Vertical gardening is the new, new thing, not only because it's such an effective use of space but also because it's still a novelty. A new book Garden Up! Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces (Cool Springs Press, 2010, $19.95) is trying to take the novelty out of living walls by showing, through photos and text, how easy it can be to grow lettuces in hanging pockets or herbs in stacked planters.
Most successful living walls I've seen have been on big, commercial properties, like the one at Goodwill in Tacoma designed by Patrick Blanc, and the many living walls on musems and hotels I admired last fall in Paris. But this book shows many simpler, smaller scale vertical gardens...so if you're intrigued at the idea of moving beyond beds and borders to grow plants on a whole new plane, it's worth a look.
From densely planted screens of sedum to old-fashioned rock walls sprouting English daisies, the authors explain how to water plants growing sideways, how to grow with a minimum of soil, and how to create privacy and maximize space in urban gardens.
I question the suggestion of native plants being a reasonable choice for living walls; my favorite idea is to plant a wall of ornamental grasses, especially little carexes in varying textures and colors for a massed effect. A few photos even illustrate that over time those hanging Woolly Pocket walls, when planted densely enough, can grow in to look pretty good....Perhaps the most useful chapter is the one on the best succulents for living walls, which encouragingly includes many that are hardy in our climate.