Green Living

An expert’s guide to planting your own green living wall

Spruce up your outdoor space with a budget-friendly living wall with these pointers from passionate vertical gardener Leigh Nicholson

An expert’s guide to planting your own green living wall

Leigh Nicholson of Hanging Gardens, a company which specialises in creating green walls, is helping to bring greenery back into cities, workplaces and homes with her environmentally friendly vertical garden systems. These soil-based (rather than hydroponic) systems consist of removable and interchangeable felt pockets designed and made in New Zealand to suit native plants and local conditions. Leigh is one of the garden designers at the upcoming NZ Flower & Garden Show. Here she shares her passion for scaling heights with trailing plants.

Why do you love vertical gardens? I am absolutely passionate about greening up this planet for all generations. I am passionate about nature and New Zealand native plants. One of the things that all of us at Hanging Gardens love most is seeing how happy we make people when they have a beautiful new green space.


How do green walls add impact? Hanging Gardens transforms bare vertical spaces into walls of vegetation; this is of vital importance in small areas. Instead of looking at concrete, you can be connected to nature. The impact of this is enormous, not only aesthetically but for the planet and people’s health, too.

What maintenance do these gardens need? Some of our gardens have never been maintained – as a result, the look is quite wild. Some get a haircut once or twice a year, which is perfect for native plants and some exotic perennials. Indoor hanging gardens need a bit more care and regular snipping of dead growth.


Leigh’s tips for planting a hanging garden

  • Use a good-quality container mix – we recommend Kings Container Mix. It’s slightly cheaper than some other brands and it does the job well.
  • Plant something that will trail at the bottom of your Hanging Gardens pocket, and something taller at the top. Choose the right plants for the situation, such as sun-loving plants for a sunny garden.
  • If you are planting soft herbs and edibles, plant two or three to a pocket so that while you eat one plant, the others continue to grow. We don’t want any empty pockets!
  • Give the plants a good watering after planting and keep an eye on them so you know how much water they are asking for.


What to plant in a Hanging Garden

  • New Zealand natives have evolved over millions of years to grow in tiny pockets of soil on cliff faces, so there are a huge variety of native plants that feel at home in a vertical garden. These plants have relatively low nutrient requirements, but only a limited number will flower.
  • I like flowers, colour, texture and shape, so enjoy mixing a range of plants. In humid climates like Auckland’s, bromeliads are great. They work well in the shade and require very little maintenance.
  • Tomatoes and beans are ideal if you work with gravity and let the plants trail instead of climb.
  • We have listed some of our favourite plants on our website ( The general rule is: if it will grow in a container, it will grow in a vertical garden.

Words by: Fiona Ralph.

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