Will a Robotic Plant be the next 'must have' for your home?

Robotic Plants Not a crazy sci -fi concept but the focus of multi disciplinary, collaborative research presently being undertaken across labs in the EU.  Houses and cities of the future could literally be 'grown' if a successful symbiotic connection between plants and technology can be established.  Paul Münzner's (founder and editor of ECOURBANHUB) article will bring you up to date or watch the video

King's Cross Revisited

It was good to see that after over 7 years of performance in King's Cross, Sydney, the flower towers and the double sided Greenwall were in great condition. Citywide do a wonderful job of designing and maintaining the lush streetscape features which bring a splash of Spring colour to 'the cross'.  These living icons will be even more welcome when the well known Coca Cola sign finally disappears.  Were you a bidder on ebay for a piece of King's Cross history? 

Greenwall Screens Penthouse Jacuzzi

You may not have a lush garden providing privacy as you languish in the bubbles of your jacuzzi but if you have a balcony spot that will take the weight, you can still create a delightfully relaxing, green and lush environment using a double sided greenwall unit.  That is exactly what these residents now enjoy on their Redfern penthouse balcony. The jacuzzi is behind this wall of aesthetically designed plants so while languishing spa lovers enjoy the privacy of their own little green oasis their guests can sip a favourite glass of delish against a backdrop of lush green on the other. More before /after photos .

Plant selection by Rob Griffith- Evolvement

Vertical Gardens, Vertical farms and now - Vertical Forests

How do you nourish Nature - starved communities in polluted cities that are barren of landscape?  By encouraging more architects and urban planners to follow the lead of visionary architects like Stefano Boeri Architetti who gave us the world's first 'Vertical Forest' building, Bosco Verticale, in Milan (Milan is one of the most polluted cities in Europe). In their quest to combat urban sprawl and bring back the benefits of living in a truly natural, cleaner/greener environment, this team 'gets it.' A second eco friendly building of theirs is due to be started in Lausanne in Switzerland next year and several hundred people in China are also in line to enjoy the benefits of a third project, 'The Mountain Hotel' in Guizhou.

'The Mountain Hotel project will be a 250-room hotel inspired by nature and so green that it will actually improve the air around it. That's because, like the firm’s other green buildings, this one will be covered in greenery from the foundation to the roof.'
Biophilic design at its best, let's repeat what works.

Greenwalls support Biophilia

What the heck is biophilia anyway?

Biophilia is a term made popular by Harvard University myrmecologist (someone who studies ants) and conservationist E.O. Wilson, to describe the extent to which we humans are hard-wired to need connection with nature and other forms of life. Many studies have proved the benefits we gain from regular exposure to green, living things. People who live in built environments need to access the benefits of nature and living things more than ever and the more we saturate our surroundings with concrete, steel and glass, the more we need to find creative and effective means for incorporating nature and living green lushness into our urban environments.

Whether we recognise it or not, our surroundings and especially green, natural surroundings, affect the way we feel, work, make decisions and recover from illness. Regular exposure to Nature, even sitting on a bench in a small park, triggers something innate and magical within us to give us tremendous benefits that ‘can have as profound an effect on your psychology as being immersed in a deep rain forest’… Colin Ellard.

Ellard’s research into how people respond to views of nature is drawing particular interest from city planners and architects who seek to combat nature deficient indoor spaces and use greenwalls to aesthetically ‘scrub the air’.  With his colleagues, Ellard is working to discover 'what it is about those natural views that produces these marvellous physiological and psychological responses'. If well designed streetscapes featuring living vegetation can ‘nourish’ us, improve our emotions, memories and enrich our actions, greening our cities could directly improve our ability to make decisions and thus our overall performance as humans within the community.

Colin Ellard, is a cognitive neuroscientist who studies this relationship between place and mind and believes that “Ideally, within about a five-minute walk of where you live, you should be able to get to some view of nature.”……….For many of us, this is not too difficult but given today’s fast paced lifestyles and commuter routines, many of us don’t add this daily ‘dose of Nature’ to our row of vitamin pills, cholesterol and blood pressure meds.

