Vertical Garden Design

Although we’re no stranger to the world of vertical gardens, Swedish landscape architect Michael Hellgren has built an entire business around them — and business is looking up.

Hellgren owns Vertical Garden Design, a landscape firm that creates our new favorite type of garden. Since vertical gardening is fairly new, the firm only began designing from the ground up in 2004. Since then, they’ve completed dozens of gardens in Europe. What I love most about these gardens is the variety of plants used and the variations in texture, leaf size, and “bushiness” (yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s the technical term) of each plant when planted together.

Here is a sampling of his projects, words by the designer.

Natura Towers in Lisbon, Portugal – exterior and interior
This garden wraps around three sides of the square, facing south, east and north. The surface has several openings, doors and shop windows, and goes along two sets of stairs that connect the square with the upper and lower levels. These openings and irregularities creates an interesting surface as it integrates several functions and invites the visitors to come close.

The north facing wall enjoys a protected location with no direct sunlight at all. It hosts a variety of ferns from genera as Asplenium, Athyrium, Pteris and Polystichum, and many broad leaved species like different Begonia, Pilea, and Arum. There are also contrasting fields with thin, linear leafed plants — like Iris japonica and some varieties of Chlorophytum comosum. Together, it creates a moist, woodland character with an additional tropical touch brought by a few solitary, larger exotic plants.

For a large part of the day, the south facing wall is shadowed by one of the buildings, but still, the sun exposure creates significantly different growing conditions. Unlike the other walls where most plants have rather modest flowering, this wall is more colorful, for example species of Ceanothus, Geranium, Fuchsia, Bergenia, Cuphea, Heuchera, Lantana, Pelargonium and Campanula. There are also some areas with grass or grasslike plants. As a total there are approximately 300 species.

In the main entrance of the new MSF office, the garden is split in two, divided by a waterfall over black slate. The base consists of some common species of Philodendron, Scindapsus, Pteris, Peperomia and Davallia. The tropical touch given by the waterfall is emphasized by plants from the Araceae family that are less usual to find in European nurseries, among others: Philodendron ‘Burle Marx’, Philodendron giganteum and Anthurium Veitchii. A few of these will potentially grow quite big as the years go by, developing mature leafs that are very different from the juvenile character.

Replay in Florence, Italy
The vertical garden at the Replay store in Florence covers a 7m high L-shaped wall in the 3-storey boutique. The garden is inspired by the undergrowth of a temperate forest, similar to what could be found in the lower parts of the hills not too far away from the city of Florence. Although as with any indoor garden, the plants themselves are of mostly of tropical origin to do well in the indoor climate. The overall picture is a soft, yet dense and fresh greenery, with some small-flowering plants like lanterns on top of the darker background. A picture that shall remind of the undergrowth in springtime, when it has had time to grow before the leaves of the canopy have fully developed and absorbed all incoming light.

Stockholm International Fairs, Stockholm, Sweden
During the past years several walls have been done in and around Stockholm International Fairs. The latest addition are two small walls in the restroom of the new hall, characterized by colorful begonias, joined by several types of peperomias and ferns. Inside the fairs, there are three 20m long walls in a corridor running between two of the halls, with a new metallic ceiling create some interesting reflections of the plants. Finally there are another two walls in the hotel lying next to the fairs, Rica Talk Hotel. These walls were built in 2006 and occupy the restaurant and conference area.

Jaime Derringer, Founder + Executive Editor of Design Milk, is a Jersey girl living in SoCal. She dreams about funky, artistic jewelry + having enough free time to enjoy some of her favorite things—running, reading, making music, and drawing.