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I love the idea of vertical gardening, green walls and creating living art. I think it’s plantastic that people want to garden in small spaces and green up otherwise lifeless areas. I think it’s great to use plants as a canvas.

I am a big, big fan.

But.

Modern vertical gardening, in my opinion, is still in an experimental stage. It’s a relatively new trend that needs to work out some kinks.

From my perspective, many of the kinks are a result of a failure to properly inform clients about the longevity of the gardens, the true cost, the maintenance and the purpose.

Certain designers have rushed to create large-scale vertical gardens without considering exactly how to care for them once they are completed. The clients suffer for that, as do the gardens. The Internet is full of photos of dead walls because maintenance wasn’t a consideration.

I recently had an opportunity to revisit a vertical garden that’s located right here in Albuquerque. I’ve written about the wall a few times, here for example, and I wanted to see if it had improved in the year since my last visit.

Here’s what it looked like last week:

Looking good!

But the director of the building still hates it.

Let’s walk through some of the reasons why.

Let’s start with the plants themselves. The plants for this local garden were chosen based on NASA’s study of houseplants that clean the air. Unfortunately, the plants on NASA’s list are highly susceptible to spider mites and mealy bugs.

When I first saw this garden, the plants were covered in mealy bugs – it was super gross. That was one reason the director wasn’t happy.

The company that came in to maintain the wall after it was built conquered the pests and cleaned them off the leaves – an impressive feat. (The director is very happy with the maintenance company for their hard work.)

The designer sold the client on how much cleaner the air would be for his employees. Instead of clean air, the employees are subjected to an entire building that smells like a fish tank every few days. They also have to contend with fungus gnats.

Also, the designer didn’t provide the client or the maintenance team with recommendations on what to do with dead or dying plants.

Looks like the maintainers of this wall are still trying to figure that out.

Plants die, so it’s important that designers discuss that with potential clients. Many designers like to think their garden designs will last forever and ever, but that’s simply not true.

Another reason the director dislikes the wall is because after it was built, he learned that he needed to dish out an additional ten grand to buy a cherry picker so workers could prune the plants at the top of the wall.

Why didn’t he know about the cherry picker ahead of time? Again, the plan was not well thought through. Had the designer taken maintenance into consideration, he would’ve realized that someone would need to reach those top plants in a safe way.

Other reasons that the director doesn’t like the wall: irrigation failures (no one explained that emitters get clogged with mineral buildup and need to be checked regularly), negligible savings on heating and cooling costs (part of the original promise) and continued maintenance costs (roughly $4000 per year).

There’s also the paranoia. The director was so worried about coming in on a Monday morning to find water had been leaking all weekend that he rigged an alarm to the wall so he’d be notified of irrigation leaks.

Personally, I find the director to be amazing. He took it on his own shoulders to correct so many of the problems that come from this wall. He’s forward-thinking and smart about how he deals with current and potential problems. But he shouldn’t have to work so hard, and he should’ve been better prepped by the designer.

When asked about the wall’s biggest benefit, the director answered, “Aesthetics.”

That’s the truth. And that’s how vertical gardens should be sold.

Instead of promising cleaner air and lower energy costs, designers should be selling living art. Because that’s what it is. Art made of living, breathing creatures that will grow and change over time.

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I’ll be back manana, hope to see you here.

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Good To Grow is a small Albuquerque-based business offering services for indoor gardening, outdoor landscaping, patio flowers, and cut flowers and bouquets, as well as consultation services, for offices and homes. If you’d like more information, please email lizatheplantlady@gmail.com. We appreciate your consideration.

My sister-in-law and nephew in front of a bad-ass living Van Gogh exhibition last summer in Trafalgar Square.

(Photo courtesy of my brother, Christopher Wheeler.)

In case you missed it the first time, I thought I’d show it off again. A cactus garden with bling, that’s right.

When I was a little girl, growing up on a farm in Indiana, I wanted a Barbie Dream House for my birthday desperately. Actually, I wanted a real Barbie doll desperately. I knew, as the fourth of five kids (in a family on a budget), a brand new one was out of the question. I rarely got anything but hand-me-downs, even on my birthday. My older sister didn’t like dolls, so there were no hand-me-down Barbies. Every once in awhile, a friend would take pity on me and give me her old Barbie. On these occasions, I’d be so excited that I would race home and begin playing immediately. Then my brother would come along, grab the doll, and pop the head off. Every. Single. Time.

