Vertical gardens are in vogue

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The most fashionable trend in the gardening world at the moment just has to be vertical gardens. Also called ‘living walls’ or ‘green walls’, vertical gardens are sometimes used to save space but mostly to create dramatic effect.

New Zealand, with our hot, dry summers and strong UV rays, is a particularly challenging place to grow plants in these exposed situations and there are a number of factors to consider. Check to see how much sun the wall or fence receives throughout the various seasons. A surface that is in full sun all year round will require constant maintenance. Gentle, filtered shade or morning sun/afternoon shade are probably the best aspects to choose to enable the widest plant choice.

The easiest way to create your green wall is to buy one of the numerous kits that have been expressly produced for this purpose, but you can also set up your own system. The choice of containers is endless – only limited by your imagination. Anything that will hold mix for the plant to grow in can be used.
Growing medium is important, especially if you want your display to last for a long time. It must be capable of holding nutrients and moisture, but must not be too heavy. Don’t use garden soil as it will set like cement between waterings. Good quality Yates Premium Potting Mix can be mixed 50:50 with lightweight perlite, vermiculite or small styrofoam balls.

Success depends on effective irrigation. Most pre-formed vertical systems have some arrangement for watering but, if you’re setting up your own system, give some thought to watering and drainage. Hand watering will be satisfactory for a small wall but be sure to check the plants and pots regularly to ensure they don’t dry out. Those at the top of the wall or in the more open positions will, of course, need more watering.

Plant choice is critical to success with vertical gardens. To start with, don’t attempt to grow anything too large. Small succulents make good choices for sunnier spots. Bromeliads do well in semi-shade and, because so many of them are epiphytes (plants that naturally grow in trees) they don’t need much root room. Their roots can be bedded into something like sphagnum moss, which is much lighter than potting mix. Strappy leafed plants with a slightly drooping habit will perform well. Examples are small dianellas, mondo grass, liriope and, possibly best of all, walking iris (Neomarica sp). The latter has glossy green leaves, pretty spring flowers and small, easily detached plantlets that form at the end of long shoots. Seasonal herbs and flowering annuals can be mixed in to add short term interest or colour.

During the warmer months it’s helpful to add some liquid fertiliser when watering the plants. Yates new Thrive liquid plant foods are ideal for this purpose.

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