Technology and Garden Gadgets – Tips On Using Technology In Landscape Design

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Whether you like it or not, technology has made its way into the world of gardening and landscape design. Using technology in landscape architecture has become easier than ever. There are loads of web-based programs and mobile apps that handle practically all phases of landscape design, installation, and maintenance. Gardening technology and garden gadgets are booming too. Read on to learn more.

Technology and Garden Gadgets

For luddites who treasure the peace and quiet of slow-paced, hands-on gardening, this may sound like a nightmare. However, using technology in landscape design is saving many people loads of time, money, and hassle.

For people working in the field, using technology in landscape design is a dream come true. Just consider how much time is saved by computer aided design (CAD) software. Design drawings are clear, colorful, and communicative. During the design process, conceptual changes can be re-drawn in a fraction of the time it took for changes by hand drawings.

Designers and clients can communicate from a distance with photos and documents housed in Pinterest, Dropbox, and Docusign.

Landscape installers will really want to learn how to use technology in the landscape. There are mobile and online apps for employee training, cost estimating, mobile crew tracking, project management, fleet management, invoicing, and taking credit cards.

Smart irrigation controllers allow landscape managers of large land parcels to control and track complex, multi-faceted irrigation schedules from afar utilizing satellite technology and weather data.

The list of garden gadgets and gardening technology keeps growing.

  • There are a number of gardening apps available for people on the go– including the GKH Companion.
  • Some engineering students at the University of Victoria in British Columbia invented a drone that deters backyard garden pests, such as raccoons and squirrels.
  • A Belgian sculptor named Stephen Verstraete invented a robot that can detect sunlight levels and move potted plants to sunnier locations.
  • A product called the Rapitest 4-Way Analyzer measures soil moisture, soil pH, sunlight levels, and when fertilizer needs to be added to planting beds. What next?

Garden gadgets and technology in landscape architecture are becoming more and more prevalent and useful. We are only limited by our imagination.

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Wolf Landscape Architecture

Wolf Landscape Architecture provided planting design for Weiss Manfredi’s Overlook. Photo by Vera Comploj.

The Native Plant Trust’s Curtis Cabin Garden, Wolf Landscape Architecture.

Toby Wolf designed the award-winning Bioswale while a Senior Associate at Halvorson Design Partnership. Photo by Chris Kitchen.

Renovation of the Boylston Border for the Friends of the Public Garden, design by Wolf Lighthall and Wolf Landscape Architecture.

Wolf Landscape Architecture provided planting design for Weiss Manfredi’s Overlook. Photo by Vera Comploj.

Wolf Landscape Architecture

Toby Wolf led the design team for the Fort Point Channel Parks on the Rose Kennedy Greenway while a Senior Associate at Halvorson Design Partnership.

Wolf Landscape Architecture provided planting design for Weiss Manfredi’s Overlook. Photo by Vera Comploj.

Toby Wolf designed the green roof plantings for the LEED-Gold Welcome Center while a Senior Associate at Halvorson Design Partnership.

Toby Wolf designed the Greenway’s Urban Arboretum while at Copley Wolff Design Group.
Wolf Landscape Architecture re-imagined the Cypress Grove to strengthen the Arboretum’s south entrance.

Toby Wolf led the design team for this landscape while a Senior Associate at Halvorson Design Partnership.

The Native Plant Trust’s Curtis Cabin Garden, Wolf Landscape Architecture.

Wolf Landscape Architecture

Toby Wolf designed this landscape while a Senior Associate at Halvorson Design Partnership.

Wolf Landscape Architecture

Toby Wolf led the design team for this landscape while a Senior Associate at Halvorson Design Partnership.

Toby Wolf led the design team for this landscape while a Senior Associate at Halvorson Design Partnership.

Toby Wolf designed the award-winning Bioswale while a Senior Associate at Halvorson Design Partnership.

Toby Wolf designed the award-winning Bioswale while a Senior Associate at Halvorson Design Partnership. Photo by Chris Kitchen.

