31 May 2013

Green, part IV - A vertical garden

This may look like it just another lawn—a lawn that could be just about anywhere in the world for that matter—but it might come as a surprise that this particular patch of grass is actually growing on a wall.

As you walk (or drive, or take a bus) along the tree-lined & traffic-busy Viale Giovane Italia, at first you may notice that what appears to be someone's garden is spilling over the top of its wall. But as you draw closer, rectangles of varying shades & textures of green, not so random after all, begin to distinguish themselves.

As you come directly upon the tableaux of green, you will probably find yourself stopping to look skyward, and marveling at the arrangement of grass, herbs, ivy & other plants bringing the wall alive, then walking the full length—and back again—as you try to figure out how such a thing came to be...

Crossing over to the other side of the road, it's possible to get the full gist of what's happening on this crenelated wall; interspersed with metal panels, the composition of greenery reveals the geometry behind its design...

With its plethora of road signs, parked cars & a nearly non-stop flow of traffic, it wasn't easy to photograph this seventy-meter-long stretch of wall (which originally bound a convent, then a prison, and now a recently-transformed housing complex complemented by cultural/commercial activities). But these 'obstacles' did give me a chance to spend more time considering the garden from several vantage-points, and I also really enjoyed observing people's reactions to the unusual wall treatment.

I like the three-dimensional aspect, how the shadows (and some of the plants) extend below the rusty edges of the 'box' that contains the garden—not to mention the natural palette of rust that's formed in the few seasons since the vertical garden was a installed (seen in the quartet of images below). All in all, it's brought a rather inspiring, if fairly discrete, new landmark to keep an eye out for when in this part of Florence.



It's worth pointing out that this recent addition to Florence's landscape alludes to one of the patterns from Christopher Alexander's A Pattern Language—No. 246: Climbing Plants. While the carefully conceived, orchestrated & maintained design means it only loosely follows the premise set out by the pattern—that "A building finally becomes a part of its surroundings when the plants grow over parts of it as freely as they grow along the ground"—this vertical garden certainly captures the spirit of the pattern by helping to smooth the transition between built form & nature. And it is undeniably more alive & intriguing than the continual conglomeration of posters that once covered this wall (fascinating though these fleeting records of city-wide events can be, in their many-layered stages of pasting/peeling).


I'll close with a photo of my once-blue hydrangea, which has now turned mostly green. It reminds me of how many other photos of 'GREEN' didn't make it into May's series of ROY G BIV-inspired blog entries, but they may well be used for an idea that's slowly evolving from the imagery of the lovely vertical garden composition. It has truly piqued my imagination!

{Click here to learn about Patrick Blanc, the Parisian botanist whose work has led to a recent emergence of vertical gardens in urban spaces.}

{Click here to read about Le Murate, the ex-convent-turned jail-turned-housing complex bounded by the vertical garden (it's in Italian, but there are some photos & additional links).}


  1. Anonymous01 June, 2013

    love it love it love it!
    vertical green - yes, looking up indeed
    so cooling and refreshing on a hot day
    thank you Lisa for sharing this
    here it is a green explosion
    I am resting into contrasts
    the cool of blue
    against the heat of eucalyptus

    1. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the refreshing greens, Elizabeth. I found it hard to do justice to this lovely wall of green with a mere camera, but it gives me such a thrill every time I pass it, so I wanted to try.
      I love the sound of your blue vs. eucalyptus...will have to wander over to see if I can catch a glimpse of this 'phenomenon' on your blog!
      - Lisa

  2. Lisa--one word..WOW! What an amazing concept. Makes me want to touch and smell all those greens..a true marvel..You always provide such thought-provoking posts. Thank you!

    1. Hi Julie - thanks for stopping by for a look! The vertical garden is a very cool concept, and I really like this particular interpretation. Although the pattern 'Climbing Plants' seems to refer to something a bit looser than this vertical garden, I actually find the orderliness of the the plants to be very striking. Yet I appreciate the way some of the plants creep over their intended boundaries - and the appearance of occasional weeds as well!
      - Lisa

  3. Love this, Lisa! I've been following, in a rather ad hoc fashion, vertical gardens and this is fabulous in itself and as inspiration. Makes me want to reach out a ruffle its feathers.

    1. I'd love to hear more about your discoveries on vertical gardens, Aimée...the bit of research I indulged in while putting together this post has definitely intrigued me. There is something quite amazing about a wall that grows & smells good...and yes, makes you want to touch it! Similar to a stone wall (or one of other natural materials), as far as tactile experiences go, but for a wall to be alive in this way is so thrillingly unexpected, I think.
      - Lisa

  4. I've noticed a couple of vertical gardens in inner Sydney (Aust), Lisa, and while I just loved the concept, and the way they look at the moment, I just hope that our climate is kind to them. I imagine, and hope, they have been planted with the heat of summer in mind and I wonder if they were affected by the 45+C days we had earlier in the year. I can see I must go for a wander to check them out when next in Sydney. Your Florence garden is wonderfully lush and I'm delighted to see it.

  5. Hi Lisa,

    Check the 'Oasis d’Aboukir', a vertical garden on the side of a residential building in Paris with 2,700 square feet of an 82-foot-tall wall with 236 different kinds of plants.

    Made by Patrick Blanc, a French botanist and designer that for the last 25 years is greening walls across the planet with his plant-based creations.

    Paris - Rue d’Aboukir 83 2nd arrondissement.


    Hope you and your friends enjoy.

    Love, Vera.

  6. Love this, Lisa! I've been following, in a rather ad hoc fashion, Vertical Gardens and this is fabulous in itself and as inspiration. Makes me want to reach out a ruffle its feathers. Keep on posting these types of articles. I like your blog design as well. Cheers!!!


Thank you for joining in on the dialogue; I appreciate your comments!
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