Upward trends - create a vertical garden

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Vertical gardening has been catching on around the world as a way to get more greenlife into city spaces. In urban environments, where ground space is at a premium, architects and planners are making the most of the upward plane to grow greenery. Home gardeners are also discovering vertical gardening as a way to beautify living spaces (indoors and out) and also to grow food.

Creating a beautiful wall of living colour and texture is by no means  restricted to small gardens, but for those whose garden is limited to an apartment balcony or a tiny townhouse garden vertical gardening is a great way to grow more plants in less space.

The traditional version of vertical gardening is simply to plant a climber in the soil beneath a fence or wall and train its branches upwards. This can be done with trees and shrubs too, via the age-old art of espaliering, and is an excellent way to grow fruit on a sunny wall.

Another form of vertical gardening involves moving the entire plant to the vertical plane with its roots supported in pockets of growing medium designed to hold as much water and nutrients  as possible. The survival of each plant is completely dependent on the water and food that can be supplied to its very restricted root zone.

Growing plants on walls is clearly more of a challenge than it is in deep soil, but it can be done very successfully with the right set up and maintenance.

For green walls in city spaces, engineers design high-tech systems. For DIY gardeners at home, a simpler variation is a vertical garden made from old pallets.

Great espalier plants

  • Apples, pears and stone fruit trees
  • Figs
  • Olives
  • Grapes
  • Berries
  • Meyer lemon
  • Persimmon
  • Passionfruit
  • Camellias
  • Forsythia
  • Malus (flowering crab apple)
  • Prunus (flowering cherry)
  • Viburnum
  • Wisteria

What to plant in a pallet garden

Because of the limited root space, choose small plants with shallow roots. What you plant will also depend on where your pallet garden is located, as plants must be chosen to suit the amount of sunlight. A south facing pallet garden is a great place to grow shade tolerant plants like ferns, orchids, heucheras, cyclamen and bromeliads. For a tropical effect, many indoor plants are perfect for a shady wall garden, provided it is free from frost.

On a sunny wall, dry tolerant plants like succulents and cacti make fantastic pallet garden plants. Or for a bright splash of colour choose drought tolerant flowers, such as petunias, marigolds and pelargoniums for summer. For winter colour try Livingstone daisies, lobelias, pansies and violas.

Herbs and leafy green vegetables are great for sunny pallet gardens. Strawberries are ideal too, provided they get plenty of food and water. However, if you want to grow edibles, it is recommended that you source a pallet made from untreated timber.

The pallet should be fixed to its wall before planting. To keep the soil in, weed mat is used to line each pallet row. Find out more and watch the video at mitre10.co.nz/easyas

TIP: Feed wall plants regularly with balanced liquid fertiliser to maintain lush healthy growth.

Look for these products, tips and advice at a Go Gardening Store near you.



vertical garden
A green wall featuring moss plant (Scleranthus) and ferns

espalier apple
An espaliered dwarf apple tree

pallet garden
A pallet garden with marigolds and salad greens