The Field

Mention a sensory garden and what often comes to mind is an outdoor space resplendent with aromatic plants and lush plantings abounding with splashes of color. While certainly part of the picture, it is perhaps not the complete one. In this post, we share strategies to create gardens that nurture and enrich all of the sensory systems. Our ideas to create a naturalized outdoor space for sensory exploration and enrichment are general. If you have the opportunity to create specialized sensory gardens for children with complex sensory integrative challenges, we recommend teaming up with occupational therapists with extensive training in sensory integration (it was introduced and the theory was developed by an occupational therapist, A. Jean Ayres), to make it as usable as possible. Because occupational therapists are also well versed in child development, it is a bonus for great sensory garden design.

We are all familiar with the five basic senses—sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell:

Sight (VS) – the visual system

Hearing (AS) – the auditory system

Taste (GS) – the gustatory system

Smell (OS) – the olfactory system

Touch (Tactile – also a foundational system) (TS) – the largest sensory system tactile receptors are located all over our bodies

There are two other ‘hidden’ or ‘foundational’ sensory systems—vestibular, and proprioceptive and kinesthetic:

Vestibular (VES) – the sensory system that responds to the position of the head in relation to gravity and accelerated or decelerated movement. The vestibular system is the ‘dizzy’ and balance system. It also integrates neck, eye, and body adjustments to movement.

Proprioceptive and Kinesthetic (P/KS) – proprioception has to do with the perception or awareness of sensations from the muscles and joints and kinesthesia involves perception of the movement of individual body parts. Kinesthesia and proprioception guide us in understanding where our body is in space.

Sensory garden design can encompass all of these senses.

For typically developing children, their sensory systems are integrated and work well together. To demonstrate this interconnection, in the chart below we suggest several strategies to include in children’s sensory gardens and what systems are being nurtured through their inclusion. The first system listed in the chart is the primary beneficiary of the sensory element. But, as you will see, many of the design strategies nourish nearly all of the basic and foundational sensory systems.

To increase your understanding of the sensory systems, we recommend the following four books. The authors of these highly acclaimed books are experts in sensory integration Drs. Dunn and Miller are both occupational therapists and Ms. Kranowitz is an educator.

The Out-of-Sync Child, by Carol Kranowitz and Lucy Jane Miller

The Out-of-Sync Child Grows Up, by Carol Kranowitz and Lucy Jane Miller

by Amy Wagenfeld, Affiliate ASLA, PhD, OTR/L, SCEM, FAOTA, and Kristen Singley, BS, OTS

Landscape architecture professors write book on community gardens

Many cities across North America have community gardens, but only Seattle and a few others include them in urban planning — and it’s helped them thrive.

A new book, Greening Cities, Growing Communities , offers not only insight about the city’s shared gardening plots but practices that could help develop and sustain community gardens elsewhere.

Published this fall by the University of Washington Press ($40, paperback), Greening Cities was written by Jeffrey Hou, associate professor and new chairman of the landscape architecture department at the UW Julie M. Johnson, a UW associate professor of landscape architecture and Laura J. Lawson, an associate professor of landscape architecture at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.

Johnson and Hou will present a book reading at 7 p.m. next Wednesday, Oct. 14, at University Bookstore.

Greening Cities, Growing Communities explains how Seattle is conducive to community gardens: It has active, well-known neighborhoods, a maritime climate good for plant growth, plenty of people interested in gardening and government support for open space.

Seattle has also had various kinds of community gardens, including victory gardens during World War II, but the latest can be traced to the early 1970s, when the Picardo family let a group of students and families grow food for the Neighbors in Need program. Community gardens were subsequently named P-Patches.

The authors of Greening Cities profile six Seattle community gardens, many of which grew from planners and designers listening to needs of the stakeholders, then proposing plans that left significant room for growth and change. The profiles also show the ways community gardens become not only food producers but sources of recreation, vehicles for social justice and means of knitting people together.

First up is Interbay P-Patch, which covers one acre at 15th Avenue West and West Armour Street but has been moved twice, the result of city plans for a golf course. Gardeners got more politically savvy with each move, such that by the second time, they secured a city council resolution promising the same size plot, equal or better than the existing garden in terms of topsoil and irrigation and that the city would both help with the move and provide lumber for new raised beds.

