You never know where you will come across amazing gardening ideas or unique plants. I wouldn’t necessarily think a zoo is a great place to find gardening ideas, but on a recent trip to the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I came across this gorgeous display of functional landscaping.
In a shady corner, near the otters and turtles, the retaining wall has been created out of shade plants in a diagonal pattern planted between the concrete blocks. Each hole where a plant had been added had a bit of netting to help retain the soil and give the plant a bit more stability. The concrete blocks appeared to be hollow in the back, similar to a cinder block if the back side had been removed.
Plant Color and Pattern Play
The plant colors and pattern play along the diagonal of the wall combined to make this living wall absolutely breathtaking. I could see someone creating a similar structure using normal cinder blocks. If you want a taller wall, you would have to be sure to secure the blocks with soil and some rebar down the center as well as some netting or landscape cloth on the back side or in the pockets to help retain the soil. If you are using the blocks as an actual retaining wall, you would need to look into more sturdy methods of securing the soil and blocks.
The wall plants consist of heuchera, hostas, ferns, forget-me-nots, lamium, Lenten roses, Japanese forest grass — in shades of lime green to dark purple. It was quite beautiful!