text and photos by Dr. Al Thompson
What might one do with a garden wall constructed of block painted white, other than wonder what one might do with such a wall so common in Antigua? Frequently, your 10-foot wall has been challenged by new construction behind it, which may exceed yours by another eight or 10 feet. Yes. What might one do other than become distraught about what will become an eyesore?
Our 10-foot garden wall to the east of the property looked decent enough with a few hanging baskets and a bougainvillea or two doing their thing. That was until construction broke our sense of quiet and an expansive view to the east.
Remembering that two heads are better than one, and three better than two, Carolyn, our handyman Pablo and I addressed the problem, which grew with every course of block cemented into place for the neighbor’s wall.
Our meeting of minds suggested we create a “vertical garden.” (That was before we spotted such a concept in magazine advertisements focusing on New York). Our goal was to extend our horizontal garden vertically on the east wall. How might one “attach” plants to a vertical wall? Our solution was to make a series of “H’s” out of 1/4-inch rebar with rebar joining the the top of the “H.” Our “H’s” are four feet wide and five-six feet tall. Holes were drilled into the top cap of our original wall and the legs of the “H’s” slipped into the drilled holes.
With the neighbor’s permission, a 30-foot length of 1½-inch angle iron was attached, using metal toggles, one foot below the top of the neighbor’s wall. Thus, we had a secure frame-work onto which we could support/hang myriad planter baskets, typical Guatemalan pots containing bromeliads, branches, and other materials to support and sustain an unusual variety of flora.
Watering? A PVC pipe now runs from the lower level to the veranda at the second floor. The pressure is sufficient to provide the vertical garden with a fine, 10-minute drink each day. Pablo weeds and fertilizes once a month, secure in knowing the rebar is guaranteed safe. He made it.
And so, because of the vertical concept, our garden is now 50 percent larger while butterflies, hummers and we enjoy what might well have been a sight for sore eyes!