As garden and landscape designers we are increasingly challenged by pressure to provide useful hard landscape areas while also finding room for plants to soften buildings and built structures. More recently this scenario is evolving to encompass podiums, roof gardens and the 'greening' of balconies, where the requirement is predominantly for containerised planting.
However, as contemporary garden designers, we are not so easily defeated! Even in the tightest of spaces, there is almost always room for plants and vertical planting can be a stunning solution to limited space on the ground, beautifying outdoor spaces, enhancing people's lives and wellbeing and providing ecological value for birds and insects.
Vertical planting not only gives the green ‘wow-factor’ but it can often be maintained with minimal effort and only some plants will require specialist horticultural skills to keep them looking great throughout the year.
There are a variety of different design solutions for vertical planting. The easiest way is to simply plant CLIMBING PLANTS against a wall or fence. Some will grow happily in containers if it is not possible to plant directly into the ground. The containers should be as large as space allows to provide plenty of growing medium and rootable space for the plants.
Many climbers are self-supporting whereas others require a trellis or wire system to help them spread. Self-clinging climbers will hold onto the support themselves, (including attaching to walls and fences) while others will need training – tying their shoots to the trellis or wires from time to time.
Popular climbers are varied as to growth habit, form, texture, colour, flowers, vigour and longevity. Below are some of the most common:
Ivy (evergreen, good for shady areas, comes in a vast variety of foliage sizes and shades including variegated forms, self-clinging, but some can be destructive in maturity)
Clematis (usually for sunny positions but there are some shade lovers too, fabulous blooms in shades of blue, purple, pink but also white and yellow/ cream. Use species clematis where there is more space and cultivars where space is tight or more controlled growth is required)
Winter Flowering Jasmine (early flowerer, evergreen, yellow flowers – more a wall shrub than a true climber, it will need holding back to walls and fences)
Star Jasmine (sun or semi shade, amazing scent, evergreen)
Honeysuckle (great for insects, shades from yellow to red, pink and white, highly perfumed, fast growing)
Climbing Roses (vast variety of colours, suitable for sunny positions and some will tolerate shadier areas, most are fragrant. Vigour will be varied from cultivar to cultivar so check before you choose)
Wisteria (a large woody climber that requires a stronger support system, shades of blue, purple, pink and white, fragrant, attracts insects – great for larger pergolas or training over building walls)
A very different, but increasingly popular form of vertical planting uses a MODULAR ‘POCKET’ OR TROUGH SYSTEM. These vertical cladding panels are usually made from (recycled) polypropylene and are planted with herbaceous or small shrub varieties which knit together to provide a vertical ‘garden’ that requires little space.
The panels are fixed to posts, supporting structure or building wall. The systems come with a specific irrigation and drainage system and are relatively low maintenance.
One of the many manufacturers of green walls is Treebox Ltd - see
for more details.
The installer will provide a mix of plants suitable for sunny or shady positions and advise on planting patterns. It will be important to choose a variety of plant species that all enjoy the same conditions – sun, shade, water requirements etc.
Just to give a flavour, plants for shade could include Asplenium fern, Heuchera, Euphorbia, Bergenia, Carex, Lamium, and vinca.
For a more NATURAL LOOK, take inspiration from nature and go for similar species found on steep or vertical roadside vegetation – here asplenium ferns mingle with grasses, dryopteris ferns and vinca.
For sunny walls a selection of striking plants might include Smaller Hebe varieties, Lavandula, Sedum, Heuchera, Santolina and Brachyglottis, while for a natural look in sun plant mixes could include small ornamental grasses, herbaceous geranium and forget-me-nots.
The CULINARY GARDENER can take his pick from an edible plant selection suitable for vertical planting such as Rosemary, Sage, Oregano and Mint or even venture to vertical allotment gardening planting salad, vegetable and root crops as well as strawberries - easy to harvest-right on your doorstep!
If you would like help realising the full potential of your garden we provide a full range of services: ‘Design, Build, Maintain’ so don’t hesitate to contact us! Alternatively for more professional advice on garden maintenance and design tips keep following our blog.