Interbay covers one acre at 15th Avenue West and West Armour Street but it’s been moved twice, the result of city plans for a golf course. Gardeners got more politically savvy with each move, such that by the second time, they secured a city council resolution promising the same size plot, equal or better than the existing garden in terms of topsoil and irrigation and that the city would both help with the move and provide lumber for new raised beds.

The authors say that the experience, tough as it was, helped build a gardening community, and those ties are essential to development and maintenance of community gardens.

Geographic stability has been hard for a number of community gardens, so the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation now permits P-Patches on its land.

The P-Patch Program has also developed new gardens on a range of neighborhood sites as well as food for food banks, education and job training for young people and the homeless. It has also extended services to seniors and new immigrants. P-Patch is now run by the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.

Thistle P-Patch is an example of a community garden that primarily serves immigrants. Set on three acres in a utility easement at Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Cloverdale Street in the Rainier Valley neighborhood, it’s typical of community gardens in being an odd, underused parcel.

Asians garden many of the Thistle plots, but methods differ according to nationality. Koreans typically create neat, tidy beds whereas Hmong gardeners skip formal order. Planning thus demands clearly defined plots, and it helps to have a site coordinator with multicultural background.

One gardener talks about the importance of being able to grow Japanese vegetables. “That is a huge difference,” the gardener says, “in both taste and how far our household economy goes.”

The Danny Woo Community Garden at 620 South Main St. in the International District also has many Asian gardeners, many of them seniors. They use the garden not only for food growing but as a way to get out of small apartments. Off-season educational workshops have been organized for them and others to share gardening wisdom and learn about sustainable gardening tools such as organic fertilizer.

Danny Woo has also been a site for UW’s Neighborhood Design/Build Studio led by Steve Badanes, a professor of architecture. In a 10-week quarter, students listened to residents needs, then designed and constructed sophisticated bleacher-style seating.

The more sustainable gardens, say the authors, are hybrids. Organized and led largely by private individuals and groups, they nevertheless tap into money and other help from government entities.

But all is not Eden. “Seattle is a good model for community gardens but there are persistent challenges,” Hou said in an interview. As urban areas, the gardens sometimes face theft and vandalism. Some gardens haven’t had definable edges so attract dumping. Sometimes homeless people become garden problems. Fences solve some hassles Bradner Gardens Parks at 29th Avenue South and South Grant Street uses artful fences to mark garden boundaries, but authors say there aren’t easy answers to any of the challenges.

In the last chapter of the book, however, they offer lists for people who want to make community gardens happen: Gardeners can lobby policy makers designers and planners can use their expertise to advocate for such gardens but create open frameworks that allow for garden growth nonprofits can both provide and help find funding necessary to create and sustain gardens.

Greening Cities was written under the auspices of the Landscape Architecture Foundation as part of its support of case-study research.

Today, we will discuss the 10 major reasons why you absolutely need a natural in-built environment for your well-being and sustainability:

1. Combatting Environmental Issues

The furniture on a residential property, the upholstery that is used, the building materials, and the fixtures all emit a certain amount of toxic pollutants in the air. These might be the result of the oxidizing of heavy metals or just toxic gases that destroy the air quality.

Landscape architecture provides a viable and sustainable solution to clean up the air quality. Not only do green plants produce the desired amount of oxygen to balance out the levels of carbon dioxide, but they also absorb the toxic materials.

You can use the MagilTour software for garden design in order to balance the ecosystem in your immediate vicinity. You can also use it to find indoor plants such as Aloe Vera, Ferns, Cacti, Spider plants, etc. to clean up the environment inside the house.

Landscape architects can instill phytoremediation techniques to further combat the environmental issues that exist around your singular household. The green plants and sustainable ecosystems will remove all contaminants and use them to revitalize themselves. Thus the built environment is automatically managed and benefits the household and the surrounding.

2. Sustainable Development of Areas

Landscape architecture is not just about gardening and planting green plants for beautification. Landscape architects use the theories of Ecology and climate change to create focused garden designs. Each property is analyzed along with the surroundings to find a sustainable solution that targets the environmental issues of that particular area alone.

