Planning a vertical green wall for a Walthamstow Warner flat

I set this blog up to chart changes to my Warner back garden in Walthamstow – a small patch of shared space measuring no more than 6m x 6m. After two years of experimentation, all done on a non-existent budget, there’s still a lot of work to do (the raised veg beds have been pretty spectacular though).

But I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the potential of the vertical space in the garden recently. Thoughts have been forming about what I could grow up the walls, along the fences, and even trailing the downpipes. Making full use of this space means I have a garden twice as big.

The vertical space with the biggest potential on Warner flats is the long rear extension, which on the inside is usually home to a second bedroom, a bathroom, and a kitchen. On the outside, the red bricks of Warners are handsome and striking, especially at the front of the terraces where each one is slightly different. But the rear extension lacks the same character, with the long, uniform brick wall creating a shadowy side return, decorated inelegantly with old TV aerial wiring and a maze of guttering. Here’s what I’m working with:

Warner side return wall, ground floor. Image: walthamgrower blog

Warner side return wall, first floor. Image: walthamgrower blog


So how to tackle this space? Green walls – alternatively known as vertical gardens or living walls – seem to fit the bill perfectly. The RHS use Perini et al.’s (2011) definition to help us classify the different types of green walls:

Direct greening is a system where a self-attaching climber utilises the substrate of the façade for support and, sometimes, nutrition.

Indirect greening includes some form of engineered solution, from trellises to wires for the climbers to use; thus providing a gap of insulating air between the building and the plant.

Living wall systems are constructed with planter boxes or felt; these do not require the plants to be climbing, they often need to be irrigated and plants for intensive green roofs are frequently suitable for these systems.

I’m still exploring the options, but indirect greening seems like the best option considering my limited budget and the materials I have to use – mostly sawn up pallets and horticulture wire. I’m going to be sketching up some plans that include spaces for wildlife friendly ‘hotels’ and birdboxes, evergreen trailing ivy columns, tropical looking plants like fatsia japonica, and red leafed plants that complement the Warner architectural heritage.

And to finish off, these green walls around London have been feeding my imagination – which features do you like the most?


Suggested reading:

As always, you can read more and browse a wonderful selection of archive photos on The Ex-Warner Project Blog 

The RHS page on Green Walls has lots of advice and cites the definition from Perini, K., Ottelé, M., Haas, E. M. & Raiteri, R. (2011). Greening the building envelope, façade greening and living wall systems. Open Journal of Ecology, 01, 1-8.

The Guardian’s Sow, Grow, Repeat podcast episode on Green Roofs has some great ideas – highly recommended.

Dezeen’s coverage of architecture with green walls is a feast for the eyes


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