Dad wasn’t going to waste good money on new dolls for me, much less a huge house for them. So one year, he steered the gift idea a different direction. He decided that we would make a miniature cactus garden together. It would be a great birthday gift for me, and I’d learn all about Nature and such.

I remember we had a crafts book that had a really pretty ceramic container planted with gorgeous plants, with quirky accents like colored rocks and beads. It showed step-by-step instructions how to make one just like it.

It was no Barbie Dream House, but I remember thinking, ok, yes, let’s make something especially for me!

Right away, things went awry. Instead of an elegant ceramic planter, he got a yellow tub. And he didn’t want to bother with pretty colored gravel from a crafts store – he just used gravel from the driveway.

That’s where the story stopped in my little girl head. I know we had that planter for awhile, but I don’t remember becoming enchanted like he promised. I probably just ignored it after that initial disappointment.

Even though it didn’t work out then, I appreciate how Dad tried instilling a love of Nature in me from an early age.

Recently I was exploring ways I could make a modern version of the cactus garden I remember from that crafts book.

Here’s what I came up with – it’s a Desert Fairy Cactus Garden:

This one has rhinestones. That has to make up for my lost childhood dreams, right?

I made this garden mostly with found items, so it would be hard to duplicate exactly. I’m going to show you how I made it, in hopes that it inspires you to make one with your family, or just for yourself. If you get the general idea of how to make a miniature cactus garden, you should be able to make one out of practically anything, based on your personal tastes and what decorations and cacti you have access to. I do not recommend yellow tubs or gravel from the driveway.

How To Make a Desert Fairy Cactus Garden

Imagine being seven years old. Remember when you were little and everything was magical? When fairies were a part of daily life, as monsters in the closet were a part of night time? When you could spend hours playing with toys, making up stories and characters? Can you remember?

Even if you don’t see the world like a seven-year-old does, you can still appreciate creating something beautiful for your home.

Today I’d like to show you step-by-step how to create a Desert Fairy Cactus Garden.

What’s a desert fairy? Desert fairies are similar to other fairies, except that they accept cacti for who they are, thorns and all. They make their homes anywhere cacti grow together.

If you create a cactus garden for your home, chances are the desert fairies won’t be able to resist coming to live there.

Step One: Choose an appropriate container.

For my garden, I used a tv tray that I found on clearance sale at Target. Here’s what it looks like:

The glass bottom was for putting photos inside to make the tray more personal. I didn’t care for that. It’s a little beat up because it sat outside for a spell, it was used briefly as another planter last summer.

It’s a wooden frame that seems pretty sturdy. Will it last for 50 years? Probably not. But because cacti require little water, it’s a good choice for a planter and should last a nice long time. Here’s the view from the bottom:

The key to a good cactus garden is to reduce the chance of root rot, the most common killer of cactus. To do that, you want good drainage (the handles on the side of the tray are good for that) so that water can’t collect near the roots. It also doesn’t hurt to add a layer of pebbles, stones, marbles, whatever you want, at the bottom of the container to provide an extra layer of protection.

Step Two: Limit Risk of Root Rot

I had lots of stones that I hadn’t recycled yet and/or couldn’t bring myself to actually wash. They had originally gone out as gifts in containers with a flowering bulb on top of them (click here for more Nature-inspired gift ideas). I didn’t expect to see them again, but lots of people gave them back to me after the flower died back, hoping I could reuse them.

It’s really not a good use of time to scrub the water marks off, but they would work great as a buffer at the bottom of a plant container. So I used ‘em for that:

They’d been in a craft box in my office so I dumped them all into the tray. Then I discovered a dead bee body in the mix:

Classy!

That meant, unbeknownst to me, a bee had at one point been happily buzzing around my office. It’s super to know that now.

Please, feel free to skip the bee carcass step if you’re playing along at home.

At this point, I remembered that I wanted to staple mesh over the handle holes in the tray-turned-planter so the soil would stay in but water would drain out. I should’ve done the mesh first – oopsie. I’d show you a close-up of the mesh but my stapling skills are laughable, so I’m not gonna. You’ll have to trust me when I say that the mesh is secure and it’ll help with drainage.

We’ll skip to the photo where I added a floral mat of sphagnum moss I found at the crafts store:

That’s to provide a layer of separation between the soil and the colored stones. It’s another layer of protection against root rot.

