Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Missing Woven Fabric

I went to Paris a few months ago and visited some Blanc greenwalls in person. I noticed that Blanc sometimes uses plastic woven or perforated fabric in between and behind the layers of moisture retention fabric.

The black layer at the back and the white layer in the middle is the plastic. Image from the Lushe blog.

As you can see the felt is separated by two layers of woven plastic fabric. This fabric is commonly used in landscaping. I assume this fabric helps with evaporation and adds to moisture retention. It would also give the roots a structure to hold on to besides the felt.

Here's an example of the fabric on a landscaping site.

I did not use this fabric when I made my wall because I was unaware of it. I can't say that it has effected anything. I suspect it's more crucial in an outdoor wall where evaporation might be more of an issue.

I also saw Blanc use a perforated polyethylene sheet in between the layers of felt on the musée du quai Branly wall. It was thin clear plastic that looked like it had been punched with a needle over and over again. On that wall the woven was used as the back most layer. It would seem Blanc uses the woven as the back layer on all his walls. He also mentions it in his original description in Dwell I believe.

Here's a simple diagram for the use of the fabric. I have seen Blanc locate the water source behind all layers although in the above picture it's between the felt layers.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Super Secret Greenwall Plant List Revealed!

Venelin.Petkov said...

"Can you post a list of the plants you used and what nutrients are you using (I imagine you are not using pure water, since there are no minerals in the felt substrate). Thanks"

Llazar said...

"It would be great if could list the plants you used. Also, isn't there a problem of light? don't the plants need natural light in order to survive?"

People have asked me a few times now what plants I used and how I care for them. I'm happy to list what I can remember but honestly it doesn't matter as long as you match your plants to your wall. Each wall can be setup to provide varying amount of light, water, and nutrients. Patrick Blanc has used thousands of different types of plants on his walls. In theory almost any type of plant can work. I've even seen trees growing out of Blanc walls in Paris.

Each wall builder will need to decide how much light, water, and nutrients they want to provide. Here's a brief overview of my wall.


I have pretty good light in the room but I decided to add some supplemental light from compact fluorescent bulbs. The lights aren't special "grow" lights. They are just regular bulbs. I think my wall would survive with out the additional light but the light helps the plants grow and makes the wall look nicer. Powerful artificial grow lights are available if you want to grow high light demanding plants.


I water my wall 4x a day for 10 minutes a day (by drip tube on a timer). I had difficulty with the ferns on my wall drying out and dying at first. Originally I was watering 3x a day for a shorter period of time. I added a 4th time and increased the watering time to help the ferns. With the increase in water I saw an overall increase in growth from all the plants. If I had plants that needed even more water I'd make a larger basin and increase the frequency and amount of water.


I added fertilizer to my wall once in the time I have had it (just because a friend gave me some to try). I don't see the need to add more. We tend to trim our wall back when it grows out so more growth isn't required. We get new growth all the time so clearly the plants are getting what they need. Keep in mind that there is soil around the root ball of each plant. Also as the water trickles down the wall it picks up nutrients from the soil in each plant. At this point I wouldn't add more nutrients because my plants don't seem to need them. There are a variety of fertilizers on the market to suit just about any plant's needs.

Work with your local plant dealer to determine the plants that are right for your wall. Remember that on a small wall all the plants are in basically in the same environment so plants with different needs may die off. Also some plants cannot grow together. This can be determined from trial and error. Plant a range of plants with similar needs and see what does well. It's easy to add and remove plants from the little felt pockets.

Here's a partial list of plants I have on my wall listed in order of quantity.

Philodendron (35%)

Philodendron scandens “Green”

Pothos (35%)

Epipremnum aureum “Marble Queen”

Fern (15%)

Nephrolepsis exaltata “Fluffy Ruffle Fern”

Adiantum pubescens “Maiden Hair Fern”

Asplenium nidus “Bird’s Nest Fern”

Nephrolepsis cordifolia “Lemon Button Fern”

Nephthytis (10%)

Syngonium podophyllum “Various”

Ivy (5%)

Hedera helix “Various”

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Call for Walls

If you've made a wall please send me pics so I can post them here. If you are about to make a wall please document the process and send me a link to a video or a bunch of pics to post. I'd love to hear about the challenges and solutions of your particular wall. Got a wall nearby that you love? Take some pics and I'll post them and link to the location of the wall so that others can see it too.

New Patrick Blanc Interview Video

Well it's new to me at least. Nice shots of plants being put in the wall. You really see just how simple the little pockets for each plant are. Enjoy.

Three New Greenwalls!

I've got three new walls to talk about for this post.

Wall #1

Made by my friend, and greenwall consultant, Tina Dituri this wall was just made in New York City. Tina and I have been swapping notes as this wall is fairly similar to mine. More pictures to come but here's a photo of the wall in progress.

Wall #2

This wall is posted on youtube by Peter Kastan in Miami as a response to my video. Peter and I have been corresponding and it's great to see his wall finished and looking great. This videos shows the last plant being planted and a bit of a mishap.

Wall #3

My wife just got back from a whirlwind European tour (London, Paris, and Milan) She was tipped off by a friend in London about this wall in the Anthropologie store. This wall uses a modular system not the Blanc system. I have heard these modular walls can be difficult to maintain. Please comment if you've had experience with the modular system.

View Larger Map

Keep your questions coming I'll do my best to answer them here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Antonino's Questions

Antonino emailed me to ask.

