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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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
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?