Vertical gardens in the city: how to green up your apartment building creatively

    28 Aug 2021

    Experts say that turning a city house into a palace is real. Let’s check the explanation by the founder of the Center for Alternative Gardening in Kyiv, who revealed the secrets of safe and beautiful green walls in the Rubryka article.

    We find examples of vertical gardening most often in parks and recreation areas. There are walls covered with bindweed plants, fences almost invisible through decorative vines, arches, walkways braided with grapes and roses, green ivy, and moss sculptures.

    We can simply explain the popularity of this gardening among landscape designers. Vines create a green mass fast and give a deep shade, blooming ampelous plants look romantic, green sculptures naturally fit into the landscape, and visitors like them.

    But the Center for Alternative Gardening, DendroKyiv, is engaged in gardening apartment buildings in the capital, including vertical gardening. We spoke with its founder, Roman Lubeka, about why it’s crucial, what gardening myths exist and how to do it right.

    There are several myths around vertical gardening. Let’s debunk three of them.

    L’Oasis D’Aboukir Living Wall, Paris, by Patrick Blanc. Photo © Patrick Blanc

    Myth I. The facade will deteriorate

    No – tendrils or suckers of plants do not penetrate the plaster or panel; they are attached only on the outside with uneven wall structure. A few years ago, scientists from the Oxford School of Geography and the Environment studied for three years in a row how ivy works on buildings located in five different parts of England. It turned out that creeping shrubs often perform a protective function. Ivy canopy acts as a heat shield and protects the walls from sudden changes in temperature, through which the masonry often cracks. Nature seems to preserve buildings. Heather Viles, a professor at the faculty and head of the expedition, said: “Ivy has always been accused of destroying everything on which it grows and threatening many of our best historical monuments. But our research has shown that, on the contrary, from this creeping plant, many homes only benefit. It plays a decorative role and makes the walls more resistant to weather changes and harmful contaminants. “

    Vertical Garden, Pershing Hall Hotel, Paris, by Patrick Blanc. Photo © Lynn Butler Beling

    Myth II. Plants will crash into satellite dishes or air conditioners and disable them

    No – plants cannot cling to metal, glass, and glazed surfaces. If you look at the houses with green walls, you can see that the plants bypass the housings of air conditioners without causing them any harm.

    Myth III. Grapes can take root in the slabs of balconies and destroy them

    No. Balcony slabs crack not from the roots of grapes, which are not on the stems, but from the fact that the microcracks get moisture, which, freezing in winter, expands and thus spoils the concrete. Grapes are attached with tendrils or suction cups to already damaged surfaces and ready cracks; it is convenient for them, they will not be able to make the destruction bigger.

    Why plant greenery?

    Thirty years ago, Patrick Blanc, a French botanist, proposed using tropical plants that grow on any slope and do not actually require sunlight and water in the vertical landscaping of park areas and the walls of urban buildings. He came up with the original system of vertical gardens, thanks to which plants can grow on vertical surfaces without soil, only on a solution of fertilizer circulating in the system. Blanc’s first large-scale walls were realized in Paris in 1986. Now his projects can be seen around the world.

    “People are concentrated in megacities. Cities are growing, taking away from the greenery the usual horizontal area. But how many free verticals in today’s cities: the walls of stations, subways, parking lots, skyscrapers!” – the scientist wrote.

    Facade of the Greenway Hotel, Gloucestershire, England

    The benefits of vertical landscaping are not limited to the decorative effect. The leaves of plants that cover the walls of buildings protect them from overheating, absorb moisture from the soil, and reduce the dampness of the foundation near the house. Phytowalls are indispensable in conditions where the land that plants can occupy is very limited in area, be it suburban areas or pieces of land in cities. What then to speak for megacities in which the question of how to place as many green plantings as possible in small free territories becomes more and more actual every year.

    German biochemist Thomas Pew performed calculations that showed that green walls provide significant savings in electricity. The surface, which is covered with plants, heats up less in summer, which saves a lot on air conditioning, and in the cold season, the air gap between the wall and the vertical garden reduces heat loss and prevents cold air from entering the building. Sometimes the savings can be up to 50%! Phytowalls also reduce noise, trap dust and gas exhaust, saturate the surrounding space with oxygen, create a sense of comfort, both physical and psychological, protect from the sun.

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