Vertically challenged.

Vertical garden

Gorgeous but tricky?
Source:  Architectural Digest.

I’m not the worst gardener in the world, but I reckon some of those beautiful vertical gardens wooing me on television screens and magazine pages, could be money down the drain.  Some are gorgeous works of art when they are first installed, but I wonder how they look one year later.

Our House By The Water has a few spots that will need the green treatment.  My main focus for now is the view from the scullery:

Scullery view

Creamy coloured old brick wall.

Side alley.

Site for future vertical garden.

Dining view

The dining room shares a partial view of the same brick wall. I’m not sure how the neighbours intend to replace the fence they took down, but at least, the existing section needs beautifying.

Here’s the situation:

  • The width between the house and the brick fence is 1.6 metres at the narrowest point.
  • Shared utility space for garage access, washing line and bin storage.
  • Strong chance of being a wind tunnel.
  • Exposure to sun: only a few hours per day.

Tough conditions.  Forgetting the plant selection for a moment, here are my options:

  1. Plant climbers into the ground.  Help them with some simple wires.
  2. Espalier trees.  Reticulate.

    Photo sources: 1. Flickr.  2. Lucy Williams Interior Design.  3.  Herbidacious.

  3. Pot plants and use shelves or some kind of structure to layer them up the wall.

    Photo sources:  1. Revista Natureza.  2.  One Kings Lane.  3.  Flickr.  4. Wanilla Rose (unverified).

  4. Use a simple pocket system for vertical gardens, with or without an irrigation kit.

    Photo sources:  1.  Wemmy.  2.  HGTV.  3.  Plants On Walls via Buzzfeed.

  5. Use a complex vertical garden structure with built in watering system including a pump.

    Photo sources:  1.  Better Homes and Gardens.  2. Garden design.  3.  Watergarden Warehouse.


I’m going to save options one and two for the front yard, to hide the rear walls of the neighbours’ garages.  The front yard faces North and there will be room to condition the soil, so espaliered fruit and climbing plants should do well there.

Options four and five scare me.  In our challenging conditions, I’m worried we’d end up with an expensive, dead mess.

For my scullery view, I’m favouring the plants in pots option.  We’ll render and paint the brick fence almost black.  We’ll add some structure to give the plants height so we can see them.  I’ll recruit a large, hardy pot of rosemary or something equally tough to act as a wind break, or if necessary construct a screen.  Worst case scenario, move struggling plants to a happier location.

Pots on shelves.

Yep, I could gaze at this while I scrub some dishes. Source: Revisita Natureza via Blog da Ayda.

Could you pull off a vertical garden?  Do you have some suggestions for covering a shady wall?  Have you seen any great green walls that stood the test of time?  (Ivy doesn’t count!)

For more vertical garden ideas of all descriptions, take a look in my Pinterest file.


22 thoughts on “Vertically challenged.

  1. Sarah says:

    Do you have easy access from the scullery/kitchen area to the yard in question? If so, then the rosemary and herb option has to be my pick. You can gaze out the window for inspiration for the day’s dinner!

    • The painter would think of that! I’m artistically challenged as well as vertically challenged Kaye. I’m more inclined towards the laser cut screens, but I do really want some green life outside the scullery window.

  2. trixee says:

    My biggest fear in having a vertical garden is that it will look great for one week and then turn into a graveyard. Having said that, I think it’s a great idea and am seriously considering it as well.

    1.6m at the narrowest space is heaps of room! I think the limited sunlight will be the biggest factor. How windy can a wind tunnel get? Whatever you plant there, I would reticulate anyway. Much easier to care for. All your options look great, but admit I have a weakness for climbing jasmine. So soft, so fragrant and luxurious looking! Possibly also the easiest to maintain.

    The pots are a good, practical solution though I think, and I suspect we’ll be doing something similar.

    (Btw, love Kaye’s mural idea, I wanted to do this for my old house but never got around to do it. Probably a good thing in retrospect!)

    • trixee says:

      I’ve also heard that a hydroponic setup is really good for keeping things alive. Enthusiasts seem to be very… enthusiastic about the benefits. Might be a little expensive though. Something to investigate a little further down the track, maybe.

  3. I’ve got to agree with you – painting the wall a great colour like black and some pots should give you the best look over the long term, although I LOVE those lush vertical gardens. You could also hang something on the wall like those shovels in the image above – a good excuse to hoard some interesting old bits of wood or random thrifted stuff! x michelle

  4. joan55555 says:

    I suggest a cheap test run. Some old ladders (they don’t need to be flash as they will get covered)and a trip to bunnings where you will find window box type plastic pots that have frames to hang them. Throw in some herbs, ferns, baby tears and see what grows. Pay a little pig to water them. If there is enough light then go ahead with the system. Forgetting to water is always a problem so if you can come up with a drip system do.

    • I was thinking the same thing. Our “to do after handover” list is going to be long and this won’t be high priority. Will give a few plants a practice run until it’s time for the real thing.

  5. I love the ideas and agree pots will be a good option with not too much investment if it doesn’t work out!

    We have a similar space down the eastern side of our house (Southern hemisphere too) and I’m hoping to create a narrow raised garden bed along the fence planted with a blueberry hedge. I’ve read blueberries can tolerate some wind and a bit of afternoon shade, but they’re fussy about soil so the raised bed will help with that, as well as screening the fence a bit more and making sure we can see some green out our window. It’s a bit ambitious but… Blueberries… Yum…!

  6. Hi Johanne,

    My name is Ashley and I work for Twin Pines Landscaping, out of Massachusetts! We really enjoy your blog, and think you feature some fantastic ideas and images! We would love to get connected and share more ideas! Feel free to check out our blog here or “Like” us on Facebook here to get an idea about who we are and what we do! Thanks so much and we look forward to getting connected!

    Ashley & The Twin Pines Landscaping Team

  7. Gorgeous landscaping ideas. Many I’ve never seen – like the Espalier trees and pocket strawberries. Either I’ve been deprived, or they just haven’t been thriving in the states {on the East coast as least}. I love potted plants… mostly because I don’t have much of a green thumb and I found them easier to manage – so I love the idea of layering them. And I really love the vertical garden structure with built in watering system – very cool! Can’t wait to see what you end up coming up with 🙂

  8. Trevor Chant says:

    Hi – My wife stumbled across your page and in particular your interest in Maureen Nampijinpa Hudson paintings. I am an art dealer and have been representing Maureen for over 20 years and have held exhibitions of her work at Japingka and also Artitja in Fremantle. If you are still interested I can send through images of available works. We have also been doing the artist in residency program at Yulara for 19 years and are about to embark on another stint in July and August.

    • Hi Trevor. Thanks for commenting. I’ve now found your website and Facebook page, so I know where to find you. I should really have bought one of Maureen’s paintings in Yulara while we were there in 2013, but at the time we had no fixed address! I will wait until the wall in question is built, then I would love to see what you have available. I just pinned several of the beautiful paintings from your website.

  9. Wow some nice ideas! Love reading your blog. I wondered why I had not seen any updates for ages and just now realised that I’d somehow un followed it! Anyways great ideas and hope to see more. I shall read on!

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