Vertical gardens are on the way up – Australians have a love affair with outdoor spaces

Australians have always had a love affair with gardens and outdoor spaces. A beautiful garden helps make a house a home. However, the move towards high density living, smaller dwellings and busy lifestyles that curb our enthusiasm for garden maintenance has seen a growing popularity for alternative garden designs such as vertical gardens. In fact, their popularity is, well, growing as fast as a weed.

Vertical gardens are considered environmentally friendly, visually appealing and colourful. They can even be edible if you mix in some fresh herbs and small vegetables! Deemed to be relatively low maintenance without grass to mow and leaves to rake it’s no wonder they are the latest ‘in thing’ for apartment living and small outdoor spaces.

While they make it look easy on reality shows such as The Block, in order for you and your vertical garden to develop a nourishing ‘give and take’ relationship, you need to be aware of some of the common issues with this type of garden system so you can choose one that’s going to give years of pleasure for very little TLC.

What is good about vertical gardens?

They are environmentally friendly. Even a small collection of shrubs, plants, flowers and herbs are still going to go a long way to helping the environment.
• They add beauty to your small space. Executed well they can be stunning to look at and create that ‘wow’ factor. In fact, they can be almost like a nice piece of art.
• A vertical garden gives you a connection to the outdoors. Just because you live in a small space doesn’t mean it has to be devoid of nature.
• A wall of green creates a natural filter for removing dust, pollen and toxins from the air and produces oxygen.

What is not so good…

Despite the fuss-free look of a vertical garden they can be high maintenance. Glossy leaves and lots of little pots DO need attention to keep them looking great.
While they may look like a cheap alternative to an ‘in ground’ garden they can be quite expensive if your plans get too grand.
If you end up moving you just might have to leave your beautiful wall behind as they are generally difficult to relocate.

Some practical tips

Decide if you are going to do it yourself (DYI) or call in the experts.

If you decide to DYI here are some make or break rules:

Make sure it is set to scale for the space.
Ensure the wall or fence it will be on will bear the weight of a full plant and soil load.
Plan for drainage and remember it may stain the backdrop. In Asia they use an old chain or rope to lead the water directly to the ground – this can look great and does the job!
Protect the structure supporting your garden. Timber rots and metal rusts so find out BEFORE proceeding what you need to do to protect it. While you may not be so fond of plastic it is fairly hardwearing and doesn’t require treatment.
Synthetic flywire is a small investment to prevent your soil running away in the first shower. Use it to line pots and always use good quality potting mix.
Choose ground-hugging plants with short stems. Get advice on what is best for your climate and garden position, eg sunlight, shade, frost etc.

Do they add value?

If you are an investor this is a good question. The most likely answer is that a vertical garden does not add value by itself. However, it can certainly add the ‘wow’ factor and help lift property appeal to potential buyers.

If it’s a courtyard space or on top of a building where you would not normally have an appealing garden then the impact of a flourishing vertical garden is even greater. They are also good for hiding problem areas such as cracks in a brick wall. B

ut remember, your garden has to be maintained otherwise it will quickly lose its aesthetic appeal. If maintenance is not for you, you can always call in the professionals to keep your garden healthy and well maintained. And hopefully enjoy your beautiful garden for years to come.

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