Everything you ever wanted to know about vertical gardens

Vertical gardening has come into favour in recent years and is now much more than just a passing trend. When you can find vertical gardening kits in all shapes and sizes at your local gardening shop then you know that they are here to stay. Vertical Gardens, by Leigh Clapp & Hattie Lotz is a beautifully presented and well-written hardcover book that will do more than just grace your coffee table; it will actually inspire you to give this style of gardening a try.

The book gives a brief but comprehensive history of vertical gardening and includes photographs of tall many storied buildings where the vertical gardens add another truly beautiful dimension. It is no secret that greener urban spaces are better for our health and well-being, so if a tall inner city building can become a thing of beauty which is also good for the air we breathe, then why not do it?  An added bonus is that they can cool the air in summer and keep the heat inside our homes in winter. Another win in saving escalating energy costs.

While many of the examples are obviously done by teams of professionals, what makes this book a good investment is that it actually gets down to the “how to” of creating your very own vertical garden, with tips on soil types, plant types, how to keep the plants ‘in’ their growing space and how to maintain them. A vertical vegetable and herb garden can be a real boon on an inner city balcony – providing greenery and a practical way to produce your own food. Likewise, unattractive walls can be disguised into living artworks that will create a feeling of peace, privacy and tranquillity in any garden or balcony space.

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Vertical gardening is probably more useful in urban spaces where garden space is limited. Any bare wall or fence can become an asset when turned into a vertical garden, and this is where being equipped with insider knowledge on how to create this style of garden is very useful. I myself tried to make one a few years ago out of pallets, and now having read this book, I can see why my poor succulents look nothing like the glorious and compact plantings in this book. The succulent frame step by step guide would have been very handy. Even a relatively inexperienced gardener could find a project to create a living artwork of annuals, perennials or even edible plants with a vertical garden.

The book is set out in easy to find chapters. Those on history and design provide a background to the trend of vertical gardens. Then comes the ‘I could do this’ stuff’ chapters. Chapters on how to camouflage ugly walls, gates and boundaries for privacy, create an edible garden and even how to create living pictures,  plus other smaller, less daunting projects. One idea has luscious ripe strawberries cascading out of a simple pouch system attached to a patio wall. It looks gorgeous and would be easy to do.

There is a comprehensive guide to all of the commercial systems you can buy if you are inspired to give this type of garden a go. Some are plastic, or tubing, with hydroponic irrigation to feed the plants. Others are a type of fabric pocket. There are also troughs attached to a wall and also some great ideas on how to recycle or create your own no cost vertical garden from what you have in the back of your garden shed. What is really good is that there is all the practical know-how on how to attach your garden to the wall from which it will hang. There is advice on watering, how to firmly anchor your plants and which plants are best for shade or full sun.

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Other topics covered are climbers, creepers and espaliered fruit trees. Also hanging baskets and containers plus dealing with the structures in our gardens – pergolas, lattice work, arbours and tripods. Another chapter provides how to include sculptural elements and art and craft installations into your garden. Some could be only tackled by a competent handyman/gardener and others could be created by a novice. And wait there is more. Further chapters are devoted to wall treatments, raised and terraced beds and tall trees and accent  plants. So the gardener is not just given tips on creating a vertical garden, they are given ideas on how to incorporate their vertical garden into an existing garden to display it to full advantage.

Vertical Gardens is a gorgeous book. The photography is by photojournalist Leigh Clapp and the well-researched planting advice is by journalist Hattie Lotz. For the gardener in your life, or just as a treat for yourself, this book will continue to be an investment. Turn that bare and ugly wall into a living salad bar or a cascade of luscious green leaves and tropical flowers.

Vertical Gardens by Leigh Clapp & Hattie Lotz is available now from Dymocks. Click here to learn more.