Wonder wall

Cape Town city bowl residents were treated with a dash of greenery on busy Kloof Street last year. We went to check out how the Emirates wall garden has grown over the last eight months.

Looking lusher than ever, the wall garden depicts the world map. It was erected last year and has been growing before the Mother City’s eyes.

An innovative form of advertising by Tractor Outdoor for Emirates Airlines, the wall is the first of its kind in South Africa. 

“We’ve admired the work of French vertical garden supremo Patrick Blanc for many years,” says Simon Wall of Tractor Outdoor, “and we had been looking at ways to erect similar gardens in Cape Town”. “Emirates Airlines, through their agency Starcom Mediavest/Nu-Venture, embraced the innovative opportunity and immediately committed to working with us to make our vision a reality.”

“This is a first for South Africa,” says Wall, “With this concept we’re able to convert normal, dreary, bland and blank façades into green, breathing spaces. We don’t have to rely on traditional soil-growing methods and can effectively brighten and bring life to any wall, anywhere.” 

As space becomes harder to come by, more people are starting to plant up. The six-metre-high and 12-metre-wide Emirates wall garden employed cutting-edge landscape technology, headed by Nicholas Whitehorn. Made up entirely of wood and vegetation, the wall features plants that have been grown in a biodynamic felt specially imported from a supplier in Germany. A fully integrated hydroponic drip-irrigation system has been installed behind the felt, which is linked to a moisture sensor that waters and naturally fertilises the plants as and when it is required.

“We’ve opted for a hybrid succulent – a Graptoveria variety – to cover the sea and ocean spaces because of its aqua-like colour, hardiness and impressive growth rate. The continents have been planted with Aptenia Cordifolia, also a succulent, for the sunny north-west facing position,” says Nicholas.

Art integrated into a public space

This project also supports Cape Town’s bid for World Design Capital 2014 by actively integrating art with public and private spaces. Tractor Outdoor hope this project will encourage other Capetonians to support the bid and get involved where they can.

And although proud to be the pioneer of its kind, Nicholas says wall gardens, like this or the more traditional kind, are a great way for both private and public buildings to introduce nature and design to their walls.

“Like any garden, a vertical garden can take on any theme or design. For example, using an abundance of fynbos and indigenous varieties would translate into a natural tapestry. Using fewer planting varieties, in shapes and patterns, one could achieve a more contemporary design. Even a subtropical and lush look is achievable in the correct environment including indoors. Walls can be planted with beautiful yet functional herbs and vegetables, like multicoloured and textured lettuces, rockets and mints for restaurants and the home cook.”

Wall gardens are popping up around the country and we hope this installation will show those with a green conscience and an eye for design that when nature is involved the possibilities are endless. Keep an eye on VISI.co.za for further updates and pictures.

More information: www.tractoroutdoor.com, www.nicholaswhitehorn.com