> 1. How did you build the basin? Is the basin attached to the structure at all?

My Basin is built from PVC (bad stuff). It is not attached to the wall. It just sits under the edge of the wall. I would have preferred to use stainless steel (expensive) or even some kind of plastic basin. Unfortunately my wall is curved so it had to be something custom.

> 2. How does the structure stand? Are the aluminum pipes screwed to the closet itself?

Yes the aluminum is screwed to the top of the closet and to the floor.

> 3. How many gpm is the pump you are using?

Unfortunately I don't remember. When you buy your pump it will be rated to pump water vertically up to a certain height. I would say in general you can go to the lower end of the range. You don't need the kind of force these pumps are rated for to water a wall.

> 4. How thick is the tubing you use for irrigation?

Also don't remember exactly but I'd estimate the vertical tube at 1.5" and the tube across the top at .5"

Thanks for your questions and good luck with your wall.

If you have any greenwall building questions please send them to m at



Monday, November 9, 2009

DIY Greenwall Materials list

People ask me about the specific materials I used to make my wall here's a list and some links and also some less expensive and more environmentally friendly alternatives. Please keep in mind I am not recommending specific sites or vendors to purchase these through. I only show them as examples of what you'll need. I would encourage you to try to source your materials locally to support local businesses and to avoid shipping fees.


1" Aluminum Square Stock I bought mine at a local hardware store. It was pretty expensive. I forget exactly how much I used.

Cheaper Eco Alternative

FSC Cedar Strips 1"x3"s Cheaper than aluminum and far better for the environment. I'd build my next wall with these.


Sintra Expanded PVC Sheets 6mm I would never use this material again. I only used it the first time because it's what Patrick Blanc suggests. It's heavy expensive and really bad for the environment. I bought it at a local plastic store on Canal street in NYC and they only had 6mm so I bought double to get to 12mm. Really I only needed 10mm but they didn't have 10mm sheets.

Cheaper Eco Alternative

Corrugated Polyethylene Plastic Sheets 10mm
I think these sheets would work just as well and I would build my next wall with these. Some things to test would be how well they hold staples and how stiff the material is at this thickness. Also if you do your research you can find these sheets made partially from recycled plastic.


Moisture Retention Mat MRM14 (100% recycled polyester and polypropylene) The owner of Green Roof Solutions is willing to sell the fabric in amounts suitable for walls as small as 4x8.


Rust Proof Staples 12mm (you may need to tailor the length depending on the thickness of your surface material) These are rust proof not rust resistant. There is no iron in them so they can never rust. Expensive but worth it.

Submersible Pond Pump I'm not sure this is exactly the one I have. It looks just like this one but mine may be the size up from this one. Regardless you'll need to tailor the pump to the size and height of your wall. I made this one work although I probably could have used a smaller cheaper pump. I bought mine at my local pet store. They fitted the pump with adapters so I could connect it to polyethylene tubing from my local hardware store.

Patrick Blanc father of the Greenwall

Patrick Blanc is the father of the greenwall. He came up with the system that I use. I have seen his walls in person in Paris and they are amazing. There are many imitators out there but no system, to my knowledge, works as well as Blanc's. When I say works as well the factors in my mind are cost, maintenance, beauty, and longevity. For more info on Patrick Blanc go here:

Patrick Blanc's Site
A great book by Patrick Blanc
A documentary about Patrick Blanc (I could only find it posted in Spanish Catalan)
The New York Times article that introduced me to Patrick Blanc

How I Built My Wall

My greenwall is based on Patrick Blanc's design. Here's a quote from him describing his system published in Dwell Nov 2006:

"10mm thick waterproof PVC slabs covered with polyamid felt, into which holes (pockets actually) are cut for plants; a small hose, punctured every 10cm by a 2mm hole, to run the length of the top of the wall; a timing device to ensure regular, light watering- like a trickle slowly wending its way down a mossy rock. The ensemble is then attached to a metal structure that stands out from a supporting wall, trapping a cushion of air, which acts as insulation."

That's basically exactly what we built. The frame is a lattice work of 1" aluminum ("aluminum square stock" is what you google)tubes. Sheets of expanded PVC (Sintra is the brand name I used) have been screwed on with rust proof screws. Then 2 layers of the moisture retention mat (synthetic felt sourced from Green Roof Solutions product number MRM14) is stapled on with rust proof (Arrow Brand "Monel") staples. There is a submersible pump on a timer that pumps water up to a tube running under the felt across the top of the wall. There is a basin at the bottom of the wall also built from expanded 3/4" PVC.

We planted 3.5 inch plants in slits 5" wide separated horizontally by 2" gaps. The rows were 4" apart vertically and the plants are staggered every other row.

House Tour

This is the house tour on Re-Nest that features our wall with a lengthy description and How-To.

The Video

This is the timelapse video of me installing my wall. enjoy.

Welcome to DIY Greenwalls

About 6 months ago I made an 80sqft greenwall in my New York apartment with about 400 plants on it. I took time lapse photos of the planting process and made a movie out of them and posted them on youtube. In 6 months I've gotten almost 18,000 views and countless emails and comments from people who want to build there own walls .

I decided it was time to make a blog where I could post more info for people who want to make there own walls. Also I'm interested in making walls for other people too so contact me if you'd like to hire me to help you make a wall.

Please suggest topics for posts or write your own and send them to me. I can be reached at m at