The city is growing greener by the day. Wall gardens are the trend.

You can have a garden on your wall. Yes, a real one with leaves and tendrils, roots and shoots. A growing number of people, many living in apartments, has begun to devote their walls to some greenery. For those who have been robbed of the luxury of sprawling courtyards in a constantly expanding city, vertical gardens have brought in a fresh whiff of life.

Also known as living walls or bio walls or even eco walls, vertical gardens have been popular outside India for a few years now. Kochi is only still waking up to it. “We are getting requests from people looking for new ideas to landscape their apartment balconies. And we usually recommend a vertical garden either for one part of the wall, or the entire wall,” says Jim Jacob, partner of Room Effects, an indoor gardening company. Since it is low-maintenance and instantly adds to the décor, the gardens have become a hit with the people, Jim says.

Vijaya Mathew, who has tried one such garden on a portion of her apartment wall in Gandhinagar, is happy with the “effect”. “It is a great way to have a garden in a limited space. It is easy to maintain and is a refreshing concept,” she says. As with any new idea, setting up the garden can be a bit tough on the wallet. But that depends on the area and the kind of plants one chooses, says M. Hanief of AB Green, who specialises in vertical gardens. Having done-up quite a few commercial establishments in Kochi, including hotels and offices, Hanief says, it is the best way of bringing in some greenery into one’s living rooms without using floor space at all. Requests for vertical gardens, he says, are pouring in.

These ‘garden units’ usually come as modules of three, which are fixed on the wall. A module can cost approximately Rs. 750 (depending on the material and the design and the make). If a larger area is involved, the number of modules can be increased. Each individual pot contains either coir pit or coco peat as the medium, which may or may not be mixed with fertiliser. The absence of sand or soil makes the unit weightless and non-messy. Watering does not involve pouring. It just has to be sprayed twice a day. The plants in the vertical garden can last for at least eight months.

Sanjeev Rathinam, a businessman, has landscaped his apartment balcony. “I have two textured walls, on which I have vertical gardens. They are such a pleasure to look at and at the end of a busy day, I just want to relax there. For a small space, the idea is just perfect,” he adds.

If the garden is planned for an enclosed space, the plants selected should be strictly indoor variety, says Anoop Unnikrishnan, co-partner of Room Effects. Generally, flowering varieties are not used in these gardens. “The most common plants that are used in vertical gardens indoors are money plants, aglaonema, philodendrons, syngoniums and the like,” he adds. Hanief, who brings in his plants from Pune and West Bengal, uses air plants and bromeliads, too. Ferns are also an ideal choice.

It is not just homes, office spaces are becoming greener, too. Ravi Shankar, a builder based in Kochi, has recently set up a wall garden in his new office. “It is calming to have green around you. It motivates and offers a break for tired eyes. I have got a positive feed back from employees as well as clients. It is the best way to liven up a space,” he says. Ravi Shankar plans to introduce the concept in his upcoming projects.

In addition to the modules, colourful metal planters that can be hung from balconies and railings are also available in the market. Wrought-iron frames and hooks on which planters can be hung are popular choices, too.

Vertical gardens can be set up outdoors as well. Those in larger and sunlit areas, mostly in commercial buildings, are usually fitted with an auto-irrigation system.

With shrinking space and time, the idea is to make use of the available space in the greenest possible way. And options are aplenty — imported ceramic pots and planters, Indonesian terracotta, painted terracotta, self-watering planters, indoor fountains … are just a few. The latest on the block are the self-watering planters, which are aimed at the short-on-time greenery-loving populace. They have a small water gauge attached, which indicates the level of water. Only once the water has dipped considerably low, does it have to be watered, Jim and Anoop explain.

A slightly expensive alternative to a humble garden perhaps, but in a cemented universe, a little bit of green can make a difference.

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