Wall Flowers

Living walls take curb appeal to a new level.

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For some it’s stunning flower beds. For others, it is eye-catching outdoor sculptures. But for homeowners who really want to make a statement, wall landscaping is where it’s at, as this hillside contemporary in Manhattan Beach illustrates. Perched on the second and third floors, the living wall wraps around two sides of the structure with a colorful sculptural design.

“There are some that can withstand the summer Valley sun—sedum for sure!”

The captivating vision was designed by David Brenner of Habitat Horticultural Living Walls in San Francisco. He says having artistic green spaces on walls is nothing short of a movement.

“The first living wall I ever saw was in Milan, Italy about 12 years ago. At that time, only a few people in the U.S. knew what a living wall was. Since then it’s become very trendy. I think this has a lot to do with our desire to reconnect with the natural world and create healthier living and work spaces,” David shares.

The living wall lends itself to contemporary projects but can be used in more rustic or old-world designs by applying more traditional plant material. “I’ve been waiting for the client that asked for a parterre or knot garden on the wall,” he chuckles. While many succulents burn in 100°-plus heat, David insists, “There are some that can withstand the summer Valley sun—sedum for sure!”

The mechanics are pretty simple. The wall is waterproofed, and then a metal frame is installed. A plastic backing is placed over the framing and two layers of felt (a growing medium) are added to support growth and distribute water and nutrients to the plant’s roots. Finally, the plants are put in between the felt layers. Irrigation—embedded within the system—drips down from the top of the wall to the plants below.

Plants do need to be replaced from time to time. Homeowners can do it themselves, but typically they use the installation company. The cost of a living wall ranges from $120 to $220 per square foot.

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