I’m deep in the research phase of this project. My armchair is surrounded by gardening books and magazines, and I’m voraciously consuming gardening-related television programs and podcasts.
You know how bowerbirds collect anything blue? Well, I’m just like that but instead of dropped pen lids and discarded condom wrappers, I’m collecting gardening ideas.
One of the programs I’ve been watching on Netflix is called Big Dreams, Small Spaces — which could have been the slogan for this blog, if I hadn’t chosen “just sticking a finger in to see if it’s moist”. It’s hosted by Britain’s favourite gardener, Monty Don, and I have binge-watched all six episodes, soaking up inspiration like your Aunty Carol soaks up a bar tab.
Two of the 12 gardens shown in the program featured a “green wall”, and I completely fell in love with the idea. Now I not only want one, I want one with the zeal of a convert.
Big dreams, small spaces, very green walls
There’s actually an enormous green wall, or living wall, just behind the house where we’ve lived for the past three-and-a-half years. It went in about two years ago. It’s spectacular.
As you can see, it looks very healthy (much healthier than anyone who eats at that Pizza Express, let me warn you) and provides a great burst of life amongst all the Victorian brickwork. I’ve admired it for a while.
I’m not planning on doing anything as grand as that, obviously, but the TV program showed people with small and shady corridors just like mine and how they created fantastic green walls in those spaces. I was immediately as turned onto the idea as your Aunty Carol is to a conga line after she’s had her fifteenth gin.
Green wall ideas for shady alleys up the side of London houses
Here’s the first example of a green wall from the TV show. This one is in Clapham, South London. It was created by a gay couple (predictably, because we’ve pushed all the straight people out of Clapham).
As you can see, it’s in the shady alley/corridor up the side of the house and it brings it to life as if it were a rainforest.
This picture is with added gays, but it also shows you how lush the green wall is, up close.
And this is the rather pleasingly-attired expert, who warned it was going to take all the gays’ horticultural skills to keep the wall alive, because all these different ferns like different conditions.
Shit the bed. What a misery. Who invited him to the party?
This wall was achieved on a very simple wooden frame, with the pots sliding into it on an angle. Here’s the frame.
In order to fill a rack this size with ferns they’ve obviously spent the reserve of cash most Clapham gays put aside for a pug. But I think it was worth it.
By contrast, here’s the second green wall. It’s a bit more modest. And it’s not quite as “lush from day one” as the first example.
But you can see how it will grow and fill up and look magnificent. My only qualm is I really don’t like the gabion construction. I’d rather do a drystone wall and insert the ferns into it without the mesh.
Also, it must be extremely heavy. There wouldn’t be much left of your pug if it collapsed on it.
Where will my green wall go?
There’s an obvious spot in my garden for a green wall. It’s actually an ideal location. It’s up the side of the house – the same as the two in the program. The terrace houses almost create a canopy – as light filters down to the fence but the sunshine doesn’t.
This panel of fence is overlooked precisely by the kitchen window (which we hope to turn into French doors).
You’ll also be able to see some of it from the bedroom window. I’m going to use this window, as well as the kitchen window (slash French doors) to frame everything I do in this space.
My great hope for this area is that it becomes an extension of the kitchen – a beautiful green space that invites you outside, that becomes a wonderful place to sit, even though it’s shady. We’re thinking about getting these lovely outdoor chairs from John Lewis, because it’ll save the spiders having to search too hard to find somewhere inconvenient to live.
You really want the bit of garden beside your kitchen to be a spot to eat breakfast, drink tea, read the newspaper, do a crossword, and squeeze your pug’s anal glands. It should also be a place you can comfortably dump your Aunt Carol with a bucket until she’s sobered up.
I think a lovely green wall is the perfect way to achieve that balance.
Join my garden journey progress from the start, here.
Read the next blog post in this series here.