Step Three: Add the Potting Soil Mix

For indoor gardens like the one I made, it’s important to use high-quality potting mixes, the kind you find at your local nurseries. I found a small bag of Ferti-Lome cactus mix at Rehm’s Nursery here in Albuquerque.

The bags of soil at the big box stores, like the Miracle Gro they sell at Lowe’s and Home Depot, get left out in the rain, where they get infected with fungus gnats. It’s annoying. By spending a little more for high-quality soil, you save yourself the hassle of having gnats flying around your home.

I usually use FoxFarm potting mix, but Rehm’s didn’t have the size bag I wanted. (Rehm’s has lots of good brands, including Black Gold soil and Uni-Gro soil mix.)

Add the soil mix, pressing as much in there as you can:

Keep the soil below the lip, to prevent spillage when you go to water the planter.

Step Four: Start Adding Plants and Bling

I found some small bottles at a thrift store that I thought would add an otherworldly look, and placed them down into the soil:

Oh, the flower shaped candle holder is going to be the fairies’ swimming pool. Because everyone knows fairies need pools.

I checked out plants from a few different nurseries in town. My goal was to find a handful of compatible plants. They didn’t have to have exactly the same water needs, so long as they were similar. I was looking for different textures and shapes, and varying degrees of thorniness. Cacti and succulents tend to have shallow roots, so it wasn’t difficult to find suitable plants for the thinnish planter.

I found this Dyckia ‘Burgundy Ice’ at Osuna Nursery. It was grown at McLain Greenhouses in Estancia, New Mexico:

I cleaned the excess soil off the roots, then she went into the planter. I like how dramatic the planter looks already:

Also from Osuna Nursery, this Opuntia (of some sort, I think, it wasn’t labelled) has soft glochids and therefore didn’t hurt to handle. Very delicate though, so I had to be careful as I separated the two plants growing in the small container:

I planted each in different parts of the planter:

I had picked up three tiny cacti at Lowe’s a few weeks back because they were on sale and fresh off the truck. A Chamaelobivia ‘Rose Quartz’, Mammillaria elognata ‘Goldilocks’ and a Pilosocereus. Each were gently placed into the planter with the help of tongs and thick gloves.

Here’s the garden once the planting was finished:

The planter was big enough to give each plant its own space, and a little room to grow.

Step Five: Decorate!

Now the fun part, decorating! Beginning with decorative white sand from the crafts store:

When I poured the sand in, it naturally made dunes and valleys, which I kept rather than combing the sand even. It’s like a miniature White Sands, New Mexico!

Then I sprinkled lots of shiny things, including colored pebbles and rhinestones, throughout the planter. Because everyone knows fairies love shiny things:

Voilà, every seven-year-old’s dream garden. Well, most little girls don’t dream of thorns. But even so, this planter can be a great way to instill a love of Nature in kids of all ages.

So what do you think? Do you think you might try making a Desert Fairy Cactus Garden with your kids? I hope I gave you enough information to rev up your imagination to the possibilities. Let me know if you do make one, and please, take lots of photos.

I’ll be back manana with an all-new Ask the Experts panel. Tomorrow’s question is “Which, if any, houseplant would make a good gift for a college-bound kid?” Tune in to see how they answered, and for an all-new plant puzzler as well. Hope to see you here.

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In case you were wondering: The plural of cactus is technically cacti, although cactuses is accepted, as is cactus. I like to use cacti only when it’s really obvious I mean more than one plant (because I don’t like how the word cacti sounds in my head), and cactus the rest of the time.

I don’t really have anything against trends.

If a bunch of people want to race out and get the exact same pair of designer jeans because they’re “in,” good for them.

If certain celebrities are “trending” on Twitter, good for them.

If boys want to wear their pants around their thighs instead of their waist because it’s trendy, it may confuse me, but good for them.

It’s not really my style to follow many trends – you do not want me to attempt the Macarena at your wedding, I will not buy jeans with holes already in them. But most trends don’t hurt anybody, so they don’t bother me.

Trends usually begin as bursts of creativity…a new idea, a new passion, a new look. I’m a big fan of that aspect. Humans need to make stuff, to do stuff, it feeds our soul. That’s why an idea can become the “latest craze” – we’re starved for creativity in our modern time-crunched lives.

One fault I do have with trends is that they can create sloppiness. A good idea is born, it grows, then becomes popular and people everywhere race to participate in it, to recreate it, to propagate it, to cash in on it. In that race, the art is lost, the creativity squandered. (Are you listening, facebook?)

