When you can’t plant across, go up

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vertical garden lib INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Bethwell Pekula works on his vertical garden in Joe Slovo in Cape Town. Picture: Jeffrey Abrahams

London - There’s nothing new about vertical gardening. We have furnished fences and walls with climbing plants for centuries. But few would have considered vertical surfaces as up-ended gardens.

Now they are being used for growing salads, herbs, strawberries, tomatoes – anything that will grow in a container.

Imaginative gardeners are planting walls as living tapestries. French designer Patrick Blanc has led the revolution by cloaking buildings with green mantles in Singapore, Tokyo, San Francisco and London.

For small-scale vertical gardening, here are my tips:

* Success depends on well-designed, robust modular systems. The plants have to grow in a matrix of little pouches, like baby kangaroos.

* New products coupled with reliable watering systems have broadened the range of what can be planted. You could begin with primroses, violas, pansies or forget-me-nots.

* On a sunny wall, you might plant strawberries for early-summer cropping. In shade, start a collection of ferns. Add bulbs for a cheerful spring bonus.

* Vertical gardening takes some getting used to by gardeners and plants alike. The pouches must be fixed to the surface, unlike free-standing pots on the ground, but gravity is more significant than you think. Plants grow away from the wall and bend towards the light, which can result in unnatural-looking shapes. Compact, trailing or sprawling kinds fare better. Find out which ones suit you by trying as many as possible.

The other constraint is watering. There are interesting module automated systems including Vertigarden planters (see vertigarden.co.uk). – Daily Mail

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