  SO… the next best thing we can do to support our innate need for Nature is to bring a daily dose into our own backyard or balcony with some sort of vertical garden or greenwall- the bigger and more lush the better. Your vertical garden or greenwall doesn’t have to be for food production, although that does put the radish on the salad, you can pamper yourself with the benefits of biophilic nourishment from a stunning wall of rustling green grasses, breeze stirred blooms or a dazzling mass of variegated foliage. If you don’t want to invest in a proper greenwall or vertical garden system, look around for old pallets, old furniture or anything that can hold a decent amount of soil and you’re on track to creating your own little dose of life sustaining elements and importantly, doing your bit to sustain our connectedness to Nature and the immeasurable benefits it affords us.

Sources: http://biophiliccities.org/biophiliccities.html


Potting Media for Successful Vertical Gardens and Greenwalls

Potting media is a heroic player in the gardening game, especially when it comes to the success of your vertical garden or greenwall.

Even with the huge root space afforded by the Garsy vertical garden/greenwall system, if your greenwall plants are to have a long, luscious life, you need to make sure that you surround their roots in potting media which holds moisture well and retains all the nutrients.

A great watering system alone doesn’t guarantee success even if you irrigate like a pro. Cheap potting mix can quickly become hydrophobic (repels water) thus preventing the roots from accessing moisture and the nutrition they need to thrive.

Potting mix that is specially formulated for vertical gardens and greenwalls is now available at most nurseries but if you’d like a sure-fire, fuss-free recipe for making your own, you’ll discover the easy to find ingredients in chapter 3 of that little guide of Keri’s I mentioned in my last post.

DIY Vertical Gardens Book

Spring is here and if you are still hesitant about setting up a DIY vertical garden or Greenwall at home, rejoice, help is at hand 24/7. This little book 'DIY Vertical Gardens...Expert Advice for Greenwalls and Living Walls at Home' by Keri Algar is a little 'must have' gem.  I am happy to promote this easy read because Keri empowers and educates even the pinkest thumb to succeed with creating a vertical garden at home without having a horticultural degree!

Keri's research has brought you a book choc full of tips and 'I can do this' techniques for creating a healthy, well built vertical garden or greenwall that will GIVE more than it will take out of you to manage.

In this little pocket wizard, you will find easy to follow, horticultural advice for growing lush foliage, vegetables and flowers in small spaces, indoors and out.

But there's much more-  you'll find home remedies for insecticides and fungicides which will save you money. If you are a parent worried about little Johnny getting dirt on his hands, read the section on why bugs in soil are good for the brain!

Did you know that succulents can suffer sunburn? What are plants telling you when they go 'leggy'?

There's an excellent chapter on potting mixtures and growth media with Australian horticulturist and Greenwall expert John Daly and whether you're into veggies or flowers, there's a handy troubleshooting guide and some quick reference checklists to keep you gardening like a pro.
Of course I can't forget to thank Keri for including the steel system I sell too.  Thanks Keri, I also love the way you've scattered quotes around the pages like little seeds helping our imaginations to germinate.

Vertical Gardens alias Bamboo Planter Boxes

Vietnamese Feng Shui has played a role in bringing the benefits of 'vertical gardens' and green roofs to 720 families who will eventually live in a high rise building in Ho Chi Minh City. The lush green 'vertical garden' facade on the 22 storey housing development will be achieved with the use of bamboo planter boxes. A large rooftop garden will provide residents with lots of private, nourishing green space and stunning views.

Ho Chi Minh city is predominantly a concrete jungle-the bamboo will not only provide a lush aesthetic to the building, it will also work as a protective screen. The plantings will offer privacy and protection to residents from the harsh sun, provide heat regulating properties and improve air quality in the city, as well as complement the expansive rooftop garden

Indoor office plants improve performance and productivity

"According to study Greening the Great Indoors for Human Health and Wellbeing published by Dr Fraser Torpy and colleagues, “Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) emitted from synthetic materials in office furniture, fittings and computers can cause headaches, loss of concentration and other health problems.”

