Dec 042012

Fondation Cartier, Paris

The French are much better at green walls than we are. There are a few in London – notably at the Athenaeum Hotel and at the O2 (and then there’s my favourite, inside Anthropologie) – but they haven’t really caught on. Paris, on the other hand, has lots, probably because the green wall pioneer, Patrick Blanc, was born there.

This green wall at the Fondation Cartier, created by Monsieur Blanc in 1998, is quite small – a few square metres – but it packs quite a punch. As well as lots evergreen perennials it contains some shrubs, including a giant Fatsia japonica. Apparently never been cut – a gardener just comes in a few times a year to remove any dead leaves.

The effect is slightly bonkers and a tad disconcerting – you  need to walk under it to get into the gallery, and those shrubs do stick out rather alarmingly. Plants do occasionally fall out of green walls – a few years back at the launch of the wall at the Athenaeum Hotel, a viburnum was dislodged by high winds and landed inches away from Tim Richardson, garden writer and founder of the Chelsea Fringe.

I read once that Jarvis Cocker dreams of shuffling off this mortal coil having being felled by a giant ‘G’ from a ‘Gaumont Cinema’ sign. Much as I like all things horticultural, I don’t really fancy meeting my maker courtesy of an earthbound Fatsia japonica.

May 212012


The Chelsea Fringe has begun! Here’s one of the projects – Living Towers made by landscape architect Adam Shepherd. They’re still a work in progress in this pic, which was taken after a Fringe meeting last week at the Garden Museum. Adam specialises in green walls, and these towers are planted with persicaria and foxgloves.

At the Chelsea Fringe party at the museum this week, the Bicycle Beer Garden (above) also made an appearance and there were also giant tulip sculptures from Jigantics (below). That’s not to mention some cucumber and thyme-infused gin and some barn dancing.

The Fringe now has over 80 projects – not bad considering that the organisers would have been happy with around 20.  And it’s all been pulled off without a sponsor – just the hard work of lots of volunteers. I’m really proud to be a small part of it.

Aug 222011

Notting Hill

I’m always telling my flatmate John that he should start up his own blog, He’s an expert on who lives in what house, what they paid for it and what’s in their garden.

He happened to have his camera on him when he was visiting a friend the other day and snapped this pic of a green wall on the house opposite, in true Through the Garden Gate style!

I’ve never seen a green wall on a private house before – has anyone else? I bet it didn’t come cheap…

Aug 172011

Trafalgar Square by Mark Roberts

As I am currently unable to gad about, my next guest blogger is Mark Roberts. I asked him to take a pic of the green wall in Trafalgar Square that I failed to notice in its entirety a few weeks back. Mark is a TV sound recordist and has regaled us all over the years with his tales of derring-do in far-flung places. I’m trying to persuade him to start a blog of his own.

Anyway, over to Mark…

Since V’s sprained her ankle she’s asked me to contribute to her blog. I’m not sure why she writes it with her feet, though.

For the last 18 years I’ve lived in Hong Kong, where the summers are oppressively hot and humid and the only plantlife you see growing on walls is mould. That’s when I usually escape the urban steambath and head over to the UK. How refreshing, then, to be cycling around London and come across a giant wall of green that’s appreciated rather than contemptuously sprayed with fungicide.

Van Gogh’s masterpiece, A Wheatfield with Cypresses, has literally taken root outside the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square. It’s reminiscent of a thick patterned shagpile carpet made up of more than 8,000 plants. Not so much painting by numbers but planting by numbers. It certainly brings a calming effect to one of London’s busiest tourist spots. I saw it on a rather overcast day, not really at its best,  but I could imagine it in full sun, bursting with life. Next time you’re in the area, spend a few moments taking it all in.

Apparently Banksy’s been seen loitering nearby with a strimmer…

Aug 122011

Trafalgar Square

When I walked past the National Gallery the other night, I saw that there was a green wall outside it. It was mostly obscured by a van so I took this quick pic.

When I got home and Googled it, I realised that the wall actually a representation of Van Gogh’s A Wheatfield, with Cypresses. And it’s been there since May. How news of this passed me by, I don’t know. And why it didn’t occur to me to stand back a bit I don’t know either!

I was intending to go back and take another pic of the wall in its entirety, but I’ve sprained my ankle. So I’m afraid you’ll have to make do with this glimpse for now.

Normal service will be resumed soon…

Mar 262011


Nobody on the March for the Alternative today took the blindest bit of notice of one of the UK’s best green walls, at the Athenaeum Hotel on Piccadilly. I can’t think why! Actually my friend Jo said she wouldn’t have noticed it if I hadn’t pointed it out – maybe because Londoners rarely look up. It’s designed by French trailblazer Patrick Blanc.

I was too busy photographing the wall to notice the sign that the guy in the stripey top was carrying…

Mar 142011

Marais, Paris

The back part of Cafe Montecao is built almost entirely of glass and is covered with ivy, growing in around 20 smallish pots fixed to trellis (I presume an irrigation system is in place, otherwise watering must be pretty tricky). It’s an unusual take on the green wall idea.

The interior is filled with palms and it all looked very romantic/restful. It reminded me a little of De Kas in Amsterdam. And it has rose ice cream on the menu…

Feb 102011

Regent Street

I hate shopping but I love Anthropologie. Now that I’ve accepted that everything is double the price I think it’s going to be, even with a generous mental mark up beforehand, I no longer contemplate buying anything. Instead I go there to enjoy the gorgeousness of it all. The Regent Street shop has this spectacular green wall, 50 ft high and packed with plants that are grown hydroponically. It’s been going strong for over a year now and looks as lush as ever. It can’t fail to lift my spirits, however depressed I am when I turn over a price tag.