King of vertical gardens

Patrick's private wall - aquarium is under the floor (glass) and is 6x8 meters.

Here’s a great thing to share with you, a video of  Patrick Blanc giving a presentation on vertical gardens at the California Academy of Science.  The video is an hour and a half long and is broken into parts.  I didn’t have any trouble with buffering, so give it a try.  He talks about all his walls, what was good, what was bad and includes maintenance, inspiration, plants he used, insect control, maintenance . . . it’s well worth watching at least once if not more.

New ferns

Gutter fern

Two more different new ferns

The new ferns seem to be doing okay.  I have a couple that are more vigorous, but they are different varieties so the differences in growth are easily explained.

The gutter fern is a delicate thing when compared to the stems of the Hawaiian begonia (Ricinifolia Immense).  The stems of that particular begonia grow to be bigger around than my thumb. The other two ferns aren’t as big as my original wood fern, but they’ve just gotten started.

Orchid cactus – new growth

Increased growth on heliocereus

It’s been almost four weeks since I changed the watering frequency for the wall. The difference is really starting to show.

The heliocereus is putting shoots out of its shoots. It’s acting like it’s spring!

The peperomia is finally producing new growth both at the base and at one of the nodes on one of the stalks.

And finally, the wood fern shows the most dramatic difference. The part of the frond that had grown prior to the water frequency change looks really stunted. The part that grew after the change looks very different.

Peperomia is finally showing some life.
Change in a single frond shows the biggest impact.

Gutter versus wall

Begonia and philodendron flourishing in the gutter

I’ve got a lot of blank space in the wall right now.  I tore out all the waffle plants.  I just didn’t like them.  It takes a lot for me to dump a plant, so that gives you an idea how much I didn’t care for this particular variety.

I didn’t tear out the waffle plants until I had a plan for replacement.  I have some rex begonias coming as soon as the weather gets just a bit better.  It’s pointless to spend the money and then have them die in shipping because the weather sucks.  I can be patient.

I’ve got a bunch of stuff in the gutter in preparation LouAnn’s wall.  It’s been an excellent teaching moment.  If you’ve been following the wall since its inception, you’ll know I had my timing set to water running through the wall at set intervals.   From watching plants in the gutter, its become apparent the watering periods were too infrequent.  As a result, I’ve changed the timing.  The pump pushing water to the wall is now on for 15 minutes and off for 1½ hours.  Terry has noticed we are now replenishing the aquarium with twice the volume of water.  This may be too frequent.  I don’t know how long I’ll have to watch the wall to determine if the timing is right.

Rex begonias

I got an email from Keith at Rex Begonias Ltd that he was ready to ship my begonias.  I had to put him off.  We still had snow on the ground.  We’re going to coordinate so he can ship when he has good weather to arrive when ours is reasonable as well.  It’s hard to be patient.  I made the order last October and now that he’s ready to ship, I want them NOW.  I’m restraining myself.  NOW and alive and healthy aren’t necessarily compatible given our still wintry weather.

New growth update

New Wood Fern frond
New fern growth
Another fern with different shaped fronds
The above fern with the base showing additional growth
Vine fastened on with runner roots showing new off-shoots
Lovely spatulated ends on the heleocerius

Fern in the gutter

Check all the new growth!

The wood fern frond is still small in comparison to the dirt-rooted version but I really chopped the heck out of the root structure to get the pieces into the wall.  I expect the robust growth to take a while as the root structure reestablishes itself.

Beside the planting of the wood fern is one of the new ferns I got from eBay.  I won’t know what the fronds will really look like until all the frondlets uncurl.

Up near the top of the wall is another new fern and the fern fronds have a completely different look with the ends of the fronds looking almost purple/black.

At the base of that frond the plant shows new growth that looks different from the frond.  This will be an interesting one to watch.

The bi-colored vine at the bottom of the wall has rootlets growing off the vine into the wall.  It’s showing three or four new shoots.

The heleocerius has got a lot of really good growth with the longer bits showing lovely spatulated ends.

The fern in the far corner of the gutter is really getting stretchy.  I’m looking forward to seeing what it looks like once the fronds unfurl.

Gutter avocados

A split and company

I’m trying to determine if the warmth of the water and the flood and drain have a big influence on how fast an avocado seed will sprout.  I’ve actually got three seeds in the wall gutter now.  We’ll see how it goes.  The split in the original seed is growing larger each day.  I don’t want to pull it up for fear of damaging the root.