Civil engineers and landscape architects identify the causes of the pollutants in a locality or a particular household. Then they choose the plants for both indoor and outdoor plantation that would clean up the air, absorb the toxins, cause a cooling effect, and balance the natural ecosystem.

The process may be tedious, but it is highly productive to create sustainable architecture development in the overall area, in and around the house. It is also a useful means to redevelop office buildings, schools, colleges, public areas, etc.

3. Regeneration and Rehabilitation of Areas

Commercial spaces such as factories and manufacturing plants degrade the natural resources of the environment. The extent of the contamination may extend for miles. Not only do they pollute the air, but also the general habitat. The soil loses its resources which can cause severe damage to the landforms.

With the help of landscape architecture, you can populate the area with targeted green plants that help in rejuvenating the soil and all its components. It is also a resourceful means to cleaning the industrial toxins in the air around the structure.

This rehabilitation is the only way to prevent the toxins from spreading throughout the nearby areas and causing permanent damages to the human body.

4. Storm Water Management

Storm Water management is a form of rainwater harvesting. With proper equipment and system, the water cycle can be used to the advantage of mankind. The rainwater or storm water can be accumulated and processed for further use, especially in regions where the water supply is sparse.

Under normal circumstances, the storm water trickles through the surface, into the soil and rejoins the water table, which is also a source of water supply in urban areas. However, the use of heavy concrete prevents the water from reaching the soil due to its rigidity.

Landscape architecture helps redevelop the soil underneath and loosens its pores so the water can find its way down. The water table is able to retain its levels and the natural resources are automatically rejuvenated. This helps in maintaining the water supply in a given locality at all times.

5. Holistic Management of Land Resources

Landscape architecture is a huge field of study that employs the principles of horticulture, ecology, geology, hydrology, and design technology.

The plants and trees are chosen based on a careful evaluation of the soil, climate change, level of pollutants, and other factors that play important roles in the ecosystems. Landscape architects combine the various environmental sciences with aesthetic components. They then design an exquisite natural environment that is not only pleasing to the eye but also serves a purpose for well-being

The field of landscape architecture serves the overall purpose of balancing natural resources to clean up the environment while managing the soil and air around it.

6. Innovative Troubleshooting of Natural Environments

Gone are the days when gardening and landscaping were only possible on a horizontal piece of land. With innovative landscape architecture, you can now create rooftop gardens, vertical landscapes, and even wall landscaping.

These particular means of architectural genius are combined with the studies of horticulture to add mainstream biodiversity in urban design. The plants, creepers, and variety of natural resources target sustainable development and help clean up the built environment.

The American society of landscape architects, also known as ASLA has redefined the works of Frederick Law Olmstead to further the importance of landscape in urban areas. These methods use specially selected plants and creepers for an aesthetically pleasing effect while cleaning up the environment as it is so desperately needed.

7. Weather Control

Climate change has taken on a whole new meaning in urban settings. The overpowering use of concrete and constant deforestation has not only depleted the air quality but also increased the temperatures tremendously. Landscape architecture is a necessity at this point to control the weather.

You can create small ecosystems such as pocket parks and rooftop gardens to balance air purification and bring a cooling effect to the urban areas. It is highly recommended that you use landscape architecture software such as MagikTour that can help you identify the types of plants that are best suitable in your environment. You can design the virtual landscape and check its effectiveness before you put in the physical work.

With the right kind of foliage and plant life, you can easily start controlling the weather around you, or at the very least contribute positively towards climate change.

8. Outdoor Public Recreation

Outdoor public parks and spaces are a natural medium for solace in urban areas. People living in New York often seek out the green space and natural environment of Central Park for relief when facing major environmental issues.

These open spaces can be optimized for sustainable development so there is always a place where you can go to relax, outside of your own home. The public areas can also be redesigned with landscape architecture to add a number of smaller parks, pocket parks, elevated parks, etc. These are innovative solutions that address the tight space in an urban setting.

They provide the necessary balance in the ecosystem while cleaning up the air from pollutants and providing a fresh bout of oxygen at all times.

