Vertical Gardening: Low Maintenance, High Impact

We’re by no means home decorating pros, nor would you find our work on HGTV. But every once in a while, we complete a project in the house that despite its low budget, ends up having an outsized impact. We shared our cheap fix for ugly fluorescent lighting a few months ago, and today we want to share our most recent home improvement – our take on vertical gardening.

 

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Gardenias are so gorgeous, but impossible to grow in our front yard!

Landscaping in our front yard has been a thorn in our side since buying our house nearly 4 years ago. “Normal” landscaping in our area looks nice, but isn’t designed to be low cost, or low maintenance. A typical household in our neighborhood pays about $150+ in water for landscaping every month, and pays a yard service another $100+ to mow the lawn and keep the bushes trimmed lest they grow out of control.

We’ve avoided spending that $250/month. And that’s great. But we also don’t want to spend a ton of time or energy on maintaining the landscaping ourselves, either. We’ve gone through a couple of designs with out landscaping, seeking out a combination of:

  • low water needs (our dry season lasts about 6 months and is quite dry and city water is NOT cheap!)
  • low sunlight needs (the front yard of our house is bathed in shade from our 50ft live oak, which we lovingly call The Tree)
  • colorful and floral scented (or at least 1 of these)

 

Traditional Doesn’t Work With Our Requirements

We tried traditional hedges and flowering bushes like gardenias (which I love), but they never took. In fact, this is what we put in a few years ago. It’s a tiny gardenia bush with some verigated liriope around it.

It should have taken off and bloomed into a beautiful bush with some of the most fragrant flowers you’ve ever smelled. But it didn’t. It never died… it just never really thrived, either. This (below) is what it’s been like for longer than I care to admit. The liriope grew in well, but the gardenias… well, they didn’t. The stick in the middle with a few leaves is our piddling gardenia. Sad, right?  We did manage to get a single sick looking gardenia blossom on it this year.

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So I’ve been mulling over what we could put in this space for the past year or so and finally assembled my solution.

 

My New Vertical Garden

With The Tree such a huge presence in our front yard, what we really needed was some color and a little bit of dimension to add to the front of our very flat house. I wanted to incorporate many of the colorful flowers (orchids, bromeliads, etc) and ferns and succulents that grow so well here in pots, and tend not to require a ton of regular watering. Over the last month or so, I’ve been been assembling the vision that’s been growing in my head for the last year. Here’s what I came up with.

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Our colorful vertical garden!

Close-ups of some of the beautiful plants in the pots can be found at the bottom of the post.

It’s not 100% complete, but you can get the idea. I still need to remove the gardenias that have been struggling (we’re going to try and replant them elsewhere to see if more sunlight helps), and the surrounding areas will eventually be filled with more non-flowering bromeliads and perhaps even some dwarf pineapple since I find them absolutely adorable.

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Bromeliad and Dwarf (aka Pink) Pineapple. So cute!

Already the neighbors have commented on how they love the quirky new look and how much it suits our house. Yay! I wish we had done this ages ago, especially seeing as it was…

 

Not That Hard Or Expensive

I did end up spending a more than I originally intended on the vertical garden, but that’s only because it looked so good that I ended up tripling the amount of space I allocated to it. (I was originally only going to do 1 trellis with pots, but ended up doing 3 in total. Two are pictured above.)

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Drilled two holes in the back of each pot for S-hooks.

Here’s what it cost:

  • Each section of trellis – $20 at Home Depot, painted with exterior trim paint leftover from when we replaced the siding
  • Tiny Tin Pots – $1 each at the dollar store (spray painting large cans or metal planters is also great, and we’ll do more of that as these little pots eventually rust out and need to be replaced)
  • Assorted plants to fill pots ~$1.50/plant on average. Bulk succulents and annuals were pretty cheap, but I splurged on a few items like an orchid, and several bromeliads. These are pricier, but are native to the area, so are perfect maintenance-wise and should live for quite some time.
  • Stainless steel S-Hooks to hang the pots from the trellis ~$1 per pair. Each little pot uses 2 hooks to attach it to the trellis. (Apparently the zinc ones will rust in a year or so of outdoor use, so spring for the stainless steel ones.)