I really need a deeper/bigger gutter.

Babies and seeds

Baby peppered corydoris catfish

Gutter avocado

Well, we’ve got a new baby.  Our Peppered Corydoris catfish have a youngun.  I noticed it this morning.  It’s about an inch long, so it’s been around a while.  I don’t pay too much attention to the aquarium.  The sun was out early and bright and there that little bugger was . . .

As to the attached plant wall, I’m in holding mode until my Rex Begonias arrive.  I dabble.  the current dabble is a gutter avocado.

I eat a lot of avocado.  I have already given away a 5′ tall many limbed avocado tree.  Sometimes I just can’t help myself . . . this was one of those “what if” moments.  I just had to set the seed in the gutter to see what happens.  I checked it this morning and it looks like it’s starting to split!

I’ll give this one away as well once it’s established.  I don’t have room for an avocado tree.

Ferns and orchid cactus

Wood ferns
Long frond with a second starting
One in the gutter (bottom right corner) and one in the wall, both showing new growth
Fronds with legs! <grin>
Nubs of growth

Orchid cacti

I got a single lot of mystery ferns on ebay. I put as many in the wall as I could but still had some bigger starts left over that I couldn’t find a spot for.  I passed those on to LouAnn.  They might prove to be interesting!

My wood fern is doing fine.  Of the four starts I put in the wall, all are growing.  One has grown a normal hairy foot with two fronds running off through the greenery.  The little one on the left is the one doing most poorly.  It puts out little puny fronds that never seem to mature.

I pulled one wood fern start and replanted it in another part of the wall.  I thought it was dead, but once I pulled it I realized the new growth was down between the backing and the felt.

I’ve got at least two new ferns that are in the gutter.  One I can see easily and it’s got a frond sticking up from the foot.

One of the ferns near the top of the wall has produced a long frond with arms sticking out from it.  That one should be interesting.

I’ve got a fern with a thick stalk that’s putting out multiple blunt protrusions.  That, too, should be interesting.

And finally, I bought a lot of orchid cactus cuttings.  They came all nicely hardened off and I was able to put them directly into the wall.  None of them is showing growth.  We’ll see how they do.

Small update

Creeping Jenny on steroids
Creeping Jenny on steroids

Here’s a glimpse of the Creeping Jenny I put in the wall last fall.  The leaves on the bottom left are the leaves that existed when I inserted the plant in the wall.  The two leaves in yellow circles are the new leaves.  Look at the difference in size!

Blooming begonia

One of the begonias in the gutter is blooming.  The camera’s flash bleaches out the color, so you can’t tell they’re very pale pink.

Plant wall update

Selective picture taking

It’s time for a plant wall update.  Now before you go “oh! Wow!”, note that this picture is of only the lushest part of the wall, not the entire wall.  And the ficus is growing in a pot next to the wall, not in the wall.  Hmm.  I wonder if a ficus would grow in the wall . . .

Let’s take a look at the whole thing.  It’s looking good, but it isn’t overall as lush as the more focused image.  One of the problems with shooting with flash is the lighting up of the background felt.  It isn’t that obvious in person.

The big picture

I’ve done some pretty severe trimming of a begonia and a philodendron in the upper right to expose the Cape Primrose (just over halfway down on the left) so it has a chance to fully recover from the aphid infestation.  Of all the plants, I think it was the hardest hit.

There’s a lot going on in the wall right now.  One of the begonias is blooming, new growth is everywhere (except the hoja and the peperomia) and the plans are overall happy and healthy.

Blooming begonia, lengthy heliocerius, happy wandering Jew.

I really like having plants in the gutter.  I want to pull this relatively small gutter and put on a larger one.

Some of the plants in the wall I’m really blah about.  I’ve got a succulent in there that does not inspire me.  The peperomia’s got to go.  The waffle plants are leaving me uninspired.  I love the viney things, the coleus, rain forest cactus and ivy.  I love the begonias.  I think I’m going to start pulling things out of the wall I don’t care for and add more of the things I like.  I’d love to add a couple rex begonias and more varieties of philodendron.  If I could find a monstera cutting I’d add that, though I know it would be a disaster.  The leaves are almost 2′ long.

The small/grow close to the wall plants have mostly died out due to lack of light.  I need to get in a do a thorough cleaning, getting rid of dead growth.  I’ll do that when I start pulling out and chucking plants in prep for adding new ones to the wall.  The top and left side of the wall is getting inadequate light.  I can’t do anything about it right now, but I’m aware of the problem and will get it resolved eventually.

