Tuesday, January 4, 2011


What about vertical gardens on some of the giant buildings in my hometown, New York City? We've got Central Park and Washington Square Park, but our streets, except in midsummer, are shabby gray.

The only green I see in April is on skinny NYC trees struggling to live in 4 x 4 beds of dirt, surrounded by low iron fences. They keep city dogs from away from the weeds that are fighting for life in each tree's 4 x 4 garden.

In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Longwood Gardens captured the title of North America's largest living wall with a vertical garden measuring 3,590 sq. ft., which is 50% bigger than that of the our country's previous record holder, the PNC Bank in Pittsburgh.

Good news -- it gets wintry in Pittsburgh -- ergo, we can have vertical gardens in NYC too!

And now Longwood is dwarfed by the Inter-Continental Hotel in Santiago, Chile, which has a 17,000 sq. ft. vertical garden wall, (about the size of six tennis courts). In the photo, the wall looks like a giant green and brown quilted-blanket, but it sounds breathtaking. It would be thrilling if the Hilton Hotel did that right here in Manhattan.

My city is full of rich corporations occupying huge buildings. Why not have vertical gardens on 34th, 42nd, or 59th Street? Yes, it's expensive! Even though a living wall can reduce a building's heating and cooling costs, a living garden needs to be maintained. Designers say it can cost $100 per sq. ft.

A roof garden costs with $15 to $40 per sq. ft -- we had a green roof for awhile, but couldn't water it without attaching a hose to our kitchen sink. That meant we couldn't close our roof's door. It was inconvenient and not safe.

Watering a vertical garden is complicated -- rain doesn't fall sideways so irrigation is done by a drip-irrigation systems and electronic monitoring devices to make sure the plants don't dry out. And you'd want to use recycled water -- NYC water is expensive. Water in our building costs $25 to $50 month per adult, depending on how many showers a person takes. I'm guessing it could $20,000 to $50,000 per month for the wall of a hotel.

But, the creators of "green walls" say it isn't there for energy/cost savings -- it's marketing genius -- people notice it. Ultimately a vertical garden wall provides a faster return on the investment.

So, will it happen in your city or mine? I've seen pictures -- they have vertical gardens on museums, corporate headquarters, airports and highway overpasses in other cities, as well as in major cities in Europe.

Being a New Yorker, who sorely misses Mother Nature, I'm picturing what life would be like if giant corporations that are already here, installed vertical gardens.

<--------------My building could look like this and Fifth Avenue, that's on our corner, could look like this--------->

They also say, a vertical garden takes commitment -- maintaining it is like maintaining a pet, (a huge and very thirsty one). But a corporation could put "Water" in its advertising budget.

What I'm thinking is vertical gardens would work in NYC -- it could transform Manhattan into -- wow -- we could be a "Living Green" city.
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