Living Wall Technical
Which plant species work in vertical planting?
When planning a living wall, careful plant selection is crucial. Choosing the wrong type of plants can untimely lead to the plants dying resulting in dead patches in the wall or higher maintenance costs to replace the plants and keep the wall alive.
According to a report from Kew, there are 390,900 plants know to science, with over 2000 new plant species being discovered in 2015 alone. With this abundance of plant life choosing a few types for your living wall might seem daunting. It needn’t be.
The living wall habitat
Since we produced our first living walls ten years ago we have experimented with thousands of plant types. We have discovered which plants fail in the environment of a living wall and which types thrive. The living wall is an interesting habitat, in contrast to ground level landscaping the planting is very dense and for good reason. Living walls are a very visual feature and command a lot of attention, this means it is important that they look stunning with full plant coverage, and in the ANS Living Wall system this means 96 plants per square meter.
Choosing the right system for the plants
In some living wall systems plants have another constraint, limited space for their roots to develop and perform their normal cycle. These ‘pocket systems’ normally require higher plant replacements as the plants die off. Our modular natural soil system solves this issue rather neatly. The central section of each 500 mm x 250 mm x 100 mm module which splits it into 12 cells is a separate part to the frame of the module. This central section can move allowing the plants roots to migrate throughout the entire module and the normal cycle of plant life to occur. This involves the natural composting of old roots as new roots grow.
How to choose plants for a living wall
For outdoor living walls it is important to consider the aspect and physical influences on the environment. For example a north-facing wall in a shady area with high winds will need a different set of plants to a south facing wall in direct sunlight on the sea front. We can work with you to select plants that thrive naturally in either situation. Different plants can be used for indoor living wall projects too.
Plants are often chosen to make the living wall look stunning. Certain colours and shades of plants can be chosen and planted in patterns to form natural swathes and shapes or to form letters (consider recreating you logo or brand icon in plants). Even if a simple green wall is preferable, leaf size and shape can alter the overall visual effect of the wall and is worth considering. Another idea is to add flowering bulbs as well as evergreen panting. This adds seasonal interest as the flowers burst into life in spring and summer adding a splash of colour while the wall remains green at all times of the year.
Here at ANS Global we believe in giving back what was once removed. A living wall is a great way to add local plant species back to urban areas and thereby support the local ecosystem. We can carry out a survey of a local area to select plants such as wildflowers that will encourage local insects, bees, invertebrates, butterfly’s, birds and other wildlife. Furthermore to compliment the natural habitat provided by the plants we can add bat or bird boxes and insect hotels to give back a home for local wildlife.
Edible walls and biophilia
We’re not suggesting you alter your diet to include bricks and mortar! Instead planting herbs and soft fruit in a living wall can encourage human and wildlife interaction with the living wall. This interaction with the living wall can help promote biophilia - the relationship between humans and nature. Many herbs can thrive in a living wall including mint, thyme or sage and add a distinctive scent. Consider adding a living wall behind a cocktail bar with fresh herbs growing which the bartenders can use as ingredients in their drinks. Soft fruits such as wild strawberries can grow too adding a tasty treat for birds and humans alike.
Work with a theme
Plants could be selected from a certain country to express a nationality or a global theme. We have carried this out on two notable projects: The David Attenborough Building and The Body Shop. The first contained plants from almost every continent that Attenborough had travelled to and the second included a range of herbs used in the shops soap products. This included an interactive shopping experience for customers.
It is also important to think about maintenance. We can help you select a plant palette with which the required maintenance fits to your budget and schedule. We always encourage our clients to be creative when planning a living wall and we can help them make their concept a reality.
Overall choosing plants is a crucial step in the process of planning a living wall and we recommend getting in touch to discuss your concept. We can furnish you with plant lists to choose from once we know more about your project.