to install and if necessary to remove. When designed and built properly, they require little maintenance and always include automated irrigation.

They lend themselves perfectly to small spaces in that they can be customized to accommodate walls of any shape or size.

The sky is the limit on plant choices, and if you choose, you can even incorporate herbs and vegetables in the wall. The finished vertical landscape is a great addition to a vacant wall and gives a full, lush and colourful enhancement to an otherwise dull and cold masonry wall. Designers and architects can let their imaginations run wild with the use of unlimited plant choices to suit any design.

If and when necessary, portable vertical walls can be rented for functions, and give guests something wonderful to look at and appreciate. It’s a lovely point of interest at cocktail parties and business functions.

There are numerous benefits to vertical landscapes. They are a beautiful, living and breathing work of art. Numerous patterns may be displayed by using associated plant foliage, flowers, evergreens and perennials.

What a great way to soften a concrete and brick wall. This can provide a much-needed connection to nature for our clients and help give them a sense of peace and relaxation.

Another benefit that vertical walls provide clients is saving space in apartments, terraces and foyers.

There are also ecological benefits to vertical walls, providing protective spaces for birds, bees and butterflies.

Vertical landscapes also help to reduce the effect of city heat, known as heat islands. This is caused by vehicle exhaust, air conditioners, and the enormous quantity of high temperatures through the reflection and retention of heat in concrete, asphalt and massive buildings.

There is also a financial advantage to vertical walls, with increased property value, and green building credits awarded to builders and developers who incorporate these wonderful and innovative landscapes.

Generally, each living wall panel has between 10, 14 and 45 individual cells which regulate water flow so that plants retain water for a long period of time, without becoming waterlogged. The system allows water to filter down to a bottom panel. A bio blanket at the back of the panel then wicks the excess water back up through panel, which helps stop the plants from drying out between watering.

Most of the panels have a manufacturer’s guarantee of five years and each one contains UV protection. The panels come in a variety of sizes and each one has angled cells to contain the soil and hold the plants in place. The panels are attached quite easily to the walls by using mounting strips.  

It is important to cover the wall first with a waterproof membrane. There are numerous exterior as well as interior vertical options today that can be incorporated to handle a variety of project requirements.
I know I have mainly focused on residential use, but these walls also have many commercial applications.

Regardless of the application, learn and embrace this relatively new area of horticulture expertise. Don’t miss an opportunity to expand your horizons.
Phil Charal may be reached at