Innovative Vertical Gardens Are a Breath Of Fresh Air


Vertical gardens are not just a pretty façade. Part of their appeal is the ability to help improve indoor air quality by converting carbon dioxide into oxygen and removing harmful environmental toxins. Concerned about plant upkeep when you’re on vacation? No worries there; the lush installations often employ self-watering troughs to facilitate continuous irrigation that starts at the roots and travels upward, eliminating plumbing mishaps.

Landscape artists have sought inspiration from French botanist Patrick Blanc, who can be credited with popularizing the vertical gardening trend (he just created the world’s tallest vertical garden that scales a residential tower in Australia). As long they don’t branch off into a hostile stem takeover à la “Little Shop of Horrors,” these artistic alternatives to overgrown hedges and vine-covered picket fences get a big green thumbs-up from us.

Awe Sum’s “plantscapes” are seriously, well, awesome. Photo by Tara Rasmussen.

The organic fruits and veggies that Awe Sum Organics imports are not the only things taking root in the company. Living plant walls were just installed in its new Santa Cruz headquarters, which opened for business in early October. San Francisco-based architecture firm DIRTT Environmental Solutions introduced its own new patent-pending modular wall system called Breathe that can seamlessly incorporate interior “plantscapes” into existing DIRTT-brand walls. Utilizing a horizontal watering trough called a WaterBoy, this no-mess focal point is every bit as organic, lush, and beautiful as the produce Awe Sum is known for.

This natural office installation inspired us to check out what other innovative green architecture is blooming right in CH+D’s own backyard.

Inspiring floral designs are everywhere you turn. Photo courtesy of Flora Grubb Gardens

Flora Grubb Gardens’ nursery-meets-coffee shop in San Francisco’s Dogpatch ‘hood sprouts multiple indoor and outdoor vertical gardens imagined by Staff Designer Daniel Nolan and LA and Phoenix-based Woolly Pocket. Pre-planted succulent letters and Thigmotrope Satellites specially designed for Tillandsia air plants are available to purchase at the store (and make impressive, low-maintenance holiday gifts!). These guys don’t need soil to bloom, so you can create your own garden wall art in unexpected spots at home.

Roka Akor interior. Photo by Aubrie Pick

Air plants also dance along the wall in a cozy corner of newly opened San Francisco restaurant Roka Akor, bridging outside and inside elements. Japanese culture sees the courtyard garden as a private space, and architect Anthony Fish created an intimate dining retreat to honor this school of thought.

Sky-high gardens and buildings at The Metreon. Photo courtesy of Habitat Horticulture

The Metreon Center boasts a mobile living partition installation called “The Great Barrier,” located in its outdoor City View space. Designer and Habitat Horticulture founder David Brenner drew inspiration from the depths of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and dotted the installation with powder blue and chartreuse sedans and succulents. Check out their awesome map of living wall installations found in the Bay Area.

SF-based Chris Bribach is the CEO of Plants On Walls, an organization that designs and assembles Florafelt Vertical Garden Planters. These microenvironments are fashioned from 100% recycled water bottles and facilitate the healthy growth of luxurious garden art through an automatic recirculating water system. The team encourages homeowners to experiment with an array of textures, colors, and floral varieties, and watch their creativity bloom.

Where have you seen vertical gardens flourishing in your city?

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