Sometimes a lack of outdoor space presents many difficulties when trying to build a garden or open air retreat. This article, taken from Metropolitan Home Magazine, illustrates a Most Excellent and creative approach to gardening in a very artistic manner. Shown above is a collage of shapely succulents on a courtyard wall, flanked by horsetails, water iris and papyrus growing in a pond. The result is a "living painting".
The solution, devised by landscape designer Mia Lehrer and her associate, Holly Kuwayama, was to hang a garden on the wall, a leafy picture that could thrive without much soil or water. Their clients, avid art collectors, loved the concept of a living counterpart to their indoor paintings, and they were keen on succulents, which Lehrer had used with great success on green roofs around the city. "These plants need little water, so they're less heavy than other choices, and their shallow roots require less soil," notes Lehrer, who is captivated by the range of shapes, colors and textures succulents provide.
Of course, Lehrer and Kuwayama aren't the first to grasp how a swath of green can warm up the coldest building. In fact, especially in space-starved cities, planted walls are a growing trend right now, a friendly antidote to the blank verticals of architecture. Lehrer, whose experience with tough urban sites has led to frequent experiments with planted walls, points out that these have a clear advantage over the common default, vines. "Vines can take forever to cover," she explains. Whereas she and Kuwayama had their collage of greens up and growing in a month and a half.First, they sketched out an impressionistic plan of how they wanted their piece to look. Next, they canvassed nurseries for flowerlike echeverias and aeoniums, plump sedums and crassulas, finger-shaped senecios and fuzzy kalanchoes. These small gems run the gamut of hues, from soft silvers to pink-flushed golds and greens to shiny reds and near-blacks.
To set them off, the designers devised a three-by-five-foot steel armature fitted with two layers of metal mesh to create a wide, shallow box. They laid their box on the ground and had it stuffed with a blend of sphagnum moss and cactus mix and planted with hundreds of cuttings, arranged to balance forms and hues within a frame of black Aeonium 'Zwartkopf.' Some 45 days later, once the plants took root, the piece was ready to mount, with eyebolts and heavy brackets.
In the two years since, the juicy picture has continued to fill out and evolve in its west-facing spot, where surrounding eight-foot walls shelter it from the baking
But fertilizer is never needed to spark this lavish tapestry that now greets visitors who come through the gate. In Southern California, even with the intense sun, these plants are survivors."