This Blog is the place to gain a better understanding of living structures such as green walls or living walls, their definitions, benefits and research that is driving the niche. I am always talking about "the question" - why would you choose a solid wall with no possibility for green-space and habitat, when you can have a "living wall" which brings so many benefits to a project and our environment?
The Basics about Living Retaining Walls
Does your yard need a retaining wall to create more useable space ---- how about making it a Living Wall?
Have you ever driven past a retaining wall that was performing a structural function but it was totally covered in plant material and all you could see was the plants? If you have, then you have seen at least some version of a ?living or green? retaining wall.
Some living retaining walls here started out the old-fashioned way, like they did in Europe, as old walls that had vines grow up to cover them so you couldn't see the stone underlayment. Other living walls that I'm so excited about are walls that were intentionally created to support plant growth. Living wall systems may come in various sizes, shapes, colors and methods but they all have one thing in common. They hold soil within the face of the wall which is easily accessible for plant material to be planted within it. This makes an acceptable culture for plants to grow over the wall face, flourish and stay there through all types of weather and seasonal conditions.
So the question is, why would you want a plant covered retaining wall ? what?s wrong with a solid, traditional wall? Well, I'm not going to get to the bottom of that question in one blog segment. I am going to start the conversation right here by inviting you to review a short slideshow that's included with this segment that represents a bit of living retaining wall "re-con" on my part. At the very least, it should be fun to look at and to see all the different varieties of living/green walls around the world. Living or green retaining walls are aesthetically different and to many people, very pleasing since they represent green space and habitat. Even if you're not into green space and habitat, a living wall does serve to moderate temperature in the built environment by keeping the retaining wall closer to the natural air temperature without absorbing and radiating the sun?s energy well after dark. Living retaining walls also filter runoff water from rain reducing the amount of rainwater that ends up running into the gutters, down the street and instantly into rivers without recharging the ground. Living walls function a lot like green roofs and rain gardens (more on those structures later).
Living retaining walls can serve many purposes. They can be large structures holding up buildings, parking lots, roads or they can be simple backyard walls that served as a garden in a very small area. I have seen many unusually and creatively planted living walls all over the world. Walls serving as herb gardens for those that like to cook or even chefs with restaurants. I've also seen living walls that served as wonderful vegetable gardens and community gardens for inner-city residents that just don't have enough green space to create a proper garden on flat land. As a result, I've seen gardeners harvesting strawberries and picking beans while standing up, as opposed to what I did when I was a kid, which was crawling down the rows on my hands and knees. No matter what function they serve, selecting a living wall over a more traditional solid wall is a smart choice for the environment and ultimately our communities.