Altogether, since each section holds about 15 plants, it costs ~ $72.50 per section.

 

Low Maintenance

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Recycled 12oz soda bottle with watering spike for easy watering.

The vertical garden here isn’t going to be completely maintenance free. The annuals will occasionally need to be replaced, and as they do, I hope to replace them with various herbs (so that a portion of the garden is edible!) as well as more orchids as I feel more confident in my ability to care for them without killing them.

For watering, I’ve used these watering spikes that use recycled plastic soda bottles in my household planters for years. I bought an extra set, as well as some adorable 12 ounce plastic soda bottles that will shoot a nice amount of water into the soil of each pot so it won’t get lost to evaporation. So far, I need to move the water bottles around every few days for some of the plants that have higher water needs like the annuals. The other plants need about 1 bottle per week when there’s not any rain.

In the event of a tropical storm or hurricane, we’ll simply pull all of the pots off of the trellis and shelve them in the garage until the winds pass. The S-hooks keep them on there pretty darned well, but I’d hate for them to turn into projectiles in wind gusts of 50mph or even higher.

 

All in all, I’m really pleased with how our vertical garden has turned out as it’s had a really dramatic effect on brightening our house with a relatively small investment. And you have no idea how much joy it brings me to come home to a bright and colorful little home.

 

Close-Ups of The Vertical Garden

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What do you think? =) What kind of landscaping do you have around your home? Is it meeting your needs in terms of cost and visual and emotional impact?

 

34 comments to Vertical Gardening: Low Maintenance, High Impact

  • beautiful pics! my gardening style so far has been “let whatever is already growing there and try to make it look a little nice with pruning” because all the stuff I have planted from seed is having a very hard time growing :(. We pump water from the lake so thankfully to not have to worry about water costs.
    Pauline recently posted..Pauline’s jacket and life prioritiesMy Profile

    • We tried the “leave what’s there” approach for the first year or so, but it was pretty bad since the plants weren’t designed for low maintenance or low water. They had been neglected before we moved in, and weren’t getting any better with the amount of care or expense we were willing to spend on them.

      Pumping water from the lake would definitely put a different spin on the expense, though our lake is significantly smaller than yours, so it might have an impact on the lake if we pumped out of it. =)

  • I love it! That looks really nice and like it would be extremely low maintenance. I’m impressed!
    Holy@ClubThrifty recently posted..Why I Quit My Job: A Club Thrifty ConfessionalMy Profile

  • Nice job, Mrs Pop. Thats a beautiful diy project that looks professional. My back porch is filled with plants that are a little less colorful. We’ve got basil, resberries, green peppers, etc… but I love your succulents! I had no idea mini pineapple existed.
    CashRebel recently posted..The Great Minivan DebateMy Profile

    • Basil and raspberries sound wonderful, but you can keep the green peppers. =).

      Dwarf pineapple are absolutely adorable. They’re about 3″ long and are bight pink sticking out of pink and green thin leafy plants. I’ve never tried, but I’ve been told they’re edible, too!

  • Stan

    Have you thought of collecting rain water to save on the costs of using city water? I do this for my vegetable garden in the summer not to save money (I live out in the sticks and have my own well)but because there is no sense in wasting it. Plus I’m almost positive that the nitrogen contained in rain is good for the plants.

    • When we first moved into our house we talked about converting the unused septic tank under our yard into a cistern for just that. At the time the $3K that we were told it would cost wasn’t in the budget for us, but you’ve piqued my curiosity about this option again. I’ll have to search around and see if DIY methods are a bit cheaper now.

      • Stan

        Wow, yah $3k is crazy. If you have gutters on your house the job is already halfway done. We built a platform out of treated 2×4’s that holds a horse trough (I think that’s what it’s called or you can just use a simple rain barrel)and run the gutter drain into that. Then from there we have a garden hose attached to the trough. All gravity fed and clean water as long as you have the trough covered and a filter somewhere in the system.

