When You Gotta Go, Go Green

Here’s a bit of the fact-filled, intrepid reporting we at Garden Professors are pleased to provide.

Just back from a visit/droolfest to Pennsylvania’s "Golden Triangle" of horticulture: Swarthmore’s Scott Arboretum, Chanticleer, and Longwood Gardens. 

At closing time on Saturday, I was wandering through the cavernous halls of the Longwood conservatory, looking for either my travel companion John Greenlee (Mr. American Meadow Garden), or the restroom.  Found one, then followed the signs to the other…


And it keeps going, way on around the bend.

Unveiled just a week prior, the green wall system was designed by GSky Plant Systems. At a little over 4,000 square feet with 47,000 plants, it’s now the largest green wall in North America. 

The modular panel system is very clever:

Plants are held in place by a geotextile surrounding a fiber substrate. Computer-controlled drip irrigation is woven throughout the entire structure.

Except for the glass ceiling, the corridor is subterranean. Perhaps because it was closing time and mostly empty, we found it just a tiny bit unsettling. John flailed about, muttering something like "Soylent Green is people!" 

Anyhoo, it was very grand and inspiring. In case you’re wondering what was behind all those shiny steel doors: 


Folks, you can’t get this kind of in-depth information on just ANY garden blog…

5 thoughts on “When You Gotta Go, Go Green”

  1. Wow! I can’t decide if its beautiful or creepy (or a little of both). I’m attracted to these green walls but skeptical — it seems like a major water catastrophe waiting to happen!

  2. It was kind of weird at first – like “what’s going to come out of all those doors?” kind of like a bad dream (in mine it would be robots). Behind the panels there’s a cinderblock wall, so there’s not much damage if leaks happen.

  3. I’m interested in the upkeep/lifespan of these things. I haven’t seen one yet that wasn’t beautiful when it filled out, but I never remember to follow up 2-5 years down the road and see how they’ve progressed.

  4. I simply love green walls. In my experience the longevity of the plantings is very much dependent on species selection. Even then no one plant will last forever and replacements do need to be made from time to time. Replacing plants is really quite straight forward. The longest surviving species I’ve put in green walls are native tufting grasses, as well as a couple of sedges. Succulent species also seem to do well. Agave attenuata works well as an accent plant in a green wall. It’s also a good species because when it gets too much of a ‘trunk’ on it, you can just cut it off and stick it back in. I also designed an integrated grey water/green wall/rain garden system for a client to ameliorate
    high nutrient loading in water runoff from their property. Their house was directly across the road from a creek that was part of a larger catchment area, and the government water body who managed the catchment gave the client a grant to help implement the system. Pretty handy!

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