A wonderful stop while wandering through Madrid on a Sunday was the Caixa Forum, not far from either the Prado or the Reine Sofia museum. The Forum is a museum and a cultural centre, which holds contemporary and retrospective exhibitions. The building repurposes an old electrical station. The oxidised iron roof sitting atop the old brick walls of the electrical station give the whole a very contemporary look which is, nevertheless, in keeping with its surroundings. But the star of the show is the vertical garden next to it.
It was in flower when we walked up to it, a week and a half before midsummer’s day. The stunning garden has been designed by one of the modern innovators of this form: Patrick Blanc. It is such a beautiful idea that it takes you some time to figure out that there is a deep problem with vertical gardens, requiring much ingenuity to solve.
A garden turned on its side would tumble down due to gravity: the soil would slide down, and water would wash out whatever little remains. One solution is to use many little pots stacked one above another to build a larger version of a balcony garden. A different solution is used by Patrick Blanc. He prefers to staple synthetic felt on to a plastic plate mounted over the wall. Plants root themselves into the felt. The roots then wick up a nutrient solution that is dripped on to the felt.
There is a lot of interest now in vertical gardens, and new methods are being tried out. As you can see, it looks even more interesting than an ivy-covered wall.