Plant wall

A happy jumble of green

This is the left side of the plant wall.  The Ricinifolia Immense is really happy, as is the dumb cane and rain forest cacti.  Everything seems happy.

I’ve cleared out my garden window,  giving away the two hoja and the desert cactus.  I also gave away a 5 foot tall avocado tree in a 12″ pot, but I still have five pots to water.  Two will be torn apart to go in LouAnn’s wall.  Two are very large pots, one a yucca, the other a combo palm and ficus (visible to the left of the plant wall).  I’m hoping I can back off to watering once a week, but probably not.  I still have one small pot of crown of thorns that will require twice weekly watering to continue to bloom and do well.  We’ll see how it does.  The big ones I don’t worry about as much.

Plant wall status

New vine
Grapefruit seedling in the gutter

Happy Ricinifolia Immense

LouAnn has a vine in her yard I just love.  I don’t know what it is, I just know it reseeds itself readily.  It’s got a lovely leaf shape, a pretty flower and is a nice compliment to my wall.  I stuck it in the hole left by the expired orchid.  If you look at the Cape Primrose leaf in the background in the center of the image, you’ll see a mess of seeds dropped from one of the seed pods.  At this rate I should have a mess of these in the gutter by this time next year.

This summer I had a couple of grapefruit that had sprouting seeds.  I dropped them in the hydroton in the gutter.  Of the three or four seeds I dropped there, two have produced plants.  I don’t know what they’re going to do, but they’ll be fun to watch.

The Hawaiian begonia is happy in its new space.  Both begonia transplants are growing vigorously.

Kissing aphids goodbye

I’m still battling aphids in the plant wall, but I am making headway.  Instead of seeing a dozen, I’m seeing an occasional very lethargic speck of green with legs.

Jill at JMH Water Gardens gave me a recipe for a fish safe aphid spray that seems to be working really well.  The fish are alive and the aphids aren’t.  I see that as being the measure of success.  Oh, did I mention it’s cheap to make out of common stuff?  Yeah, that too.  Blend oil into a beaten egg white, store in the fridge.

Jill’s recipe says 1 cup of oil to 1 tbsp of egg white.  I confess to not being that precise.  Store in the fridge, mix a bit with water in a spray bottle and spray.  I did say I wasn’t that precise, didn’t I?  Her instructions say 2½ tsp of the egg/oil mix to 1 cup of water.  I don’t need that much at a time so I mix a little over a teaspoon to ½ cup of water.  Spray as needed.  It doesn’t keep so dump what you don’t use right away and mix new each time you need it.

Salad, hydroton and trimming

I’ve gotten four meals of lettuce out of my growbed so far.  I don’t have a lot of lettuce in the bed . . . I should have a lot more.  I’m supplementing with store bought lettuce.

I found a place to get hydroton in Olympia.  It was max expensive, $40 a bag when the going rate is closer to $28.  I bought two bags.  That should be enough to fill both growbeds with a bit left over.

I pulled the gravel out of the wall gutter and replaced it with hydroton.  I also trimmed the heck out of a bunch of plants in the grow wall to allow some slower growing things a little bit of daylight.  I put some of the trimmings in the gutter along with a couple of sprouting grapefruit seeds.

The orchid in the wall is not doing well.  I don’t know if it will recover or not.  Time will tell.  I should have moved it ages ago.

I long ago faced my addiction to plants and decided it was not a bad thing.

Reconfiguring the plant wall

Wall in profile with ricinifolia Immense on display.

I was forced to shuffle plants around in the plant wall.  Terry couldn’t feed his fish without having to fight through the ricinifolia Immense, and the plant was happily increasing in size.  The largest leaf is over 18″ long on a 2′ long stalk.  As the leaves matured the situation was going to get much worse, so decisions had to be made.

To reconfigure the wall I pulled a areca palm on the left side of the wall and increased the opening and installed one of the begonias.  Then I cut another opening in a blank spot and installed the other, removing the majority of the large leaves at the base of the plants.

Orchid is the stick at the very right of the wall half-way up, the Immense begonia is on the left and the new philodendron is center right.

I pulled the orchid and put it in a new spot against the right side of the wall next to the window and put a split leaf philodendron in the spot where the largest begonia was removed.  This fills in the spot and gets the orchid out to where it’s not so crowded.

