The concept of living walls, sometimes dubbed green walls or vertical gardens, has officially existed for a comparatively brief time, less than a century, but their popularity during recent months has reportedly bloomed – as the fine folks at Chesterfield Valley Nursery can attest.

Andria L. Graeler, who serves as assistant to the general manager, plant purchasing coordinator and social media/content manager at the nursery, took a few moments recently to provide background to Ladue News on living walls.

First, Graeler addresses what inspired Chesterfield Valley Nursery to start offering them – and how clients and potential clients thus far have reacted to that offering.

“The idea of living walls is new to us in 2020,” Graeler relates. “A grower for this type of material became known to us, and we visited them in Oregon in December. There are a lot of clients who want a great landscape but have limited space. There are also customers who are not limited on space but still want a unique focal piece for their landscaping in the form of a living wall.

“We’ve only just begun to advertise this type of offering, but so far, we already have clients calling in, asking when we get the material for this type of project in.”

To be sure, Graeler continues, the nursery has been offering smaller precursors to living walls for far longer than a few months. “A couple years ago, our retail center started selling living wall planters that are about 16 by 16 inches,” she says. “We also utilized these as display planters around our garden center. Customers were interested in the idea, especially since living walls are mostly made up of succulents, which are plants that have been increasingly trending year to year.

“This year will be the first that we take this idea and make more of a production of it – building/planting larger living walls from an 18- by 24-inch framed box to larger sections/walls.”

Graeler then sketches what creating a living wall entails in time and effort, as well as how that creation might differ from an exterior space to an interior one.

“Creating a living wall is somewhat of a process,” she says. “We have to build the frames, place the grid material over the soil/moss mix and then plant the succulents and/or sedum [a type of perennial plant that grows well on rocks and walls]. Each piece will vary. There will be our basic line of walls that may just be one type of sedum or succulent and others that involve patterns and more complex ones that include pebbles and driftwood integrated into the design.

“From interior to exterior, there isn’t too much of a difference other than the types of sedum and/or succulents used. There are some plants that are more sensitive to climate condition and that aren’t as cold-hardy. These would be for indoor displays. As far as outdoor goes, it all depends on where in the landscape the display’s going. Sun exposure and how sheltered the area is will affect the plant choices.”

For those who lack a properly verdant green thumb, moreover, Graeler provides a few salient details about maintaining a living wall, saying it’s “not as daunting as it may seem. Sedum and succulents are primarily desert-type plants that don’t require as much water as other landscaping items might. Depending on how large the living wall display is will affect how long it takes to water.

“When living walls first get planted, they’ll usually need to be watered by spraying every inch of the area. Drip irrigation can also be used as a method to water it. Watering the living wall twice a month is usually adequate. Be careful not to leave your living wall without water for too long, as the plants will suck all the moisture out of the soil/moss mix, causing it to contract and potentially shift the plants.

“Sedum and succulents are also low-maintenance plants, so trimming and pruning aren’t a concern.”

Finally, Graeler briefly dwells on the sorts of vegetation that work best for living walls here in the metro area, as opposed to elsewhere in the nation. “We’ll be using a lot of cold-hardy and evergreen sedum/succulents to provide close to yearlong interest for our customers with outdoor living walls,” she says.

“Places along the West Coast, for example, are able to use a larger variety of sedum and succulents because of the milder climates. West Coast and desert states can also use more dense varieties, as they don’t experience the same humidity we do here in the Midwest.” 

Chesterfield Valley Nursery, 16825 N. Outer 40 Road, Chesterfield,

636-532-9307, chesterfieldvalleynursery.com

Bryan A. Hollerbach serves as LN's copy editor and one of its staff writers. He loves to read, write, impersonate an amateur artist and research all things bibulous.