This summer, London was crowned as the first National Park city, because for all the concrete and tarmac, London is filled with hundreds of bird and insect species, almost nine million trees and nearly half of the urban area is either a green or blue space. Still there’s room for more, just as buildings start scraping the sky so are our gardens with the rise of vertical gardens. Living walls: take up less space, use less soil, help to regulate the building’s temperatures, attract wildlife and look great too. Here are 10 of the best you can see in our green capital.
Having installed over 140 vertical gardens, award-winning French artist, Patrick Blanc knows a thing or two about living walls and how to get plants to survive with very little soil. The Athenaeum was the site of his first UK installation, now in its tenth year, the garden starts on the street level and reaches up to the tenth floor. Made up of native and exotic plants, it’s a subtle tie between Green Park and the streets of Mayfair.
Where: 116 Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 7BJ, United Kingdom
Nearest station: Hyde Park Corner (0.4 miles)
Spanning 350 sq m, weighing 10 tonnes and home to 10,000 herbaceous plants that will grow up to a metre in length the living wall at The Rubens at the Palace is nothing if not impressive. Not only does the wall help to clean the surrounding air but many of the 22 species of plants are designed to attract pollinators such as bees, butterflies and birds, especially the buttercups, two crocus species and strawberries. Unlike other living walls in the capital, The Ruben at the Palace has the lowest percentage of evergreens, instead the plants are chosen, based on seasonal colours. And to top it all off, the wall helps to maintain the temperature of the building. Now if all buildings could follow suit.
Where: 39 Buckingham Palace Road, Victoria, SW1W 0PS
Nearest station: London Victoria (0.2 miles)
Whilst we’re all familiar with the plants inside the Sky Garden, 20 Fenchurch Street aka the Walkie Talkie building wins the award for the largest living wall in London. Taking up an impressive 700 sq m the wall can be found on an annex service building near the south entrance. Hosting 52,000 plants, the wall not only provides bursts of colour but has also helped the building achieve its sustainability goals.
Where: Sky Garden, 20 Fenchurch Street, London EC3M 8AF, UK
Nearest station: Monument (0.2 miles)
Viacom International Media Networks
When it comes to making a statement with your office, MTV has the right idea, their Camden office features a bold living wall which wraps round the south and west sides of the building. Among the 18,000 plants that fill the wall are many species that are proven to help reduce air pollution. So not only does it look great, it’s also helping us tackle those pollution levels.
Where: 17-29 Hawley Cres, Camden Town, NW1 8TT
Just below Bishop’s Bridge, at the entrance of Sheldon Square you’ll find Paddington Central’s living wall. The curved living wall stretches 82 sq m and holds over 6000 hardy plants which were chosen to withstand the windy conditions and partial sun that fills the area – think of it more as a vertical mini forest.
Where: 11 Sheldon Square, Paddington Cenrtal, W2 6DQ
Originally designed to provide a green facade over some of the hotel’s less desirable aesthetics, the two living walls that now cover the Garden House Wing suite at the Rosewood London, not only provide the tranquility of a garden, but also no doubts help the environment. Whilst it may only be made up of five species of plants, the wall still provides plenty of colour from deep greens to bright yellows.
Where: 252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN
Joining the green courts and the green (albeit neon) tennis balls is a new living wall covering the sides of the No 1 Court. Framing the big screen on Henman Hill, the wall covers 245 sq m and has been inspired by the movement of wave pattern which is similar to that of a tennis ball being hit. Using 15 different species and over 14,300 plants, the wall will bloom with purple, white, green and mauve flowers throughout the year to represent the different colours associated with Wimbledon.
Not only is the additional greenery bringing an added sense of calm and tranquility to the grounds, it’s also been providing birds with a place to nest (a family of goldfinches saw some prime real estate and snapped up it less than a week after it went on the market) and more importantly has been attracting bees.
Where: The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Church Road, Wimbledon, SW19 5AE
Covent Garden, believe it or not, was once a garden (the clue’s in the name) so it’s only fitting that the area is home to some greenery still. Alongside the 100 flower crates and barrows around the Piazza, is a living wall on Regal House, opposite the tube station which will bring some flora and hopefully fauna back to the former garden. 8000 plants spanning 21 varieties are watered by a drip irrigation system that uses 80% rainwater pretty nifty. What was also nifty was how the plants were planted – by abseiling gardeners.
Where: 15 James Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8BU
Elephant & Castle
The tube itself may be pretty polluted but at least steps are being made to clean up the air over ground the Underground in the form of living walls. Elephant & Castle station gained a living wall in 2016, it features bold circular patterns that emulate the building’s architecture, attracts the birds and the bees and generally makes the building look even more impressive.
Where: London Road, Elephant and Castle, SE1 6LW
Airports admittedly not one of the most eco-friendly places but at least Gate 25 at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 is working towards minimising its air pollution with its interior living wall. Made up of seven free standing panels the wall features 1680 plants including the English native ivy and peace lily both of which are thought to absorb air particles and turn them into food. The wall also creates a more calming atmosphere, ideal for nervous flyers and stressed out passengers.
Where: Heathrow Airport, Terminal 3, Gate 25, Longford TW6