I have seen plenty of walls in my career that have taken my breath away; surely there are countless and untold thousands of other beautiful walls I might not ever see. I cut an article out about the stone wall at the Picasso Museum in Antibes many years ago-I am still crazy about it. Janet has been there many times; her entire expression changed, just talking to me about it. But no stone, concrete or brick wall could ever compare, in my mind, to a green wall. This nursery row of espaliered katsuras is just about the most beautiful thing I have ever laid eyes on. I could keep on looking at this, as long as I was able to keep on gardening.
Janet has some gorgeous walls of her own-green, and otherwise. This old carpinus so beautifully shaped and trimmed is a lot of things. Green punctuation. Green sculpture. Some days it reads to my eye as a brief green wall. Were you ever able to see the giant glass window behind this wall, from which a beautiful shade garden can be viewed, you would understand the part played by this carpinus. It makes for enclosure, solitude, privacy. The bricked south side of my house encloses my interior space, but it functions in my garden like a wall. That wall radiates heat to my roses and Japanese anemones. The corresponding green wall to the north-Thuja “Nigra”-a dense arborvitae with a uniformly vertical habit. It corresponds in heft and height to the wall of my house. It creates one of the four edges of the composition of this garden space. Not incidentally, it shields me from a view of the two story house next door. My private garden-just what I want, when I get home.
Green walls do not only screen untoward views. They provide living enclosure to private garden spaces. This classical bust, positioned to peer through a green wall is quietly and beautifully wreathed, framed, in green.
Not all green walls need be so formal and planar. Irregularly and thickly placed evergreens can enclose a garden space in a more natural way than a flat wall. Though I am delighted to see or read about the great European gardens, designing in the round is a luxury. I have a small space upon which to garden, as do most clients I have. My clients with properties 8 acres or better-not so many. Green walls are most definitely a part of my design vocabulary. I have no problem planting small plants in anticipation of a green wall; plants grow.
Only once have I had the occasion to plant carpinus of this size. Their planting and care consumed me for three years, until they established properly. Behind them, another wall of spruce. Behind and beyond those spruce, properties with no stewards. That view, once it disappeared, never intruded again on my clients delight in their garden. My arborvitae were seven feet tall when I planted them-I waited, and was rewarded with a beautiful tall wall-faster than I thought.
Espaliers trained from London Plane trees-this is a very big gesture. When the day comes that all those favoring big gestures in the landscape need to line up and congregate, I will get up and go. This swooping green wall is defined by trees whose trunks have calipers suggesting considerable age-the green has yet to grow in.
Patience by no means is one of my strong points. Unless there is a garden at issue. I have infinite patience for the growing of the green-as do most gardeners. Green walls? Should you have a place for one, or several-spring is coming.