During my time as a student at Purdue University, I took the opportunity to do a study abroad in Hannover, Germany. For my final project, I gave a presentation on Fassadenbegrünung or façade greening. At first this seemed like a foreign idea to me, but as I learned, I quickly realized that it was more common than I thought.
To break it down, façade is a word referring to the outer part or the wall of a building and greening is in reference to growing plants and adding a green element to an area. Together, façade greening is the practice of growing plants on the exterior of buildings. It really is a simple concept and is done for multiple reasons. Most commonly, it adds character or enhances an artistic element of a building.
Ways to add façade greening:
Simple trellises growing a climbing rose or a clematis vine in front of a wall can be considered façade greening.
There are several vines such as English ivy or Boston ivy that grow and cling directly to the wall on their own without any additional support. This can be a great look, but keep in mind that it also requires proper care for it to not become invasive or unsightly.
Espaliers are tightly clipped plants traditionally a part of a formal garden that provide a wonderful artistic feature to a wall.
Even window boxes or planters built into a building with cascading plants can soften the exterior façade of the building.
Aside from the artistic factor for growing plants on buildings, plants have amazing abilities to protect against the weather. They provide insulation against wind, for example, but more importantly the sun. With the growing trend for environmentally friendly buildings, you are seeing plants used more and more to aid with this. If ivy is used against a wall facing the full sun, the ivy can actually absorb the hot sun and cast a shadow on the building below, enabling the wall of the building to be shaded from the harsh rays of the afternoon sun. This can help to lower the cooling costs of the buildings in the heat of the summer.
Plants also can be used to create a wall of green. Having a hedge of plants provides a vertical screen. Climbing vines using a support such as a fence to grow on also can create a vertical wall of green.
Even though they can add a wonderful aesthetic to a space, there are a few negative aspects to growing plants on buildings; most issues can be handled with proper planning and management. There are several plants that can become invasive or actually damage the material that you are trying to grow them on. It is important to know what you are dealing with before you begin. It can be quite a labor of love to properly maintain a vertical garden. If not properly managed, they can cause problems to the buildings, but also can quickly become overgrown.