Vertical gardening is a fast-growing trend. I love the creativity of gardening up or across or in any exciting new way.

But I don’t like everything about what I’m seeing so far with this trend. It’s already sloppy, and it’s barely begun.

Because plants are living, breathing creatures, building a garden, be it vertical or otherwise, cannot be rushed, cannot be packaged into neat little bundles and cannot be done without careful execution and thoughtfulness.

In the case of some of these big vertical gardens, a little sloppiness can have quite troublesome consequences. I’d like to use an example of a garden that was born bad, right here in Albuquerque.

This vertical garden is located in a newer building downtown. It looks pretty cool, eh? Sure does. From a distance. Up close, not so much.

I’ve visited this vertical garden twice now, first in October 2010 and again in May 2011. The photos above are from the October visit, not long after the wall was installed.

I’d made an appointment to visit the wall and talk with the CEO of the company. The appointment was not necessary – they’d received lots and lots of visitors eager to see and talk about the new wall so they were used to people just showing up to gawk. People came from all over to see it, so in that way, the vertical garden was a success.

I was pretty in awe when I first arrived. The wall, located in the lobby, is two stories tall and to the casual glance, looked great.

A closer inspection revealed a different story.

That’s what I was doing – inspecting closer – when the CEO found me. After he cheerfully said hello and shook my hand, we started chatting about the wall. Right away, he told me he hated it. He effin’ hated it, actually.

“Because of the mealy bugs?” I asked. I’d noticed that mealy bugs covered most of the plants. Ew.

He said yes, because of the bugs and the fungus gnats, but also the fishy smell the whole building takes on if he doesn’t flush the system every two days (the water that runs through the wall and waters the plants also heats and cools the building). He also didn’t like that he had to pay an extra $10,000 after the wall was built to buy a mechanical lift because no one had thought about how to reach that high to maintain the plants.

In short, the wall was poorly planned.

Here’s what I think happened: New buildings in Albuquerque can strive to achieve LEED certification. That’s a “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” ratings system, which guides builders toward building with greener practices. They get incentives to build green, the environment is a little better off, it’s a win-win for everyone.

Except for the people who have to work in these buildings.

This particular building achieved LEED certification, and the living wall was a big part of the design. The landscape architect was not local – he flew in, did the project, then went home.

He chose plants based on a list that NASA published of plants that have been “proven to clean the air.” He may also have based them on availability, because I’m not sure if all the plants he chose are on the actual list. I haven’t seen Scheffleras mentioned but he used a lot of them on this wall, as well as Crotons, Philodendrons and Pothos (the latter two I have seen on the list).

That’s great that those plants are proven winners. One problem they all have in common? They’re all super susceptible to pests, especially mealy bugs and scale, two of the hardest pests to control.

Can you imagine two stories of plants infected with mealy bugs?

You don’t have to imagine it, you can see it. So gross!

A landscape architect told me that insects are a vital part of an ecosystem and that we have to find a way to live in harmony with them. I agreed with him as long as we’re talking about outside. But indoors, in offices, no way – I’m not going to allow pests to co-mingle with my clients’ employees.

In my company Good To Grow, we don’t tolerate fungus gnats flying around the faces of employees. I’m not going to let mealy bugs gum up the plants in a lobby where people come and go.

If the designer had been more thoughtful about the plants, he would’ve planned for pest problems in advance of building the wall.

He would’ve also had a plan for what to do when plants die and leave big barren spots:

The regular maintenance of the wall was awarded to a company, who as far as I know, had no involvement with the planning or development of the wall. They inherited a nightmare.

It was easy for the designer to waltz in, build something pretty, then leave. He didn’t need to concern himself with petty details like maintaining the wall. Pffft! Leave that for lowly workers, he must’ve thought.

The photo above was taken in May. I asked the receptionist if they still had problems with mealy bugs and her response was “We always have some sort of bug problem.”

If that was my client, I’d be horrified. You don’t want your CEO telling anyone who will listen that his wall sucks. You don’t want your receptionist telling visitors about bug problems.

Six months is not that long in “plant years,” but it’s long enough to deal with a pest outbreak. It’s also long enough to make sure barren spots are filled:

A friend of mine asked if I would submit a bid to take over the maintenance of this wall and fix it. I just laughed. Even if all those mealy bugs are dead, you still have to manually remove them by wiping each individual leaf and stem. No thanks!

