India: vertical gardens to be a green solution for urban setting

In today’s age of shrinking land spaces and multiplying high-rises, the space available for your own private garden is limited. Increasing concretion in urban areas like Pune means you hardly see any greenery around, what with gardens and lawns making way for parking lots and additional living spaces.

A new innovative, yet environment-friendly solution to these shrinking horizontal spaces is a ‘vertical garden’ which, as the name suggests, offers the option of having greenery growing vertically. Simply put, vertical gardens are living walls – free standing, or as a part of the building structures – which are covered with fauna or vegetation anything from grass to plants or herbs and even vegetables like tomatoes and garlic!

The idea gets a thumbs-up from Varsha Gavandi, a Pune-based landscape architect, who says they are an option worth exploring, especially for properties where it is not possible to have which do not allow the flexibility for having

a conventional garden. “Green walls are a good option to consider if you have space constraints, yet want greenery around which definitely adds to the aesthetic value,” she says.

The ‘wall’ in the garden is a modular (fixed shape) or non-modular vegetation carrier, covered with a hydrophilic substance and filled with light-weight growth media – a combination of organic and inorganic material, including perlite, vermiculite perlite, peat, coco-peat, organic manures, fertilizers and plant-supporting plastic material, but hardly any soil. Maintenance is not very difficult and the plants are watered through an in-built irrigation and drainage system once in two or three days. There are close to 150 plant varieties to choose from, depending on the climate, conditions, sunlight variation and shade path at the site.

Such green walls, which can be installed indoors too, especially those made with foam and polypropylene, can be put up in any shape or size and can last for anything from a decade to 25 years and offer many advantages.

“Hydrophilic plants are an excellent means of keeping the surroundings clean and green. Such plants not only help conserve water, but also supply oxygen to the air, making them ideal for small and crowded places,” says S S Deokule, professor and head of botany department at University of Pune.

The concept, started by Frenchman Patrick Blanc in 1988, has definitely picked up in Pune. “We get at least two or three queries for vertical gardens every week. While some want it to cover an eye-sore, others install it for the sheer love of plants,” says Pradeep Barpande, who deals in such unconventional green solutions. While earlier clients were limited to hotels, IT parks and big corporates, Barpande says they now get enquiries from private parties too.

Businessman Sanjay Vaichal, who got one installed at his Paud Road office more than one-and-a-half-year ago is definitely happy with the deal. “We had a huge blank wall to cover. Instead of painting it, we got the vertical garden installed which has made my office alive. It is maintenance-free and gets me compliments from my clients,” he says.

By combining aesthetics with environmental principles, vertical gardens are certainly rewriting conventional rules of gardening.

Benefits of vertical garden

* Improves aesthetics of concrete structures

* Saves horizontal space

* Saves water by reducing need for watering and irrigation

* Conserves energy by insulating buildings, reducing the need of air-conditioning

* Filters air particulates; improves air quality

* Adds much-needed humidity to centrally-cooled offices

* Creates biodiversity conservation opportunities

Source: Times of India

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