Part-botanist, partlandscape artist, Patrick Blanc is a pioneer in the field of vertical gardening. He is on a mission to inject more colour— especially green—into otherwise-monotonous urban landscapes. His signature vertical gardens are becoming more and more popular as space becomes increasingly scarce. For the man who embodies the phrase “a green thumb”, the journey towards becoming the leading name in vertical gardening began at a very young age.
Patrick was 8 when his interest in botany first took root. He was fascinated by the ecosystem of an aquarium he had—it was filled with tropical fish. Some years later, he read in a magazine that the best way to purify the water in an aquarium was to have the roots of plants dangle in it. While his intention was to filter the water, it was the plants’ ability to grow without soil that truly piqued his interest.
So Patrick first developed a vertical garden when he was 18 using the pump from his aquarium to irrigate his very first prototype. Fast-forward to the present, his world-famous vertical gardens are irrigated using the exact same principle.
Patrick’s works can be found all around the world. He has worked on hundreds of vertical gardens for homes, public buildings, and malls. The 103-metre-long “rainforest chandelier” in the EmQuartier mall in Bangkok features a spiral of various types of ferns and vines climbing on stainless steel wires. The long, pink roots of the Cissus sicyoides create beautiful hanging curtains.
The walls of the 160-metre-tall One Central Park in Sydney are also covered in one of Patrick’s masterpieces. Incorporating some 450 different types of plants—250 of which are local to the region—onto the façade of, such a tall building is no small feat. Patrick had to make sure that the plants were secure even in strong winds. He had to install a metal grill with large meshing to make sure that the plants were out of harm’s way.
Even after designing and creating hundreds of vertical gardens, it could be argued that Patrick’s home is his pièce de résistance: it is a veritable oasis on the outskirts of Paris. There are numerous vertical gardens both outside and inside his home and are smaller versions of his works across the world. Birds, lizards and frogs nestle among the dense foliage. The raised platform upon which Patrick’s open office lies is an aquarium full of tropical fish.
Patrick believes that vertical gardens are becoming popular for a number of reasons. One of the reasons is the growing concern of climate change and deforestation. According to Patrick, green spaces that evoke nature are becoming increasingly sacred. Vertical gardens also have advantages over traditional horizontal gardens. Vertical gardens offer full visibility of all the plants, while horizontal gardens are all about perspective.
Today, the concept of vertical gardens seems like an obvious choice in urban design. Even though the concept has become widespread, Patrick is still spotting common mistakes among the works of other vertical gardeners. Choosing the right plants is crucial to the longevity of the garden. Patrick explains that plants need to grow in harmony, and that vertical gardens can be built to last for many years. Not embracing diversity is another one of the common mistakes that Patrick spots. Having hundreds of species makes the vertical garden less vulnerable to insects and pests.
However, Patrick notes that designers should not go overboard and add plants just for the sake of it. He likes to emphasise the importance of balance, as a city should look like a city after all. Vertical gardens are all about creating green spaces that match beautiful modern architectur
(Photo credit: Paradisexpress, minus25.com)