I’ve got better things to do. I’ve appreciated seeing other people’s mistakes, because that’s helped me learn what not to do. The trend of vertical gardening is in its experimental stage – that’s the time to watch the failures as well as the successes.

So while I appreciate what I’ve learned, I’m too busy building my own living wall panels to fix other people’s mistakes. I teamed up with a grower in the South Valley (Kathi, of Rio Valley Greenhouses) and we’ve been planting panels that are not only beautiful, but bug resistant. They’re perfect as pieces of living art for the home or office.

Because Kathi and I actually love plants, we work with designers and building owners to create living walls and decide how to care for them afterward. The maintenance isn’t an afterthought – it’s a critical part of the evolution of each piece of living art. As the plants grow, we’ll be there.

If you’re considering a green wall or living art project for your home, office, or restaurant, think local and shoot us an email. We can plant small vertical gardens for your patio, a vertical herb garden for your restaurant, a living art wall for your office lobby. We can even grow your company logo in plants. All the plants are New Mexico grown, you’ll be giving back to your own community.

We’re not sloppy with our work, and we won’t be with yours.

Hi bees, and happy Thursday!

Ah, living pieces of art. I love everything about them. Especially making them. Especially if I can recycle otherwise worthless items, like this weird wire basket:

Occasionally I like to peruse our local thrift stores in search of potential plant containers. The price tag on this says $1.99 but it ended up costing only 50 cents (score!).

I was drawn to the basket because it’s metal, so I knew it would hold up fine in my garden during the summer. It’s also fairly deep, which makes up for its otherwise petite size. The mesh would make hanging and watering of the planter easy.

I started out lining the basket with coir:

I also used moss around the edges, which serves to help hold the plants in place, and also for decoration:

A porous potting soil mixture goes into the middle – I packed a lot in there.

With pieces of living art, there will come a time (years later) when the plants outgrow the container. Because this container is so small, packing in extra dirt buys me a little extra time. It also helps to get the soil wet so you can pack in more.

In case you’re wondering why the soil mix looks dry, I didn’t bother to wet the soil for this particular container garden:

Placing the plants is the best part. I had several small succulents that I thought would get along well in the same container. Their needs (Echeverias and Sedum) aren’t exactly the same, but close enough that I believe I can train them to thrive.

I tucked coir around each plant to hold it in place:

Coir alone won’t hold the succulents in place if I want to hang this container now. But that’s ok, because I plan on keeping the container horizontal for a few months until the plants roots are strong enough to hold themselves vertically.

It’s not a lot of room for the plants to grow and spread, but so what – it’s pretty!

I propped it against the wall so you can get an idea of how it will look vertically:

Wouldn’t this container look adorable hanging in, say, the kitchen?

Creating succulent gardens is not only therapeutic, but it’s a great craft to do with kids…it’s fun and you can make it as easy or as complicated as you want. I urge you to experiment on your own and see what magical gardens you can create. Please let me know if you make one of your own!

I’ll be back manana with an all new Ask the Experts panel. You still have time to guess last week’s plant puzzler if you haven’t done so already. You can do that by leaving a comment here. The prizes may be imaginary, but the glory of winning is oh-so-real.

Hope to see you back here.

Hi kittens, happy Saturday!

Before I shut down this past week’s theme, Vertical Gardens and Living Artwork, I want to leave you with this scenario:

Imagine that you’re at a pizzeria in Hollywood, Mozza, and you order a pie. Then you watch as the chef walks out into the restaurant, to the vertical herb garden hanging in the back, snips your basil or rosemary, then goes back in the kitchen and makes your pizza.

Wouldn’t that be dreamy? Yes, yes it would. I’m not positive that it works exactly that way, but here’s what I found on Gavin’s website, Living Walls and Vertical Gardens:

Greenscaped buildings created this vertical herb garden for the pizzeria.

Genius! What a treat – customers have to appreciate how fresh the herbs are.

It’s not just customers who get the better end of this green trend. It’s also employees.

Plant Solutions just won an award for this employee garden at company headquarters in Scottsdale, AZ:

The company won the award, but the employees are the real winners here.

Hi little aloes, and happy Thursday!

