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A garden with an altitude

May 4, 2009
By MIRIAM MOELLER Journal Staff Writer and The Associated Press

MARQUETTE - Erik Blackburn's vertical garden may not look like one of French artist Patrick Blanc's, but it is definitely functional.

The Northern Michigan University physical geography major has been interning at the Marquette County Conservation District over the last two semesters, and part of his work was to create a vertical garden.

"It's mainly for people with limited amount of space and who want to garden," Blackburn said.

Article Photos

Erik Blackburn, intern at the Marquette County Conservation District, shows off his vertical garden that offers an easy solution for garden lovers living in small spaces. (Journal photo by Miriam Moeller)

Blackburn researched Blanc, an artist who has been decorating inside walls, buildings and other areas with vertical gardens all over Europe. Based on different models, he built his own vertical garden out of wood and nonwoven polypropylene.

"It takes about a weekend and costs about $50," he said, adding that the polypropylene fabric - which is strong and non-rotting - was the most expensive part of the structure. The garden looks like a wooden shelf, 26 inches wide by 40 inches tall, covered in fabric with pockets in the front. The dirt and plants are placed in the pockets and drip tray placed on the floor to catch excess water.

"You can put it in front of a window or put it on the balcony in the summer," Blackburn said, adding that house plants as well as herbs and some vegetables can be grown in a vertical garden.

"Eventually the plants will grow in, and it just looks like a living wall," he said.

Vertical gardens are not only ideal for people who live in small apartments or condos, they are also more practical for people with impaired mobility, who are unable to tend to a traditional garden, according to the MCCD.

Blackburn said there are many different styles of vertical gardens that can be searched on the Internet. However, ready-made vertical garden kits can also be purchased, if one does not want to build one's own.

For more information call the MCCD at 226-2461 or go to



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