Four years ago, there were few man-made vertical gardens in New Zealand and most people had never heard of the concept. I certainly did not know what a vertical garden was, but when I saw one, I instantly knew it could solve my problem of running out of garden space, if only I could find the right product.

That chance encounter converted me from a skeptic to a passionate advocate.

Firstly, it solved my problem of garden space as bit-by-bit my plants spread up the walls. Then the aesthetic value kicked in as my garden took on a new dimension of beauty extending up to the sky and then the economic value became apparent as I gained more privacy and the plants moderated the temperature in both summer and winter. Now I also have space for a few fruit trees and some other edibles, both in the vertical gardens and in the valuable horizontal space.

But are vertical gardens for everyone?

The French botanist – Patrick Blanc– considered by many to be the modern day founder of vertical gardens, said in an interview that “A vertical garden is like a shop window, where all the plants are clearly visible. It’s quite different when you see a horizontal garden where everything is a matter of perspective. I think the biggest thing to highlight is the positive psychological effect vertical walls can have on those who look at them. Instead of there being nothing or maybe a scrawl of graffiti, a simple wall can become something poetic.”

We all know that vegetation in cities helps regulate air temperature, combats air pollution, reduces local flooding by absorbing rainwater and that planted areas increase local biodiversity. We also know how many people love shop windows. As for the psychological and poetic value, I suggest that’s determined by the eyes of the beholder.  To find out if a vertical garden is for you, put your gardening gloves on and write upon your wall!

Leigh Nicholson