Well, happyish anyway. I’m going to be honest. I’ve been feeling totally disjointed the last couple of days. Has anyone else been feeling weird? Maybe it’s the harvest moon, or autumn, or that mr_s is on hiatus (don’t panic, he’ll be back Sunday), or that I’ve woken up to rain two days in a row (where’s my blue sky, New Mexico?) or maybe it’s my general Piscean sensitivities. Whatever the reason, my focus has been, well, compromised. This photo is similar to how I feel:

This storm the other night was beautiful, colorful, captivating, thrilling and dangerous. She was ready to strike at any moment. I’m not saying I’m all that. But I do think it’s a metaphor for my life right now. For all of our lives, not just mine.

You see, I started off the week feeling so peaceful and creative. I’d spent the weekend making some beautiful gardens, and it’d been awhile, so it was absorbing and fulfilling. I also photographed a lot, and am getting to know my newish camera better. So it was good. The projects turned out well, check out these sweet succulent gardens that will one day hang vertically in my garden:

It was after making these that the disjointed feeling crept in, and hunkered down. What should I do, I wondered, what? What? WHAT? How can I parlay this passion into something that makes the world a better place?¹

I decided on a theme week. Yes! A theme week would help me focus and concentrate on the trends I love – Vertical Gardens and Living Artwork. I love theme weeks! So I dove right in, but then, yesterday, I was like, “What am I doing?” Am I just blathering on about my own projects, or was I going to showcase designers who were doing it professionally? I definitely wanted to showcase everyone, but then it became a much bigger project than I had anticipated. I guess I didn’t expect the kindness and generosity that the designers responded to me with after I appealed to them. They are wonderful, and I would like to give them their due. And I will.

But there’s that disjointed feelin’ again. It hasn’t gone away. Maybe it will once the moon begins to wane…that’s often how it goes.

I think this is sortof my way of letting this theme week fizzle out. I’ll be back tomorrow with an all new Ask the Experts (we do that every Friday), so today was going to end the week anyway. But. Well. So. Anyway. Um, see ya manana?

Hey look, another pretty picture:

See? Disjointed. And striking out!

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¹ Via blog, in this instance. I mean, generally I try to make the world a better place all the time. Who would want to make it worse? Not gardeners or Nature lovers. But I was referring specifically to what I could do with the blog to improve the planet.

Hello hollyhocks and happy Wednesday!

Let’s look at pretty vertical garden designs, shall we?

First up is from Green Over Grey, a design company in Vancouver, Canada. I adore their work:

Another of their gorgeous creations:

And another:

I’ll have more on Green Over Grey coming soon.

From H2O Architects in France, this stunning mirror garden:

This moss wall in Iceland takes my breath away. I found it on Ben’s site, Lushe Urban Greening, he found it on Toronto Gardens:

This wall was created by vertical living wall designer Joe Zazzera at Plant Solutions, I found it on Gavin’s site, it’s a restaurant in Newport Beach, California called True Food Kitchen, by Dr. Andrew Weil and Fox Restaurant Concepts. It’s impressive:

I also love this barrel cactus wall at Plant Solutions:

Here’s another beautiful succulent garden, this one from Inside Out Design Landscapers Gregory Thirloway and Glen Fretwell:

Hopefully I’ll have more on all these designers¹ soon. Their creativity is making me swoon!

Special Shoutouts!

Gavin over at Living Wall Art has introduced me to all sorts of cool projects. He’s constantly showcasing really creative people. Thanks Gavin!

I’m also really impressed with Ben’s site Lushe Urban Greening. Thanks for all your work, guys!

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I don’t know what it is today…maybe it’s the rare cloudy rainy day in Albuquerque or maybe it’s all the sugar I’ve had this morning. I meant to reach for greater heights with this post, especially since mr_s is on hiatus, but this is what I have for now. If you have favorite designers or websites promoting them, I’d love to hear from you.

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¹ Of course, Patrick Blanc is a leader in the industry, but I’ve already covered many of his designs in previous posts.

Hi pumpkins, and happy Tuesday! Welcome back to my latest theme week, Vertical Gardens and Living Artwork!

Today, we’re going to play with succulents. Before we get started, a big fat disclaimer, aka, covering my ass:

Caution – Danger! Danger! Danger! Many succulents contain sap so it’s important to wear gloves when handling them! The sap can irritate the skin and make your eyes swell, so be very careful to wash your hands thoroughly and often, and don’t touch your eyes! Houseplants in general are apt to be poisonous, so tread carefully. I don’t want anyone to get hurt or swollen or itchy while experimenting with houseplants, succulents or otherwise.

