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The Vertical Garden

News | July 1, 2009 | By:

Writing the history of a new trend in landscape design with one of the pioneers.

Every once in a while, a book comes along that is timely, original and inspiring. The Vertical Garden: From Nature to the City, by French scientist/artist Patrick Blanc is one such book. Blanc is a “green” version of the artist Christo. Where Christo wraps buildings with fabric, Blanc wraps them with plants. Each plant is meticulously selected, beautifully arranged and firmly sandwiched between a canvas of woven and nonwoven synthetic fabric sheets. The sheets are stretched and hung across a support system of frames designed to echo the shape of a building’s wall. Blanc irrigates and feeds plants mineral water several times a day but for only one to three minutes. In addition to their beauty, these one- to six-story living facades help cool the environment, filter air and absorb carbon.

Blanc’s call to vertical gardens began early. At five, he became fascinated with his dentist’s aquarium. He was specifically attracted to the symbiotic relationships between the fish and aquatic plants. This fascination continued to grow through his youth, as he made repeated visits to waterfall exhibits around local parks, and flower and garden shows. Young Patrick began reading in botanic journals and experimenting to make his own vertical plantings attached to his aquarium. He ran a hose from the aquarium’s pump to the top of a plank as a way to irrigate and feed the plants he stapled to the plastic-line board. He remained perplexed about how to design a less demanding support mechanism until he had a fabric epiphany. He was walking across a vacant lot when he observed moss growing on a discarded carpet. This simple observation led him to attach fabric to the board as a way to reduce water demands and provide structural support for roots. After experimenting with numerous fabrics, plants, watering regimes, methods of attachment and structural support, Blanc evolved what is today a lightweight patented vertical garden system.

In The Vertical Garden, Blanc shares his life story, personal philosophy, details of his scientific discoveries and technical descriptions of the workings behind his gardens. The book takes readers across the world as he explores natural habitats, the impact of plants on architecture and descriptions of more than 40 vertical garden case studies. Anyone looking to be inspired or informed about how Blanc has used fabric to transform numerous blank indoor and outdoor walls into lush, diverse and beautiful living habitats should read this book.

Bruce Dvorak, ASLA, assistant professor of landscape architecture at Texas A&M University, Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, is a contributing editor for Fabric Architecture.

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