Solutions: Vertical gardens

How to decorate and disguise backyard walls

Solutions: Vertical gardens

Creeping fig provides a lush backdrop for wall-mounted planters filled with tuberous begonias.

Claire Curran

  • Vertical gardens

    White wall and trellis set off a collection of colorful birdhouses.

  • Solutions: Vertical gardens

    Decorated with a medallion and concrete corbels 

If your garden has a boring wall, think of it as an opportunity to extend your outdoor space. Enhanced with vines, colorful plants, and decorative objects, that daunting expanse becomes an interesting vertical garden.

Jerry and Geri Thirloway planted creeping fig (Ficus pumila) against the sump-stone wall of their garden in Solana Beach, California (pictured). Ornamental pear trees grow in front, their evenly spaced trunks punctuating the leafy expanse. In keeping with the English-inspired flower garden, the Thirloways hung flat-backed planters on the wall, using heavy-duty masonry screws, then filled them with tuberous begonias and trailing lobelia. Each planter is 20 inches wide at the top and 19 inches deep and is watered by drip-irrigation tubing concealed amid the vines.

On a plain white wall, Olga Cattolico of Poway, California, displays her collection of birdhouses against a 3-foot-wide by 7-foot-tall trellis (pictured). Each birdhouse has a hole in the back and hangs on a hook on the trellis. Olga's husband, Mike, attached the trellis to the cement-fiber wall with galvanized screws. The peaked roofs, solid colors, and simple shapes of the birdhouses lend continuity to the design. Magenta blooms of fuchsia growing at the base of the trellis echo the red birdhouse above.

To visually connect the display to the garden, Olga trained vines around the birdhouses. Jasmine or clematis are good medium-weight choices for a sturdy but relatively modest trellis like hers. If you can offer more substantial support, such as a metal or redwood pergola, you can grow vigorous vines such as bougainvillea, climbing roses, or wisteria. Or consider lightweight annual vines for temporary summer display, such as black-eyed Susan (Thunbergia alata), morning glory (Ipomoea), or climbing nasturtium. They grow quickly without much support at all, scrambling along strings or galvanized wires affixed to the wall.

 

 

More ideas for walls

Group architectural objects, such as the cast-resin medallion and the concrete corbels with hurricane lamps in the garden of San Diego interior designer Jim Walters.

Mount a lath panel on the wall and hang old garden tools from it; for added interest, paint the tool handles bright colors.

Hang decorative tiles or a stylized sun sculpture.

Paint or stencil a vine, such as ivy or morning glory.

Hire an artist to paint a trompe l'oeil.

Mount a recirculating fountain, provided the wall can support the weight and there's an electrical outlet nearby.

Fill half-baskets with tropical plants or succulents and hang them up.

Plant an espaliered pomegranate or other fruit tree against a bare wall and train the branches into living sculpture.

Place a pedestal in front of the wall and set an ornamental urn or a potted bonsai on top.

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