By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America
Type “vertical garden” into a Pinterest search and you’ll be overwhelmed with charming displays of botanical beauty. Flowers, herbs and vegetables are elevated in collections of repurposed pallets and gutters, draped fabric pockets and ready-to-install displays and frames. The window box or hanging basket has morphed into a full wall.
Vertical gardens are gaining ground because they’re visually pleasing and add real estate to a small footprint. They may be used as a fence to hide blight. They’re also more accessible for folks with physical handicaps that may limit bending or stooping.
Make vertical garden plans part of your armchair garden-planning sessions. If you live in colder climates visualize summer, then start building.
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 green where you may not be able to have a shrub.”
Start making your shopping list …
- 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, vice president – sales, Pride Garden Products. “Anything that’s low growing. You wouldn’t put chives in them. 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, sprawling rosemary.
- THE CONTAINER … Pinterest can be overwhelming. Choose a container that fits your vision and source the building materials … from mason jars and clamps to fabric pouches. Several companies make shadowboxes 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 chalkboard paint. Many come with a fiber or fabric liner designed to retain dirt. For others you will need to add landscaping material.
- 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. Even with all of that the vertical garden will need more watering than something in the ground. The smaller the pocket of soil more often the plant will need watered.”
- THE FERTILIZER … Containers – vertical and otherwise – drain quickly, taking nutrients with them. And so, these plants require more frequent fertilization. Again, choosing a soil that has fertilizer in the mix, could simplify this recurring task.
By July you should be ready to post your successes on Pinterest.