Type “vertical garden” into a Pinterest search…
and you’ll be enchanted with charming displays of botanical beauty. Flowers, herbs, and vegetables can be elevated by using found materials such as repurposed pallets or hanging gutters, or created from draped fabric pockets, as well as ready-to-install displays and frames. The traditional window box or hanging basket has morphed into a visual, vertical statement.
These gardens are gaining ground because they’re visually pleasing and add garden real estate to a small living space. They may be used as a fence to hide a blighted view. They’re also more accessible for folks with physical handicaps that may limit bending or stooping.
While there’s no technical definition of vertical garden, according to Karen Kennedy, educator for The Herb Society of America in Kirtland, Ohio, “A vertical garden is any garden that’s not horizontal. It could be chicken wire around a pillar or a living wall. A vertical garden brings your eye up from a design standpoint and creates a living green space where you may not be able to otherwise have that option.”
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1. The Plants Vertical gardens look best with a variety of colors and textures. Color can be as simple as different color foliage or variegation. “Herbs do well,” says Deborah Oesterling, VP of Sales, Pride Garden Products. “anything that’s low growing. The objective is the look. If the plant gets overgrown, you won’t see the frame.” She recommends low-growing herbs that are regularly harvested such as thyme, oregano, bush basil and prostrate rosemary.
Additionally, small fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries and patio tomatoes, can complement your display, while adding the benefit of more edibles. Look for dwarf or miniature varieties.
2. The Container Choices can be overwhelming. Choose a container that fits your vision and source for building materials… from mason jars that hang to fabric pouches. Several companies make shadow-boxes that look like picture frames and likewise, hang on any wall or fence. Pride Garden Products, for example, in Ridley Park, Pa., makes frames with finishes of copper, black zinc, wood and grey wash. Other popular looks include wooden pallets backed with landscape fabric.
3. The Soil Choose a soil mix that holds water. “Any time you raise soil off the ground, you have to consider soil type and volume,” says Kennedy. “Some people use soil with moisture-absorbing additives that stay moist longer. The vertical garden will need more watering than something in the ground. The
smaller the pocket of soil the more often the plant will need watering.” Weight, too, can be a consideration, so light soilless mixes may be best.
4. The Fertilizer Containers – vertical and otherwise – drain quickly, taking nutrients with them. And so these plants will require more frequent fertilization. Any yellowing may indicate a need for a light dressing of fertilizer. Realize that you don't want t lot of rapid growth or the plants may overwhelm the space, so a light hand is required.
Plan for your space and don't try to crowd the plants. They will grow to fill the area allotted for them, and then some. Keep them trimmed so they will become bushy. If they become leggy, don't be afraid to prune them well. And enjoy your own special space!