Somerset West by Living Green Walls
Somerset West by Living Green Walls
Image: Supplied

At only four years old, Living Green Walls has installed more than 100 vertical gardens in South Africa for residential and commercial projects including Lexi’s, Life Day Spa, weFix, Cape Town International Airport and our personal fave The Storer. Their green walls are living, breathing gardens that get year-round care to keep them looking lush and healthy and can be installed both indoors and out to any size specification.  Company director Sean O’Connor guides us through the ins and outs of these living walls.

Green walls have become a major trend … what’s behind the groundswell? Living walls date back as far as the hanging gardens in Babylon, however, a few key inventors in the last few decades realised the commercial benefit and environmental impact that vertical gardens and green roofs have in cities. The global population explosion, resulting lack of space, and the intrinsic human need for greenery have resulted in gardens going vertical. Living walls have become a good context for people to find new ways of bringing plants back into the city.

What goes into the upkeep of green walls? Quite a lot, actually. Through experience, we’ve found that no living wall can go without some form of practical care. Instead of viewing the living wall as one whole, we drill down into providing individualised maintenance for each and every plant, no matter the size. A clear agreement between our customer and service provider is important so that there are clear expectations and communication.

What does Living Green Walls offer in terms of the above? The real work for us begins once the plants have been installed. According to the maintenance service level agreement, our maintenance schedules include: horticulturally trained maintenance teams; measured moisture, light and fertiliser levels; pest control; plant guarantees, as well as 24-hour monitoring and weekly checks.

Is all that technology necessary? It all depends on what you are looking for and what the expectation of a living wall or vertical garden really is. If it’s a few hanging baskets or a creeper or climbing plant on a trellis, then watering by hand makes sense but, if it’s a living wall, then it will need an automated, waterproofed irrigation system that can be linked to a monitoring system. If you are investing in a living wall, you would want a good return on your investment and for it to look as good as it did when it was installed. This work takes skilled teams and good management.

Some of your favourite projects to date? Lexi’s. I loved how size doesn’t matter and, with the correct plant selection and positioning, we added such a green punch to this awesome restaurant. Optiphi was another - probably one of the most exciting plant palettes we’ve completed to date and also a fairly challenging installation, with the stairs. Also Trend Offices, a corporate office with a living wall as a backdrop to the reception lobby. The concept was a shade of green that transitioned from dark to light and we achieved it.

What should potential clients know about vertical gardens before investing? Our service includes design, supply, installation and maintenance, stress-free. Although living walls are relatively expensive, they increase the value of a home or office significantly and offer a great return on your investment. Without stating the obvious, they’re aesthetically enjoyable but also create oxygen, noise absorption and stabilise temperature and humidity levels. Our systems are proudly South African, water-saving and made from recycled material.

In short, what do green walls bring to a space? Incredible beauty – old to new life-giving space but, really, living walls are just a part of the greater biophilic “greening” that all buildings should strive for in an attempt to make our living and working environments healthier and more comfortable. 

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