Back to article
Sorry, article not available right now.
An Epiphyte Vertical Gardenby Mary Jasch
The brick wall at Atlock Farm is like something out of a childhood fairy tale book – a breathing, Medusa-like wall with hair of living creatures. This writer wants one. More than that, she wants to make one.
The plants on Selody’s wall are all true epiphytes, although many plants on other living walls are terrestrial. It begs the question: Isn’t there a difference between epiphytes and terrestrials for a reason?
Acclaimed botanist and vertical wall designer, Patrick Blanc, says on his website: “The soil is merely nothing more than a mechanic support. Only water and the many minerals dissolved in it are essential to plants, together with light and carbon dioxide to conduct photosynthesis.” That begs the question: Then why do we care about organic matter in soil?
Blanc’s statement reflects the sciences of physics and chemistry. That begs more questions: But is a plant’s life nothing more than that – just physics and chemistry? Are human beings nothing more than physics and chemistry? What about biology? Habitat? Does any of it matter?
Who am I to question? It’s just that somehow, the idea that’s it just chemistry and physics is a hard pill to swallow for this writer, whose background is in ecology – which includes everything about a species’ environment and how it survives. (Watch for future interviews with plant scientists/ecologists for their reflections.)
As Ruth Kassinger, science author and indoor living wall maker, said in a recent interview about hydroponic living walls, “It’s just a way of holding chemical elements and water in place in the same way that you could provide nutrition to a human being through an IV indefinitely. You just have to get all the right ingredients in the person to provide the chemical reactions in the person that the body needs. But I don’t think that anyone would suggest that ‘Gee, that’s a great way to live.’ But it could be done.”
Are we not more than just chemistry and physics? Do those two sciences alone make a “happy” plant? Isn’t a happy plant one that generally lives bug free and disease free? Questions… All these questions are based on an assumption that someone who creates a living wall wants and expects it to live happily for a long time in good health with the lowest maintenance possible. Perhaps outdoor walls contain insects and birds that have co-evolved with its plants?
But the plants on Selody’s wall are true epiphytes. “These plants have developed to take very small amounts of moisture out of the air in their environment without roots. They absorb them directly through the leaves – all the water and nutrients go through the foliage, so were they to come into contact with the ground, where they were constantly wet, it would just be too much water. Like a cactus, they are designed to live with very small amounts of moisture and they use it so efficiently that large amounts of water is detrimental,” he says.
“The growth on the south side of the wall is three times thicker than on the north side because it’s just getting that much more sun. It’s a lot more than water or nutrients. These plants are insistent on the sun.”
In the past ferns once decorated the wall, when its two fountain basins splashed water up onto them to keep them wet. But after replacing pumps all too frequently, Selody gave up. So did the ferns. “As soon as I didn’t replace the pump right away, the ferns dried and they died,” he says. Now he waters by hand.
Selody recalls one interesting fern that began as a tiny piece of the fern that grows on the tomb of Henry Middleton of Middleton Place, South Carolina. “I had that established here and it was such a great romantic story but as soon as the water stopped splashing on it, the conditions which otherwise were good for the bromeliads, became just too dry for ferns.”
Soon Billbergia, another bromeliad, will adorn Ken Selody’s living wall.
Atlock Farm’s Brick Wall Maintenance:
• No biocide needed.
• Safer Insecticidal Soap is sprayed for the occasional aphid.
• Any orchid fertilizer is perfect.
Atlock Farm: www.atlockfarm.com/index.html
** All photos by Mary Jasch
Back to article
Unless otherwise noted, this article is © Copyrighted work. Usage is strictly prohibited.