9. Psycho-Social Benefits for Humans

They say that nature actually enhances a person’s mental faculties. This is because nature has a calming effect on the senses which diversely helps expand the mind into the unknown.

With nature disappearing from the face of the Earth with constant deforestation, we need to find a way of retaining its calming qualities. Thus landscape architecture offers the only viable solution.

You can choose from a variety of landscape design that suits your aesthetic needs and creates smaller natural environments. They can be on your personal residential property or around a commercial building or even a public area.

The comforting effects of nature have proved to improve productivity, sentimental values and, even decrease cortisol levels. Nature also instigates a feeling of openness which enables social interactions. These are necessities of human life in order to keep our minds focused and efficient at all times.

10. Therapeutic Final Products

Finally, landscape architecture has a therapeutic effect on the mind. The anticipation of finally witnessing the fruits of your anticipation and labor makes for a cathartic experience.

Software programs such as MagikTour give you a clear and concise idea about what you can expect from your garden designs or overall landscape architecture.

However, seeing the actual product manifest itself enables the human mind to redirect into a healing state of bliss. This is the effect of nature providing much-needed relaxation in today’s fast-paced world.

Landscape architecture is the necessity that helps mankind re-engage with nature, despite the depletion of the natural environment. We realize that this necessity is however difficult to organize and manage.

This is why we have created a software called MagikTour which helps landscape architects and homeowners with garden design ideas in both suburban and urban areas. You can create cost-effective ecosystems, design stormwater management systems, plan for sustainability, and built a green space for your household or commercial spaces.

MagikTour will help you plan your natural environment as per your specific needs. Whether you require good air quality or a reduction of pollutants, or wetlands, or simply a cooling effect on your property, you will find a solution.

As landscape architects, you can previsualize each aspect of your landscape design and share it with your clients. You can also modify the design plan as per their inputs to improve the quality and sustainability of their natural environment.

Landscape architecture is a fast-growing field and we hope this article makes it easier to deliver the green space as per your client’s requirements.

17th- and 18th-century English

The Italian pronouncement that “things planted should reflect the shape of things built” had ensured that gardens were essentially open-air buildings and the making of them the province of architects. Before the 18th century, geometric regularity had been applied in great details of design and in small. England was committed to a version of the French geometric extension garden but with an emphasis on English grass lawns and gravel walks. Whereas the typical French vista was along the main axis, with subordinate vistas at right angles to it, in the two most influential gardens in England, St. James’s and Hampton Court, the vistas sprang like the rays of the sun from a semicircle. With the accession of William and Mary (1689–1702), Dutch influence led to widespread use of topiaried yew and box.

In 18th-century England, people became increasingly aware of the natural world. Rather than imposing their man-made geometric order on the natural world, they began to adjust to it. Literary men, notably Alexander Pope and Joseph Addison, began to question the propriety of trees being carved into artificial shapes as substitutes for masonry and to advocate the restoration of free forms.

The man who led the revolt against the “artificial,” symmetrical garden style was the painter and architect William Kent, the factotum of Richard Boyle, 3rd earl of Burlington. Together, Burlington and Kent created at Chiswick House (1734) a garden with a meandering stream and an “irregular” path. As the writer Horatio Walpole put it, Kent’s “principle was that nature abhors a straight line.” The process of relaxing the garden’s architectural discipline advanced with speed. At Stowe, Buckinghamshire, the original enclosed geometrical garden was amended over the years until a totally different, “irregular” formality was achieved. Trees, for example, were allowed to assume their natural forms, and a large expanse of water was redesigned into two irregularly shaped lakes.

The use of the ha-ha, or sunken fence, to create and at the same time conceal the physical division between garden and contiguous park grounds (a division needed to keep grazing animals out of the garden) was a major step in the creation of the new, “natural” garden. Walpole explains the purpose of the visual unification:

The contiguous ground of the park without the sunk fence was to be harmonized with the lawn within and the garden in its turn was to be set free from its prime regularity, that it might assort with the wilder country without.

