Cambria Style

Grow Up

  • Written by Laura Oakes
  • June, 2012

If you’re a city dweller dreaming of a glorious garden but have just a small lot or balcony to work with, have no fear. It just requires thinking “up” instead of “out”.

Photo courtesy:

Vertical gardens are all the rage these days and their advantages are many. Not only are they a good solution for small spaces, but they are also ideal for hiding and disguising those not-so-attractive elements of home ownership we’re often stuck with, like old garages, chain link fences or garbage cans. Vertical gardens are a nice option when you’d like a little privacy from the neighbors, and they’re perfect for adding definition to patio spaces and flowerbeds. 

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The sky is the limit once you set your mind to growing up instead of out. Pergolas work well over an existing patio, bringing some architectural interest and lots of room for meandering vines or hanging baskets. On a smaller scale, arbors add definition to a yard or garden entrance, and many garden centers carry DIY arbor kits, allowing you to construct one yourself in less than a weekend. Same goes for old pallets or trellises, perfect for propping against a fence or wall, or installing in the middle of a flowerbed. If you’re really feeling creative, try making one yourself using twine and tree branches or scrap lumber from that last home improvement project!

Photo courtesy:  Shelter Magazine

There really are no rules to vertical gardening…whether you’d like to grow up or down is entirely up to you. Hanging baskets offer mounds of cascading color and don’t need a formal structure to make an impact.  Simple hooks in an eave or overhang are wonderful anchors for colorful baskets, as are portable iron rods specifically designed for basket holding.  Simple container gardening offers plenty of opportunity to go vertical as well. A tall planter in the corner of a patio with a mix of tall grasses and flowers is an eye-catching statement, as are several pots grouped together at different heights. Or, try mounting flat-sided containers to a fence or wall and staggering them for added interest.

Photo courtesy: Lowe's

Now that you’ve designed your plan, installed your structure and gathered your pots, what about the plants?  There are a few important things to consider when your garden grows vertically:

How large and heavy will your climbing plants or vines get?  Make sure you choose a structure that can support the weight.

How much maintenance will your plants require?  Will you need to prune/deadhead on a regular basis or can you just let them go?  Remember that anything in a pot will need more frequent watering.

If you’re planting vines, check to see if they climb with tendrils, or by twining or clinging.  Some varieties may need to be tied to an additional support post. 

As with any home or outdoor project, a successful vertical garden simply takes a little planning and preparation.  Check out local nurseries, other gardens in your neighborhood, or even a local arboretum for some great inspiration!  

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