“Plants can also reduce dust levels, refresh air and stabilise temperature and humidity levels…employers will also be interested to hear that this clean air leads to clearer thinking, which in turn promotes greater productivity and efficiency.”

This endorses the value and benefits of indoor Greenwalls but from an environmental perspective, let's not forget the possible extra lighting/power consumption, potential for moulds, fungal growth, ventilation adjustments etc. that also need to be taken into account when installing larger scale Greenwalls.

Greenwalls and Vertical Gardens Rule!

This link is worth a click next time you take a coffee break- below is an extract (Sunday's ABC Sunday Extra- thank you, Jonathan Green.) A cognitive neuroscientist, Colin Ellard, is investigating the relationship between place and mind. Enter Greenwalls and vertical gardens folks. The good news for us is that by using Greenwalls and vertical gardens in the smallest of spaces, we can each benefit from 'marvellous physiological and psychological responses'. Well, I think we knew this already but it's reassuring to know that we are on the right garden path! Here's a taste of what Colin says but I encourage you to read the full article.

“Ideally, within about a five-minute walk of where you live, you should be able to get to some view of nature.”……….Colin Ellard, cognitive neuroscientist

Ellard and his colleagues are working to unfold 'what it is about those natural views that produces these marvellous physiological and psychological responses'.

'We know that even a relatively modest exposure, like sitting on a bench in a small urban parkette, can have as profound an effect on your psychology as being immersed in a deep forest,' he says.

'The idea is to design cities in such a way that as many people as possible have ready access to these natural environments. Ideally, within about a five-minute walk of where you live, you should be able to get to some view of nature.'

'But my suspicion is that in the long run we're going to discover that the most economic and effective way of producing these kinds of effects is to include natural elements in cities.'


10 Questions to ask yourself when planning a Vertical Garden or Greenwall

1.      What type of Vertical Garden do you want- an aesthetic focal point, food producing, camouflaging, insulating? All of these?

2.      What is the climate like around your site- sunny, exposed, windy, heavy rainfall?

3.      Does another building cast a ‘shadow’ over your ‘garden’ wall? If so, plant choice is critical.

4.      How many hours of natural sunlight a day will your intended greenwall receive?

5.      Is your wall/fence sound enough to carry a mounted greenwall system or do you need a freestanding one?

6.      Can you cater for drainage or excess ‘run off’ after a heavy downpour?

7.      What visual ‘look’ do you seek from the wall? Free form with leaf movement in a breeze, tight and geometrically patterned? Mixed foliage, colourful flowers or veggies and herbs?

8.      If you choose a mounted hydroponic system, have you allowed for the battens, wallboard and many felt layers behind the plants or other ‘extras’ required for successful performance of this type of greenwall system?

9.      Where will the reservoir and pump be located for the hydroponic systems?

10.    Is maintenance for the vertical garden system complex/costly and will your electricity bill    soar?

Choose the type of Greenwall system first by researching soil- based versus hydroponic systems THEN once you have decided which vertical garden system suits your needs and lifestyle best, consult a reliable professional or wise guy at your local nursery to help in selecting the right plants.

A vertical garden or greenwall should give more than it takes – it should be:

·        Stunning to look at and/or productive through all the seasons of the year so that it can feed your senses and you can enjoy it’s abundant lushness and delicious benefits

·        As low maintenance as possible for self – management OR if a large scale, commercial installation, only incur ongoing fees from a professional as necessary

·        Accessible enough to enable you to replace plants, fertilise and tip prune maybe twice a year

·        Dense with plants who ‘get on well together’ as far as size and maximum growth go so there is no fighting for dominance or survival

·        Designed with plants grouped according to their love of the same servings of food and drink and quality of light exposure

·        Easily relocatable should you wish to take it with you when you move

Should Schools be offering Children the Benefits of a Kitchen Garden?