The face of the “country without” was altered by the rage that afflicted the English nobility for planting vast areas of trees. Much of England was covered with new parks, traversed by rides and avenues that primarily were conceived as visual extensions of the garden paths. The unification of park and garden was virtually completed by Lancelot (“Capability”) Brown (1715–83) by the simple expedient of making the garden into a park. “Capability” (so-called because he always spoke of a place as having “capabilities of improvement”) developed the current aesthetic that an undulating line was “natural” and that it was the “line of beauty” by using little statuary and few buildings and concentrating on designing landscapes according to nature’s harmonies and gradients. His landscapes consist of expanses of grass, irregularly shaped bodies of water, and trees placed singly and in clumps.

Although the adherents of the new English school of garden design were in agreement in their abhorrence of the straight, Classical line and the geometrically ordered garden, they did not agree on what the natural garden should be. Unlike Brown, for example, the taste for the romantic and the literary led many to seek inspiration in the dramatic and the bizarre, in the remote past, and in remote, exotic places. The Brownian style was strongly challenged, for example, by the “ Picturesque” school, led by Sir Uvedale Price and the artist-parson William Gilpin, who argued, quite correctly, that the “naturalism” of the Brownians was no less unnatural than the geometric regularity of Le Nôtre’s Versailles and that sudden declivities, rocky chasms, and rotting tree trunks (all deliberately designed) were more proper for the natural garden than were enormous undulating meadows accented with tight clumps of thickly planted trees. Another school of opinion created what might be called the English garden of poetic bric-a-brac. The aim in this garden was to create an air of accident and surprise and to arouse varied sensations (solemnity, sublimity, terror) in the viewer—sensations evoked by associations with the remote in time and space. Wandering through the grounds, one came upon Classical statues, urns, and temples Gothic ruins, ivy-covered and inhabited by owls or Chinese pagodas and bridges. After Horatio Walpole recorded the first appearance of chinoiserie at Wroxton in 1753 (a garden no doubt laid out some years before), “Chinese” and Gothic details were featured, together with Classical temples, in most fashionable grounds.

By 1760 the enthusiasm for this style had diminished in England, but in continental Europe the poetic bric-a-brac garden (le jardin anglo-chinois, or le jardin anglais, as the French called it) was almost as widely emulated as Versailles had been. In Italy, for example, Renaissance gardens were destroyed to make way for the new fashion, as at the Villa Mansi near Lucca. In France the sculpted group Apollo Tended by the Nymphs was removed from the Classical Grotto of Thetis on the terrace of Versailles to a secluded boscage garden, where it was housed under ornamental “Turkish” tents eventually it was moved from there to a simulated rocky cavern in the jardin anglais of the Petit Trianon. The jardin anglais was to be found even at Queluz in Portugal and in the Potsdam garden of Frederick the Great of Prussia.

A History of Vertical Gardens From Simple Vines to Hydroponic Systems

Vertical gardens have been growing in our cities and homes for centuries. The surge in vertical gardening technology in the 20th century has made this fact easy to forget. So, in case you’ve forgotten, or maybe you never knew, here is a brief history of the evolution of vertical gardening!

via Landscape Architect’s Pages, Image © Davis Landscape Architecture Ltd, London, UK


The first vertical gardens date back to 3000 BCE in the Mediterranean area. Grape vines (Vitis spp.) were, and continue to be, a very popular food crop for people in the region, so they were commonly grown in fields, homes, and gardens throughout the area. Sometimes vines were planted for the purpose of growing food, and others to simply provide shade in places where planting trees was not an option. Above is an example of Vitis vinifera that is being grown today in Greece.

University of Toronto’s Falconer Hall covered in Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) image © Tamara Urben-Imbeault

In the last couple centuries, vine-based gardening has spread steadily throughout the world, aided largely by the Garden City Movement. The Garden City sought to integrate nature into the city, and because of the limited footprint needed for vertical gardens on grade, they quickly became an easy and fairly inexpensive way to green many cities. Species like Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), English Ivy (Hedera helix) and Boston Ivy ( Parthenocissus tricuspidata ) are historically some of the most commonly planted vine species. Still widely used today, these plants are looked upon favorably for their ability to survive various climates and affix themselves to facades without the help of a trellis.

