By Jordan Gerard
How does your garden grow? Vertically, at Vert Plantworks in Phoenix.
Husband and wife team Evan and Liz Lambert are the eco-conscious couple bringing living plant walls to life. Evan’s extensive background in horticulture and experience as a residential landscaper in New York City helped accelerate a national and global trend in Phoenix. Liz oversees marketing, operations and sales.
The entire leaf, root and soil system on a living wall contributes to air purification and reduces air pollutants. Adding plants to an interior space can help divide spaces, absorb sound, focus on a particular area or dress up an outdoor area. The installations can be incorporated into new and existing interior designs and exterior architecture.
They moved back to Phoenix just as vertical development has taken off. Not only are people interested in bringing nature inside of office spaces and high-rise apartments, but homeowners are interested in the biophilic trend too. It’s an opportunity that snowballed in the right direction, Evan said.
“It was the right timing, the right place, you know, kind of everything aligned with all this growth in Arizona and it just became a ripe opportunity,” he added.
Locally sourced plants are the main feature of living plant walls, but tropical plants, succulent walls, faux plant walls and edible herb walls are available options. Vert Plantworks sources a majority of their plants as locally as possible. It’s important that plants are grown in Arizona greenhouses because they’re better adapted for outdoor walls, Evan said.
Sustainability is at the forefront for a company that works with nature. A major goal is helping homeowners reduce the heat island effect. About 98% of homes in Phoenix have blocked walls that can hold heat, Evan said. The heat is released as night descends upon the valley, but nights in Phoenix stay warm. If block walls were covered with living plant walls, they wouldn’t absorb heat, and it would act as insulation.
Green walls have the capacity to efficiently use recycled water, and the water can be recycled within the wall itself. Another sustainable option is a home using its own gray water to irrigate a living plant wall.
“There’s just so much potential, especially as our living environments become more and more urban, and more and more vertical,” she said.
Vert Plantworks is working toward zero waste and circularity. They want to use products that are made from recycled materials and work with vendors who have a product end-of-life circularity plan.
Moss walls started as a side shoot to Vert Plantworks, but it’s become a demanding trend, Liz said. Natural, U.S. grown moss can be preserved without chemicals and can be artfully arranged, colored and incorporate brands. Moss absorbs sound naturally, doesn’t require water nor maintenance. It’s a great way to bring the feel of nature into interior spaces that don’t get enough light or if it’s not possible to install a living plant wall.
Vert Plantworks is offering expanded design services that is more than just a design lab for current projects. It’s an idea lab too, because they’d like to produce their own products in the future and partner with adjacent industries such as natural plant feeding or pest control companies, all with sustainability in mind, Liz said.
If you’re not the world’s best plant keeper, never fear. Vert Plantworks offers maintenance plans that feature irrigation adjustments, hand watering, pruning, cleaning, detailed plant care, fertilization, disease and pest management, and event prep.