  • I love the colorful pots and plants, especially the orchid! I don’t have a green thumb at all, so my bf is in charge of all plants (mostly cacti) around the house.
    anna recently posted..Collaborative and Guest Posts DayMy Profile

    • Thanks, Anna! There is one little cactus in the bunch, a cute one! But I wanted to stay away from too many thorny plants =)

  • These are freaking adorable! This is how I’m going to go about it next year for sure.
    femmefrugality recently posted..Another Reason to Encourage Your Daughters Towards the Maths and SciencesMy Profile

  • OMG gorgeous! GORGEOUS! Ugh, you are inspiring me… 😉
    Emily @ evolvingPF recently posted..Realities of Account OwnershipMy Profile

  • SLCCOM

    Why are you paying $.50 per “S” hook? That is absurd! But the place looks great. Very creative!

    • That was the cheapest we found stainless steel ones locally. Zinc would have been cheaper, but I wanted to avoid rust. If you know where to get 1.5″ stainless steel s-hooks for less, let me know! I might try something similar on our back patio someday =)

  • Great idea and it looks really nice. I’m a huge fan of HGTV as well. I consider our condo our ‘practice house’, so we’ve done quite a few little facelift type upgrades like this. I’ve never seen a vertical garden before. Well done!
    Mr. Bonner recently posted..Race medal magnetsMy Profile

  • It looks really good…so colorful! I don’t blame you for going as low maintenance as possible either. I rent so I don’t have much of a choice, but I have a few cactuses and I planted a garden in a garden box that already existed when I moved in here. I live in a triplex where we share the yard and my neighbor built an awesome deck type thing with furniture which really adds to the place. I can’t believe someone would spend money on doing that for a rental, but hey I’m all for someone else doing it!
    Budget and the Beach recently posted..Do I buy a new car?My Profile

    • So nice that you get to take advantage of your neighbor’s deck! Im jealous of your garden bed. I’d love to put in raised bed on the side of the house someday, too!

  • I love your vertical garden – all those colors look gorgeous. I especially like the purple/pinks. If you want to have a (horizontal?) garden as well later, you can think about succulents. They are really good for drier climates and very easy to take care of. Don’t need much water, and looks awesome.
    Well Heeled Blog recently posted..How Much Would You Pay For a Scoop of Ice Cream?My Profile

    • Thanks! The bromeliads and pineapple that I want to add around the base of the vertical garden are I think loosely related to succulents because they have special pockets where they store water from when it rains. So they’re great for low water use!

  • SLCCOM

    Yarrow is great for semi-arid climates as well. I live in Southern Colorado, and hollyhock do well as well. The tri-colored yarrow is positively a weed! I started with two plants, and must have 15 by now. They seed all year long.

    Go to your local Extension Office and find out what grows well where you live.

    • I’ll have to keep those in mind. My MIL gets into town next weekend, and in hoping she’ll road trip with me out to a local non-profit nursery that focuses on native tropical plants to fill in the rest of the bed.
      I should reach out to our extension office, it’s just so hard since they are about an hour away from where we live and aren’t open on weekends or national holidays. I’m hoping the non profit nursery will be a great resource for more knowledge.

  • LOVE this, Mrs. PoP! It’s beautiful! We were lucky to move into a place with a ton of fairly maintenance free perennials, which falls right in line with my short attention span. :-)
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted..The Elusive Pot of GoldMy Profile

  • This is lovely! I would definitely look forward to coming home to such a beautiful garden like this. We rent an apartment at the moment, so we have no room to garden. But it’s one of the things I’m looking forward to once we have a place of our own. Thanks for sharing!
    JW_Umbrella Treasury recently posted..My Week as a Stay-At-Home WifeMy Profile

  • Vertical gardening seems like a good idea. I haven’t tried this one. And your colorful pots along with the flowers look so beautiful.

  • Looks fabulous! So much color! :-) I’ll be adding some rose bushes to our yard soon. :-)
    Crystal recently posted..Weight Watchers Update – 1 Month Into Real Attempt #2My Profile

  • I love this idea since I also live in FL but luckily we live in the basin of a spring where it isn’t hard to keep a lawn. One thought since you already mentioned Dollar Tree, they also sell mini aqua globes for $1 each which are decorative and provide water.
    Ney @ ShopaholicSavers.com recently posted..Victoria Secret Fans Check You Mailbox! Free Hiphugger Panty Coupon!My Profile

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