Garden Design: Using the verticals

With Camilla Grayley Garden Design

In any space but particularly small ones, whether it's a balcony, a front garden or a courtyard verticals are perfect for not only maximising the amount of space for adding interest and plants but also create the illusion that it’s a bigger area than it really is. A way of either drawing the eye up and away from staring straight at the boundary or hiding the edges of the space, creating the illusion that there is more to explore as you wander from the house.

Marks and Spencer vertical wall, York

Green Walls

Green walls are the ultimate way of using verticals from the stunning purples and greens on the Musée Quai Branly created by Patrick Blanc, the father of the modern green wall system, his first was installed in 1988 on the Museum of Science and Industry in Paris. While one of his latest is in Sydney, the world’s tallest vertical garden designed for Jean Nouvel’s 166 metre residential tower. Fifty percent of the building has been covered in plants including native Australian and exotic plants. The incredible Bosco Verticale or Vertical Forest is a pair of skyscrapers in Milan with as many trees planted on the balconies as you would find in a hectare of forest. The development was designed by Stefano Boeri and is home to 900 trees, the idea was to combine the need for more housing with the need for trees in cities. There are now many modular systems, allowing a similar effect to be created along a garden wall, whether wanting to cover one side with traditional green wall plants such as ferns and grasses or create a small pocket to fill with herbs.

Garden Obelisk

Trellis and Panels

If there aren’t many walls or fences to cover then creating more verticals with trellis or screens will add interest by dividing the garden up into different spaces or hiding a shed or boundary, tricking the eye into thinking there is more to explore. At the very least they will create space for growing more plants up and who doesn’t want to be able to squeeze an extra plant or two in. Trellis either on its own or added to a large planter, creates additional space for growing climbers or adding a few fan-trained fruit trees along. Metal panels are becoming increasingly popular, often a piece of art in their own right, a way of creating a focal point and drawing the eye away from storage areas of the garden.



Plants can be used to great effect to create height in a garden, spires particularly are the ideal way of adding height and interest to a border or pot. At the front of the border lupins come in varieties that only grow to half a metre in height, Gallery Blue or Gallery Red, slightly taller is my favourite Lupinus ‘Masterpiece’ in all its opulent reds and purples. This year I have been enjoying the tall white with burgundy splotches of Digitalis ‘Pam’s Choice’ and the tiny purple flowers of Verbascum phoeniceum ‘Violetta’. I bought them last year as plug plants at the Chelsea Flower Show and in the absence of any shows this year have been enjoying my own mini display. Verbascums can be pernickety about their growing conditions but once the tiny flowers open, all that cajoling has been rewarded.

About the Author

Camilla Grayley is a garden designer based in York, mainly working in and around Yorkshire but has travelled up and down the UK to design gardens and is always happy to travel to help clients with their gardens. I love creating gardens with strong architectural outlines softened by voluminous planting that draws on year round interest, ensuring there is something to capture the eye whatever the season. Gardens should always evoke all the senses from the colour palette on the eye, to the rustling of plants swaying in the wind to the amazing perfumes that can be inhaled, whether on a summer’s evening or the depth of winter.

Services - If you would like to know more working with me please feel free to have a look at my Garden Design and Garden Consultancy Services or contact me.

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