I was amazed when I pulled the ricinifolia Immense how little root it had added since being installed in the wall.  It had not much more root than when I put it in the wall, but the leaves were getting . . . well . . . IMMENSE.

Now Wadly can get to his tank to feed his fish without  having to do it by braille.

Plant wall snapshot

Current state of the wall

With the surrounding plants pulled away to sweep and clean, it’s time to take a picture.  Yes, the Hawaiian begonia really is that big.  The leaf showing fully to the camera is 17″ long.  The stem it is on is 23″ long.  The largest leaf is over 18″ long.  It is immense.  Click the picture for more detail.

Everything is filling in nicely.  I’ll use this time to put one more plant in the wall and clean up dead foliage.

When the new house is up (years in the future) I’ll have a plant wall whose system spans two rooms.  I’ll put the aquarium in the tv room where it can shine.  The plant wall will be on the other side of the wall in the living room where it can get lots of natural light and act as an art piece on the wall.

Ricinifolia Immense

Ricinifolia 'Immense'

It turns out the big begonia in my wall is Ricinifolia Immense, a rhizomatous variety.

I got a start for my ricinifolia Immense from a friend over 20 years ago.  I’ve propagated it, given friends starts, passed my plant on to someone else and just lately got a start back.  This plant LOVES being in the plant wall.  The growth is more lush than when it was potted.  The leaves are bigger, the stalks are longer.  The largest leaf on this new start is 17″ long and over 13″ wide.  The stem is a full 2 feet long.  This new start hasn’t bloomed yet.  I don’t expect to see a bloom stalk until this fall.

And I’ll be really glad when the weak chlorotic leaves age and fall off . . .

Fish aren’t everything

Chlorotic leaves

It’s important to note the plants in the wall aren’t going to get everything they need from the fish.  From this I’m going to extrapolate that the fish aren’t getting everything they need from the fish food.

If you look at the two leaves in the picture, you’ll see one is chlorotic (showing insufficient chlorophyll from deficiencies in nutrition aka splotchy color).  The leaf on the right, the chlorotic one, is the older leaf.  The leaf on the left is healthy with a much more even distribution of chlorophyll.  The leaf on the left is new, appearing after I sprayed the wall with worm casting tea.

So I extrapolate . . . if the plants are getting incomplete nutrition from the fish, the fish are getting incomplete nutrition from the food they are eating.

The understory

Tangled and lush understory

As the plants in the wall grow and mature, the understory becomes denser.  In daylight (this picture was taken in the dark using just the flash for illumination) there are small sections of the felt visible at the very top and bottom of the wall.  In the body of the wall you have to dig in behind the protruding leaves to see any of the structural felt.

In the center of the picture is a dieffenbachia leaf that has grown in size to be much larger than anything the parent plant produced.

I love the colors and textures in the wall.

Shiny hoya

Shiny leaves but no blossoms

I have a piece of hoya in the wall and the leaves look beautiful, shiny and healthy, but it hasn’t produced new growth nor has it blossomed.  The parent plant has some new growth and also hasn’t blossomed.

I bought this plant for the variegated leaf not knowing what kind of blossom it would have.  It’s disheartening to think I may never know . . .

The hairs have it

Hairy begonia stems

As a Hawaiian begonia stem matures, it develops hairs along the stem.  The hairs are an indicator of plant health and established root structure.  Take a minute to click on the image to see the hairs in all their glory.

The spots on some of the leaves are left-overs from the worm casting tea.

Above the hairy stem is the new orchid blossom shoot.  Look how much it’s grown.

This picture was taken at night with all the lights off.  I used a flashlight to line up the camera.  The camera’s flash does a great job of lighting up the wall’s landscape.

Worm casting tea

One of the really good organic solutions for six legged pests is worm casting tea.  I make a really small amount, but if you need to treat a bigger area, it’s easy to make more.  Thanks to Ray on the Barrelponics Yahoo group for the instruction.

You’ll need a small airstone and a air pump.  My aquarium air pump has two ports so I plug into the spare for making worm casting tea.

I’m giving the instructions for a quart, as that’s the amount I can make and use up before it’s not any good any more.  It needs to be used within (if memory serves) a couple days.

For a quart, use filtered water, add 1.25 ounces of worm castings, drop the airstone in the bottom and let it bubble away for 12-24 hours.

Strain it and spray it where you need it taking care to get the under side of the leaves as well as the stems and tops.

Here’s the bonus bit.  It’s perfectly safe for plant walls and aquaponic systems.  Can’t beat that!