Although vertical gardening has existed throughout history, its modern-day popularity boom didn’t begin until the 1980s. In particular, German government incentives for city greening led to the creation of many vertical gardening projects, sparking further research into the living wall’s thermal benefits.

In 1987, leading German researcher Manfred Köhler wrote a thesis on vertical gardens’ thermal properties–how the green insulation layer cools buildings in the summer and retains heat in the winter–and it remains to this day a primary source on vertical gardening in colder climates. Köhler has since collaborated with researchers around the world, and has contributed to a famous German guide to vertical gardening: The Forschungsgesellschaft Landschaftsentwicklung Landschaftsbau (FLL) Richthimie für die Planning, Ausführing und Pflege von Fassadengegrüngen. It was first published in 1995, with a second edition published in 2000. Unfortunately, the guide is only available in German and it is unknown if the FLL has plans to translate it into any other languages.

Espaliered Pear Tree. image via Wikipedia


The next incarnation of vertical gardening is known as Espalier. Espaliered trees became very popular in France in 2500 BCE and continue to be grown around the world today. Espaliers are usually fruit bearing trees, with apple and pear trees as the most commonly used species. The trees are tied to a wire framework or fence in order to train the young branches to grow into specific shapes (the process bears many similarities to the process undertaken to create a bonsai). They are grown in various patterns, the most popular of which are horizontal lines, 45° lines, and diamond shapes. The pattern shown above is known as Candelabra.

Mur Vegetal at the Taipeh Concert Hall, image © Patrick Blanc


Back in the 1980s, the world renowned French botanist Patrick Blanc began to experiment with his trademark hydroponic system, Mur Vegetale, which he has now applied to massive internationally-acclaimed green wall projects around the world. His first major project was completed in 1996, and he has since gone on to work with some of the most internationally recognized architects worldwide.

Blanc’s gardens are probably the most widely recognizable type of vertical garden by the general public. Amazingly, his lush creations subsist on a growing medium comprising just two thin sheets of felt, with a total thickness of only a couple millimeters. This means the system is relatively lightweight and soil-free. Because of the lack of soil, hydroponically-grown green walls are susceptible to fewer pests and fewer structural modifications are needed to accommodate the weight. Since the first installation of Mur Vegetale, many similar systems have turned up on the market.

University of Guelph’s Humber Campus Biowall. Designed by Nedlaw. image via Crossey Engineering Ltd.

In the 1990s, another interesting development in the technology of vertical gardening took place at the Guelph University’s Humber Campus in Toronto, where a team of researchers built and tested a hydroponic vertical garden that would double as a giant air filter. This research, initially funded by NASA, evolved into a company by the name of Nedlaw, which currently operates out of Ontario.

Vertical gardening is continuing to change and grow in the DIY community as well. Many popular projects involve re-using various materials like old eaves troughs, shipping pallets, and shoe organizers. These more DIY style vertical gardens will be covered in a future post in a few weeks.

Keep watching for the next post in Land8’s Vertical Gardening Series where we will explore “Vertical Gardens and the [Macro + Micro] Climate”!

Lead image © Tamara Urben-Imbeault

Written by Tamara Urben-Imbeault, M.L.Arch. student at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. She is currently working on her design thesis entitled “Vertical Gardening in Cold Weather Climates”
Contact: umurbeni[at] or t.urbendesign[at]

Blanc, Patrick. (2008) The Vertical Garden From Nature To The City . New York: W. W. Norton & Company Inc.

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, GRHC (2010) Green Walls 101: Systems Overview and Design Second Edition Participant’s Manual. Green Roofs for Healthy Cities.

Hum, Ryan and Lai, Pearl (2007) Assessment of Biowalls: An Overview of Plant-and-Microbiral-based Indoor Air Purification System . Physical Plant Services, Queen’s University.

Nedlaw Living Walls Inc (2011). Living Walls – Green Walls . Retrieved from

Prairie Public Television PBS (2014). The Lost Gardens of Babylon Guide To Ancient Plants . Retrieved from

Peck SW, Callaghan C, Bass B, Kuhn ME. Research report: greenbacks from green roofs: forging a new industry in Canada . Ottawa, Canada: Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) 1999.

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