Danger aside, I still think succulents are a great way to introduce kids to nature. They’re juicy, they grow really fast, and they’re funky. You can get a kid hooked on gardening for life with succulents, just play it safe, ok? Ok, good, we have a deal.

How To Create A Succulent Wall Hanging

There are a thousand ways to build your own wall hanging, there are a thousand containers and a thousand plants from which to choose. I’m going to show you how I made my most recent succulent garden in hopes that you get the general basics, and from there, you can let your creativity explode.

I knew I wanted to create a design to hang outside in my garden, so I started with a basket that I liked the shape of -it was deep, but not so deep it would look weird hanging on a wall.

I gathered the basket and the plants on my work station in the back garden:

The plan is that after it’s all planted and rooted in, I can take it off the wall (or fence), drench the whole container with a hose until it’s thoroughly soaked, then hang it back up again. I suppose I could just spray it with the hose while it’s on the wall, but that seems, I don’t know, rude or something.

By planting these little guys in a basket, I’m ensuring they’ll have good drainage. I wanted to make it easier for them inside the container, too. So I lined the bottom with gravel from my driveway:

Then, I’m not kidding, I made a mixture of Fox Farm Ocean Forest Potting Soil and gravel from my driveway. I really did, look:

How dork is that? Like mixing cake batter. Anyway, it was effective. Succulents appreciate a porous mix of regular potting soil and tiny rocks or sand even. You don’t want to plant in all sand or rocks, because they won’t retain enough moisture for the plants to thrive.

I decided not to secure the soil mixture like I had in yesterday’s post for a couple of reasons. One, I know this planter is going to stay indoors until spring, because it’s already September, and I don’t want to take any chances on these little guys getting too cold. By spring, their roots will have secured so well in the soil, that I won’t need anything to help hold the soil in place. There’s one more reason, but I’m getting ahead of myself again.

The planter was ready for the plants:

I love this first juicy fella. He was labeled “Haworthia,” which is not really very helpful:

Haworthia what? cooperi? cymbiformis? bayeri? I mean, I don’t care, I’m going to love him anyway. I’ll probably name him Larry and forget all about his particular cultivar. But I’ve been trying to get the correct names for my readers who like to know.

I looked at the labels while I was at the nursery, and asked an employee about them. He was about as useful as the label.

This one was labeled, “Echeveria.” Thanks, that’s again super helpful.

What type of Echeveria is it? I don’t know – after scrolling through pages and pages of pinkish bluish rosette succulents, they all start to look a little alike to me. My bad!

I planted five plants total, and added more of the potting soil mixture around the plants:

Aw, they look cute in there!

Ok, remember when I said I had one more reason for not securing the plants in the soil? It’s because I had another layer I wanted to add in order to help both secure the plants and retain moisture.

See, I’m already wondering how these guys will do in our hot desert summers. Once they’re outside, even if they’re not in full sun, the heat is brutal.

I had some moss leftover from previous plantings, so I decided to try using it:

Well, it sure looks pretty now. I’ll be mindful of watering through the winter months. And if the moss turns all brown and gross looking, I’ll pluck it off. No harm, no foul.

I couldn’t resist sneaking a peek at what it will look like:

Ok, I can’t stand it completely upright right after I planted it, but did it spark your enthusiasm? I’d love to know if you decide to try making a living wall hanging of your own. For indoors or out.

I’ll be back manana to continue Vertical Gardens and Living Artwork week. Instead of looking at my creations, we’ll check out what brilliant designers around the globe are creating – hint, they’re breathtaking projects! Hope to see you here!

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About Me

Hi! My name is Liza. Welcome to my blog and thanks for visiting! I'm a Midwestern gal now living in the beautiful Land of Enchantment, Albuquerque, New Mexico. I have a plant care business here in town called Good To Grow. I can beautify your home, office, or patio with plants and flowers. I have 13 years of experience growing plants, and friendships.

Plants are living, breathing creatures, and if they're indoor plants, they are 100% dependent on human care. They cannot water themselves.

Please let me know if you have questions or if you would like help with your plants or garden. You can reach me at lizatheplantlady (at) gmail (dot) com or follow me on Twitter, Lizawheeler7.

All photos are mine unless otherwise noted. All content is also entirely my hard work. If you'd like to use any content or photos, all you have to do is ask. If you take without asking, you are a thief. And thieves suck. So don't suck. We have a deal? Good.

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