School kitchen gardens are WONDERFUL

and their proven benefits should be available to every child.   Fast paced life, increased sedentary screen time and junk food is taking its toll on children before they’ve even left primary school, as an ex teacher and parent, I think we should be fighting to regain a balanced childhood for them. By balanced I mean a combination of *fresh air and active fun, communing with all that Nature has to offer and developing ‘full on,’ face to face social skills.  

Gardening programmes in schools

can cater for all levels of intellect and ability by increasing self-esteem, instilling a positive work ethic, teaching patience and building classroom relationships. Kitchen gardens and their associated benefits in primary schools also provide incidental opportunities for every child to serve others through their own contributions within a family, their class, their community and ultimately, the wider working world.

Prevention is better than cure

especially when it comes to the health of the young. It’s time to ensure the wellbeing of our children by helping them to make healthier choices about what they do and what they eat. This doesn’t have to feel like a punishment or be achieved through face pulling menu changes. You know yourself - to change a behaviour pattern, the carrot needs to taste delicious and the munching needs to be fun or you just won’t do it! Let’s spend a few dollars and a little energy now (and ultimately reduce medical bills later) by setting up kitchen gardens (mini laboratories) for primary school children. Stephanie Alexander’s kitchen garden programme has proved how successful and influential this simple addition is when integrated into a school curriculum. For schools that cannot afford this programme, there is a much simpler option - an INSTANT vertical kitchen garden that be assembled in under three hours.

To support good nutrition and healthy eating habits, we need to show children how great Mother Nature is at growing yummy food and what fun it can be to plant and nurture something that flourishes and nourishes when you’re not afraid to put the ipad down and get your hands dirty.

A school kitchen garden is an exciting gift for children that ‘keeps on giving’ long after the harvest has been collected. Space is no longer an issue either. A vertical garden will fit the smallest of spaces and does not require any ground to be dug up. Children can even build the kit systems themselves. A vertical veggie garden activity can be fully integrated into the primary school curriculum, offering infinite possibilities to reinforce literacy, numeracy, science, cultural studies and all aspects of environmental sustainability and our relationship with the planet.

It’s not just about food though (and exercise is a ‘given’ here). Working in a school garden/outdoor laboratory encourages children to observe, experiment, discover, nurture, experience loss and take on responsibilities as individuals as well as in groups. Far better than a textbook, a kitchen garden lets each child use every sense to feel, smell, taste, watch and listen as they work with the natural elements of an ecosystem. Nature’s seasons and life cycles are integrated effortlessly into their ‘knowing’ as they practise their horticulture skills. All this creativity and easy learning goes on while they enjoy the delicious food they have grown and prepared themselves. Yes, children do eat what they grow.

Incidences of weight related diseases are rising. Is screen addiction responsible for the escalation of Myopia in teenagers? A virtually guaranteed antidote, why wouldn’t we integrate a low cost, fresh air and fun solution such as a kitchen garden, into our primary schools? Welcome donations of seedlings, cuttings and gardening expertise and the only effort required by parents is to enjoy the best food ever (and maybe clean under James’ fingernails!)  Substitute a trowel for a tablet and children in primary schools will discover other powers in their hands, they will join the dots when it comes to food sources and selection and by default, benefit from ‘gardening exercise’ and a daily dose of zinging vitamins and minerals. Give every child the chance to work in a kitchen garden, to gain a sense of personal achievement for a job well done, with results that can be measured with pride.  While the basketball and the swimming may stop when they leave school, gardening and healthy eating are activities they can enjoy for life.

* “Despite our reputation for a love of the outdoors, Missing Trees: The Inside Story of an Outdoor Nation, commissioned by Planet Ark in 2013, found that… a quarter of children under the age of 16 are outside for less than two hours each week. The report also found that for every hour we spend enjoying the outdoors, around seven hours are occupied on the internet or watching TV…   There are obvious impacts on our waistlines, but less obvious and perhaps more insidious effects on our mental health”…Tony Arnel

Are Designers Losing Ground by Not Offering Their Clients the Benefits of Vertical Gardens?

