We first celebrated the rise of vertical gardens in our October 2010 issue, with landscaper Brendon Edwards’ beautifully crafted Umlanga courtyard. With spring in mind, we’ve asked him to show us how to create a straight-up masterpiece ourselves and found out the do’s and don’t’s of this popular gardening trend… What impression does a vertical garden make? Aesthetically, they provide powerful imagery, as you experience the whole garden immediately. A conventional garden is a horizontal vista and needs to be traversed, but a vertical garden gives a complete and instant impression of time and space. You can design a vertical garden to look more organic or more structured – it could even function as an art piece in your home or office. What are the other benefits of this type of gardening? The most brilliant up side is that it never has to been cleaned. The irrigation is actually a micro ecosystem that recycles through a biological process. Water and plant food are pumped through the system which filters down into a gutter, and from there, the water is recycled. Apart from greening the urban landscape, the environmental benefits are impressive. This natural wall covering reduces heat from the building, cleans the air around it, insulates and soundproofs buildings. As well as recycling the water through the irrigation system, excess water from air conditioning units and grey water can be used to feed the living walls. It also reduces carbon emissions. Lastly, it can create pockets of biodiversity within cities. Can we grow them both inside and outside? Yes you can. Indoor vertical gardens may require grow lights depending on the amount of light available in that area. Take us through the set-up process – can we do it ourselves? If you have knowledge of plants, you can do it yourself. On a small scale and with a limited variety of plants, however. The complication comes in when you are recycling the water and using a wide variety of plants. Step 1. A frame is built on the wall (the best is a hard timber) over which a waterproof membrane (thick plastic or dam liner, no less than 500 microns) is fixed. Step 2. Placed over this is an inert matrix. Here you can use a bidum cloth, which acts as the ‘soil’ to bed your chosen plants. Step 3. Through this, a micro-drip irrigation system is woven. A combination of water and plant food is pumped through the system and filtered down into a gutter, from where the water is recycled. Simple enough! What maintenance is involved? Always check that the garden is getting water– make sure that the pump doesn’t fail and that water is always available. Ensure that plant food to water ratio is correct and that it is constantly fed. If you are recycling the water, you need to watch the water pH-level and ECU on a regular basis. You may need to survey the plants for ant disease as well. Make sure none of the drippers are blocked so the entire garden is receiving the same nutrients and water. For more information email Brendon Edwards Landscapes on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 074-103-9886.