Friday, February 3, 2012

An Expensive Florida Living Wall's Death. Why?

Florida boasts several wonderful Whole Food stores and I enjoy shopping within, relishing the samples of exotically delicious cheeses, thin sliced blood oranges and store-made salsa.

After yesterday's visit I chose a chair on the marketplace's front patio, affording me an opportunity to sit and think about why their beautiful and very expensive Florida Living Wall trellis system and plantings had miserably failed.

Whole Foods' dead Florida Living Wall

The living wall failure was nothing new.  Ever since the store's construction and opening in 2008-2009 I had watched in fascination at the shiny stainless cabling and support brackets, hoping to see a lush, tropical wall of living, breathing vegetation established, one providing habitat for Florida's native anoles and tree frogs (themselves wonderful pest-management strategies), cleaning stormwater, fixing CO2, pumping fresh oxygen into the air, providing a much needed Sense of Place in an otherwise increasingly Urban Concrete Jungle and more.

However, despite the expensive trellising, cabling and other stainless attachement hardware, the wall supported little else but brown, dried and dead plants and vines.

Florida Living Walls must be designed with appropriate criteria to ensure survival

Such a shame because the trellising highlights the main entrance.  Customers must walk past the dead vines and plants to enter the store.  Though I am not a high-powered marketing expert I can easily recognize a sense of failure, brown and disappointment that most people would subconsciously acknowledge when walking past the dead vines and plants.

What went wrong?  Who did the install and design?  

Surely the trellis system was expensive enough and fabricated from a high quality material.

Why, after numerous attempts at plantings by staff and contractors are the living walls still dead?

Invasive Nandina is hiding the failed Florida Living Wall, Whole Foods, Jacksonville, Florida
These are all questions a good living wall designer must ask themselves long before final project specifications and ultimate installation.

Certainly the issue is not one of plants and constructed buildings being fundamentally unable to coexist.  As we read in yesterday's post 'Green Roof Sleuthing' shows us just how compatible plants and structures actually are and in fact, buildings would soon be overgrown with plants if left unattended.

Some landscape designers I've talked to scratch their heads, wondering why the plants they typically specify and use in horizontal landscapes just dont work in Living Wall or Green Roof applications.

And there are many very important differences.

I've always said Living Walls are magnitudes times more difficult to design and successfully keep looking good in the long term.

So the designer needs to be on his or her game up front.  All important design criteria must be analyzed and recognized when specifying all the components of a Florida Living Wall System.

As I rested on the front patio of the Whole Foods Marketplace in Jacksonville and examined the Living Wall design, the issues became obvious.  The opportunity for a magnificent Florida Living Wall, one that would greet customers with lush texture, color and scents was there.  Some of the components though were missing or ill-installed.

So what is the answer to the Whole Foods' dead Living Wall in Jacksonville?

Tomorrow's post will discuss what I perceive mut be done to produce the Florida Living Wall, one that would greet customers with lush texture, color and scents and truly welcome and invite money-spending clients inside.

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