Garden UP (literally)… Amazing VERTICAL Gardens

Patrick Blanc Quai Branly Mai 2006

The exquisite Musée du Quai Branly, in Paris (it specializes in ART from Africa, Asia and Oceania). The museum was designed by Architect Jean Nouvel and the exterior vertical garden was created & Designed by Patrick Blanc … simply ASTOUNDING.

Another photograph of the Living Wall at the brillianMusée du Quai Branly

The concept of a “green wall” (Vertical Garden) pops up repeatedly in history.  Some say it dates back to 600 BC with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon while others say it goes back to 3000 BC in ancient Egypt.  One of my favourite interpretations from history of vertical gardening comes from the ancient city of Macchu Picchu in Peru, by the long lost Incan culture. (see below)

Macchu Picchu, a Pre-Columbian 15th Cent. city

Vertical gardening nowadays has exploded in the Landscape Architectural field because of brilliant innovations in hydroponic technology. Of course vertical gardening can be applied to both exterior and interior walls and surfaces and are often referred to as “living walls”.  There are many added benefits from interior living walls including attaching to them to the air return of a building to help with air filtration and purification (a fusion of beauty and function). Depending upon the Landscape Architect you speak with, vertical gardens have many names including living walls, bio-walls, vertical gardens or for the more “lingo” oriented person a VVCW (vertical vegetated complex walls…but I find this title a bit much).

ABOVE: The Pont Max Juvénal, Aix-en-Provence in France.  A vertical garden created by the brilliant Patrick Blanc on a highway overpass (installed 2008)).  In Patrick’s book, The Vertical Garden: From Nature to the City he states that he prefers to emulate a naturally occurring garden.  Plants shown include ferns, Heuchera, Pilea, Iris japonica, then hydrangeas and Bergenia, Sedum, and at the top conifers and Cotoneaster, Berberis. 

Regardless of what you want to call them, vertical gardens have an amazing primordial appeal and stunning visual effect upon the viewer and the enjoyment and usage of a space, which is why we are suddenly seeing more and more public vertical gardens in major centers across the world. The impetus of this being that a modern city-scape is so harsh, hard and unforgiving as a result of the massive usage of concrete and steel curtain facades that by creating a facade that is covered completely in hundreds of species of living plants it not only rivets our attention, but makes us appreciate the structure, Design of the building AND the power of Nature ALL the more .

This is the SmogShoppe, located in Culver City, California, an innovative cultural event space that boasts an outdoor vertical garden. I LOVE the usage of the narrow leaf chalk-sticks,  cup & saucer plants, large licorice, lion’s tail agave and Sedum matrona (that one sounds like a character from Downton Abbey)

Probably the best known and most passionate proponent of vertical gardening is the brilliant Patrick Blanc, who had written extensively on vertical gardens.  Patrick is a French botanist and a pioneer of the vertical garden concept who designed the stunning vertical gardens at the Quai Branly Museum (shown above) in Paris, as well as the etheral Parliament buildings in Brussels.  Patrick is massively passionate about modern society incorporating green spaces in urban centers not only to improve our urban air quality but as well to drastically improve our urban emotional health (studies have proven the correlation of green spaces improving our general psyche).

The Natura Towers, Lisbon, Portugal, Designed by Swedish landscape Architect Michael Hellgren.  Hellgren’s vertical garden includes 300 species of plants covering three immense walls of a public square outside of the new headquarters of Doctors Without Borders.

An interior wall of  the Natura Towers, Lisbon, Portugal, Designed by Swedish landscape Architect Michael Hellgren

However, like many things in life, “planting up” is easier said then done… Patrick Blanc says a major difficulty to overcome is preventing the plants’ roots from growing through the building’s wall and damaging the structure over time. Patrick conceived of a brilliant solution…in fact a patented solution… the vertical garden is planted on a complex framework of PVC strapping, metal frames and non-biodegradable felt that in effect “slipcovers” the building’s façade. The amazing part of the vertical garden is that, according to Blanc, once the garden is in place it needs very little upkeep other than an automated watering system.

A small scale version by the immensely talented and passionate Flora Grubb… a visual masterwork painting in succulents.

As seen in the above EXQUISITE image, a masterpiece created by the San Francisco Bay Area landscape Artist and superstar blogger Flora Grubb, size isn’t what is important in vertical gardening…sometimes a controlled “Pop” can be equally as astounding. In fact, Grubb’s brilliant work has inspired a trend in private home owners to include a vertical garden in their space deprived gardens and homes, giving it a literal “breath of fresh air”.

The AixaForum, Madrid, Spain A renovation of an 19th-century electrical plant by Patrick Blanc

  1. KariKari10-19-2012

    You have some beautiful examples here!

  2. Lovely post and great selection of vertical gardens. At Paris Design Week last year, I got to meet the architect, Jean Nouvel, who designed the Musée du Quai Branly incorporating Patrick Blanc’s green walls. One of my favorite spots!