Paint the town green: Part II

I wrote last week about the importance of urban greening, and how individuals taking charge of their green space can make a real difference to our environment (cue pun about a “grass roots” movement”, ho ho). Enough about the theory, though – today I want to talk about the practical side of how best to go about this, with maximum effect.

I find it helpful to look to the professionals to get inspiration for private gardens. There are plenty of people in my field who are doing some really ground-breaking work with urban greening, such as Mark Laurence, who has pioneered new systems of vertical greening, used worldwide. This is a great example of the innovations that can be made to get our cities green, and can spur us all on in our own efforts.

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This greened wall, or ‘living wall’, is on the side of a London hotel. Photo by Rev Stan.

Short of setting your pansies to rock-climbing, however, there are a couple of lower-key but brilliantly useful and effective ideas for greening up your outdoor space, and doing what you can for the impact our cities make on our environment:

– Permeable paving (e.g. gravel instead of tarmac). Of course the best option is to avoid covering over your ground with stones at all – keep it green! But if you need paving, as is often the case, then make it permeable. Let plants grow up through it, round the edges of it, whatever – or if you like to keep it neat, at least being permeable, the area will still allow water to drain away through it, instead of causing problematic run off.

– Roof spaces – think on top of the box! This can be a garage or shed roof, or anything else like that. Just make sure you do it right – you don’t want the whole thing caving in on you under the weight of tonnes of soil! Focus on mat-forming (i.e. low-soil) mosses such as sedum varieties, and then jazz it up with ornamental grasses and and ferns – good hardy plants that won’t need much to keep them going strong.

These work as great insulation, so you can save on heating, as well as reducing the noise pollution coming in. Check out the RHS’ great beginners’ guide to this here.

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This is a sedum roof we installed as part of one lovely sustainable scheme we created. 

– Wall climbers – you can do some DIY vertical greening with any kind of wall climbing plants. Popular choices include ivy and virginia creeper (though make sure you’re maintaining them to prevent wall damage, which is possible in some cases), or even smaller, flowering climbers like clematis, jasmine, passion flower, honeysuckle, or wisteria. These flowering species have the added advantage of helping out pollinators, of course.

So what are you waiting for? Get your trowel out and start saving the world, one voracious geranium at a time!