There's a new celebrity in town! Have you checked her out on your morning walk? Or, maybe she's graced your insta' feed? Here's an insider look at how she came to be.
Living walls have always been a signature statement at Pigment. In our first location, a more tropical, vertical garden was a main focal point. Since moving locations three years ago, taming our white south facing wall with Woolly Pocket planters was always part of the plan. We knew we had to call on our uber-talented friend Brit Neubacher of Tend Living fame for selecting and artfully arranging the perfect sun-seeking specimen. And, boy did she deliver!
Here are some tips and tricks from the plantscaper herself...
What plants did you use and why?
I selected an array of sun-loving fully acclimated succulents, sun bromelaids, and other angiosperms. My first priority was hardiness (plants that can hang tough), then color (the store is called Pigment afterall!), and finally year-round interest; perrennials that will do something interesting just about every season and as they mature. For example, the succulents and cacti throw out thrilling bloom spikes in alternating procession, way up top the dreadlock-like foxtail fern (that is not actually a fern) blooms white flowers with red berries and bounces gracefully in the breeze, and the succulent "spillers" lend an evolving cascading effect that softens the boldness of their neighbors and mimics the movement of water.
What environment/climate did you have to take into account when selecting the plants and their placement?
White Hot Heat! This particular wall gets blasted with very intense light lumens year-round so not only did I want drought-tolerant and otherwise low-maintenance plants, I knew they had to be ready to go straight to work as the sun-worshiping specimens they have proven themselves to be. Therefore I sourced plants from the hottest growing grounds in the region, and personally acclimated others before installation (I'm a Mother Hen like that). All plants will experience some level of transplant shock but the more we can assist them in the transition the quicker they can adjust and settle in to their new digs.
It was also important to focus on plants that do not require regular pruning as ladder yoga at high altitudes is not ideal. The Pigment selection requires minimal maintenance but it is always a good idea to inspect your plants up close at least once a season to make sure they are pest and disease free and are absorbing water properly. Adding extra soil when it compacts over time is also helpful.
And when it comes to hydration, all living things need some level of it and timed irrigation is key for large scale plant success. That said, the California drought is real and I am committed to using water-wise plants so even when direct access to water is available, I want to minimize how much is used. One thing we were banking on was the reflective white of the wall to bounce some of the heat and thus further reduce the shock and watering needs. Fortunately our prediction was validated. These plants are HAPPY.
Can you walk us through the planning of the wall? How did you go about designing the plant placement?
For this design, I channeled Pigment owner and artist Amy Paul's love of color and tried to tell a story with it. While I tend towards serene colorways, she has helped me to embrace color done tastefully. It does bring a lot of joy! I try to have a loose idea of what the end product will look like but have learned to leave room for spontaneity of design. My process typically starts with “the Vision,” and evolves as I come across market-best specimens and those I have not seen before (which is why I insist on sourcing everything I install myself, i.e. I NERD the selection). The neck aches I develop during my design-on-the-fly installations are well worth it because a plan on paper never considers the unique attributes that make each specimen so heart-explodingly special. And you just don't know until you get your hands on the materials. But it's not all anarchy; I do honor a range of design principles such as line, color, movement, volume, proportion, repetition, grouping, and texture, and once I lay down that structure I just let it rip from there. I work best with design constraints so just about anything short of “I want it to be alive but I don’t want to care for it in anyway” -and I’m your girl. I want people to connect with nature in an easeful but dedicated way.
How did you install or include an irrigation/fertilization system?
"We" (my hero LIZ, from team Pigment) added drip line once the planters were installed because I decided at the last minute I wanted a white hose that would disappear into the white wall, but you can also add it as you go. Unless the scale of the installation is small and easily accessible, irrigation is liberation! Tapping into a preexisting irrigation system or creating a plumbed wall allows for consistent, controlled watering. Watering can and should be adjusted with the seasons via a basic timer. A drip line system involving emitter and supply lines, a pressure regulator, a timer, and a water bib works beautifully for most living wall systems.
Plants appreciate consistency and will peak perform when we dial in basic support, which in turn frees us to spend more time enjoying rather than efforting. As for feeding, succulents can manage without fertilizer but surely benefit from a low balanced soluble solution such as an 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 (just about anything but MiracleGro, yo). Application in the growing season with a sprinkle of adoration will set everyone up for successful succulence!
We love everything about these urban gardens. They are natural air purifiers, insulators and gorgeous to boot. Guys, if space is a problem, just go vertical! Let us know if we can help turn your office space, patio wall or building exterior into a green feast for the eyes!
Here are some more of our favorite instagram snaps of our lovely wall. She loves the cameos, so keep'em coming!