12 years ago, ‘vertical gardens’ was a lost little keyword in a huge Google forest.  “A passing fad, just a trend” many people said, as a crazy French botanist started cladding high rise buildings in Europe with living plants. A risky investment to attract buyers indeed, especially in this ‘sun burnt’ country’! Many designers and developers thought so, no one really knew much about looking after these Greenwalls either. Fast forward to today and with the focus on a cleaner environment, healthier living and a demand for home grown produce on the doorstep, vertical gardens are definitely IN and if you are selling a property, this WOW feature brings great return on investmentPRD nationwide Newcastle director Mark Kentwell believes gardens can have “a massive impact on the appeal to a buyer”.

Studies have shown that vegetation is essential for our well being. Productivity rises and patients heal faster in environments where vegetation is present. Vertical gardens also have a special place in the care of patients with dementia, sensory stimuli associated with gardens is being used to provoke memories in reminiscence therapy. With over 60% of the world’s population expected to be living in cities by 2030 we need to mitigate the urban heat island effect and provide food. Melbourne’s goal is to have a green canopy of 40% by 2040. Greenwalls combat pollution, reduce heating/cooling bills and have an important role to play in future urban farming. Strong arguments to support developers’ planning submissions.

How many designers are offering their clients this asset as ‘the norm’ though? Real estate agents are finding that apartments with a vertical garden or units retrofitted with a ‘green’ wall for food production are more attractive to potential purchasers than properties without this asset.

 Including this popular yet practical design feature in property packages, whether for commercial or residential clients, will keep developers at the frontline of their industry. Designers can save clients exhaustive hours of research and uncertainty by installing a reliable, ‘ready to go’ vertical garden system that is easy to maintain.  Vertical garden kits are available for builders to install themselves which enables them to instantly add a stunning point of difference to their properties without further outsourcing.

What a huge difference designers could make to the lifestyles of those who have ‘lost’ their gardens through downsizing or moving into Aged Care facilities.  Biophilic design cannot be ignored for much longer so I would encourage designers to embrace the role that vertical gardens and living walls can play here. Vertical kitchen gardens help schools to wage war on childhood obesity. Hotels, colleges and office blocks are ripe for makeover lushness via a ‘green’ wow feature.  A smart designer surely is gaining ground if they include this ‘feel good’ asset as an essential part of the biophilic beautification of our surroundings and the future health of us all?

Vertical Gardens: The good, the bad, the ugly

The above title by Betty Earl was used 3 years ago for her timely article which encouraged us all to thoroughly understand what is involved in achieving success with a vertical garden.  Since then, the popularity of vertical gardens has seen meteoric growth.  However, the points Betty made back then are even more relevant today, given the range of widely different vertical garden systems now on the market so I thought it worth posting Betty’s reminder here.  Photo courtesy Betty Earl.

The average gardener still doesn’t understand the maintenance requirements associated with the needs of  plants in vertical garden systems... so If you are considering buying a vertical garden system and the sales ‘discussion’ does not cover the relevant information as highlighted by Betty… ASK!

P.S The Garsy vertical gardens from eden NOW are proven to be reliable in 22 countries, in extremes of climate and are designed to support plant needs with the easiest of maintenance.

Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Garde...

2015- International Year of Soil

When the Garsy range of soil based, vertical garden products was first launched in Australia in 2002, we used the slogan 'the greatest innovation in gardening since DIRT!'  Now, over 13 years later, we celebrate the United Nations International Year of Soil, who would have thought it? I found this very informative and easy to understand  article on soil by Becca Smithers which I think is worth reading.

It explains what soil is, why it is important and why we our lives depend on it.

Soil: our lives depend on it!

If you'd like to find out which kind of soil you have in your garden, Becca also has a simple little experiment you can do. What a great blog and so handy for kids too. One to watch.