Not so green…walls

True confession…I find most green walls…well…too green.  I find them to be dramatic, but my brain needs visual space and covering everything from head to toe in plants is not always my idea of  beauty.  Well, it is in the jungle–and in certain urban situations where the opposite can also be oppressive.  Even inside, green walls make me feel well… claustrophobic.  Before I take a boatload of manure for this idea, hear me out.

I love the idea of growing things vertically, up over arbors, through other plants, even up walls, but I don’t need a vertical green carpet.  I am a fan of Patrick Blanc’s work, but can’t imagine it everywhere.

Green Wall at Les Halles in Avignon via Patrick Blanc

Without skilled and thoughtful installation and proper maintenance it is easy for a green wall to end up looking like the example below.

Three year old green walls in Southern California

Now with all of that said, here are two sensible alternatives that I have seen.  Still green, still vertical, still pants on walls.  I wrote about the first over a year ago as part of a post on eco-luxuryFlora Grubb’s beautiful green walls at the Bardessono resort in Napa.  There’s space for the eye to rest and there’s plenty of green and drama.

Flora Grubb's Tilandsia wall at Bardessono
Attached via low tech alligator clips

The next, I have no experience with but they do exactly what I’m thinking about.  From the French company, Vertilignes (translation: green lines) is a green wall unit that accomodates 28 plants that use a simple planting and watering system. There is a mirrored variation. It’s simple, clean and green.  It has visual breathing space.

Vertiilignes 'Diva' Screen

Planted 'wall'

So the next time when thinking about green walls, try to envision a jungle or try to envision a place that is green but also offers a place to rest visually.  Now bring on the manure.

10 thoughts on “Not so green…walls

  1. Susan-I agree. I like some white space for the eye to rest.

    And green walls are still so new as to not be “commonplace gardening,” so a lot of people probably DON’T know how to take care of them. Cool products. I like the mini-wall.

    Thanks, Katie. There’s a place for everything…green walls and no.–s

  2. I love the green wall so much that I think the occasional misfire ok. Live and learn and get better at what works. With all the water/rain problems in California it would appear that it takes a special kind of planting for an outdoor green wall to work.

    We have a massive green wal l(carpet style) at our college that is 4 stories high in an atrium and when I walk into that space on a February morning, it’s so refreshing. I think your designed samples are great too, but the carpet idea is fine with me. The blank walls around the wall, and the other architecture of the room are fine for eye resting.

    I remember you weren’t too fond of Jackson Pollock’s massive scribbly paintings either, maybe the green wall carpets have the same effect on you. ;^)

    Interesting idea… Pollock and green walls. Maybe that’s it. ;-)–s

  3. Growing up in the southwestern part of the US, I’m totally comfortable with brown walls. In fact, too much green has the effect of making me a little nervous…;-)

    Interesting point of view Susan. I’ve never thought about that. The sustainable and green city Masdar City is that going up in the desert in Dubai must be an oasis in a sea of tan…–s

  4. Susan,

    Too many plants in one space does feel claustrophobic!

    White space is essential to make the whole room breathe. (no pun intented, really)

    I’ve seen a 40 ft green wall work, but it’s situated in a huge hall with towering ceilings and open spaces in a college. The same kind of wall in a smaller space would have been too much.

    Thanks for bringing this up. Let’s bring good design into “green” technology.

    We need to bring good design to all things green…gardens and technology!–s

  5. Honestly never given this much thought since it’s so labor intensive. But “Still green, still vertical, still pants on walls.” was the funniest typo I’ve seen in a long time. Instantly pictured green pants on walls — I think you have a winner there!

    Too funny. I proof read it too. I think I’ll leave it.–s

  6. I’m so with you! I think a lot of green walls look like bad shag rugs. Just because it’s green and made of plants, doesn’t mean it’s beautiful!

    Soooo funny, but you’ve hit the nail on the head. Bad shag rugs.–s

  7. I wonder if so many green wall these days are sheer tapestries of plants because it’s still a relatively new concept, so it’s still evolving somewhat designwise?

    You know *I* love plants, so I’m mesmerized by shag rug-type green walls, but I’m also of the mind that a little white space adds a lot of class, so of course now that you’ve mentioned this, I absolutely see your point.

    I imagine (and I hope) if and when green walls become standard, we’ll begin to see some diversification in what constitutes a green wall. That’s quite often a good thing.

    I’d really like to see green walls begin to be incorporated in interesting ways in homes like mine! I love modern homes, but I live in an old house, and I’ve yet to see a colonial around here with a green wall.

    Not to ‘school’ you Andrew, but if you think about it, the colonials had green walls–in their vegetable gardens. They grew shrubs and espaliered trees with wall support also. The idea of using vertical space wasn’t so intriguer then because the open and available land seemed so infinite. BTW I think a framed panel a la Flora Grubb’s hens and chicks would be FAB.–s

  8. I enjoy looking at a well done vertical shag rug as the next person but from a practical luddite perspective these living green veneered trends are not very sustainable.
    Consider how they must be maintained ( hydraulic lifts and or lots of transported in scaffolding ) and if they are run on a recycled hydroponic system there is a lot of water use via evapotranspiration and electrical use . I haven’t mentioned the subject of how these plants are fed if their substrate is felted backer board ( lots of NPK in liquid form) .
    Yes they are pretty and trendy and high maintenance but at least they are keeping somebody busy in this economy.
    Bring on the trend I say, stimulate this crap ass economy.

    Good points all! Busy is good. Getting paid to be busy is even better.–s

  9. I hear what you are saying but in general many of the green walls I have seen have been well considered. This is now changing of course with the various DIY systems coming onto the market

    I do know that some systems generate a more ‘green’ look than others in fact I am probably guilty of creating that look – but only due to client demands

    At the 100% design exhibition in London I felt green walls were evolving –

    du pont had a fabulous green wall using white mouldings over the plants – the moulding shapes were generated using mathematical equations like fibonacci –

    my review is below if you are interested in seeing the pics

    Some of what you blogged about is exactly what I’m talking about. Clean great design that gives the eye a place to rest. Thank you for sharing your post here!–s

  10. I really, REALLY enjoyed this post, Susan. And tend to agree with you. There was a splendid indoor green wall outside the Professional Writers Association of Canada offices when I was on the board, and I loved it, because it wasn’t ginormous, had some orchids as well as other plants in the mix, and was somehow very tranquil. But I saw one in Halifax the other day that was just bad, bad, bad. Inappropriate selection of plants for the site, and just too much like a shag carpet, as has been observed.

    And I caught the “pants on wall” typoo and burst out laughing, but alas, now I’m sitting here saying “pants on the wall, pants on the wall, lookin’ like a fool with your pants on the wall.” I think sleep deprivation has finally found me.

    Thanks Jodi. I was singing the same tune when the typo was pointed out to me!!!–s

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