Ideas from the south – tree painting and DIY green walls

– Posted in: Miscellaneous


Bored with that tree in the garden. Get out some paint! Preferably bio-d and non-toxic of course. This installation was done at not-quite-open-yet-but-soon-will-be nature centre near Tigre, outside Buenos Aires, and linked with the town’s Fine Art Museum as part of an initiative to promote conservation of the unique delta environment.

Antonia Guzman is the artist. Looks like something you could easily do at home.

The Tigre delta is a fascinating place, the area around the town is old market-garden land and is now a slightly surreal mix of native and non-native species which have colonized the land, and very good for wildlife. An example of the new ‘post-nature’ that Emma Maris wrote about in Rambunctious Garden – see my blog on this very important book.

My main reason for coming down south was to visit the remarkable Amalia Robredo – a pioneer in native plant gardening in Uruguay.


Now change of subject, but another great idea from the far south (Argentina and Uruguay). We are all very familiar with living walls now. Thanks, in part, to French botanist Patrick Blanc; Fran wrote about him some time ago. I am one of many however who are a little bit sceptical about living walls in general, and Patrick Blanc in particular. He lacks the generosity of spirit which is so fundamental to the gardening world, as he tries to keep his techniques to himself. An enquiry from a boutique hotel in Montevideo, Uruguay, quoted $1300 a square metre!!!

Horrified by this, an architecture student, Adrian Magoniner, whose family own the hotel, thought he could do better himself and constructed the very successful example above for $150 /m2. He also generously offered to provide plans if Nigel Dunnett and I do another edition of our green roof and wall book.

The very next day I am off on a tour of Montevideo gardens, and meet an artist, Daniela, who does a variety of DIY green walls.

This hangs just by the back door, and instant source of herbs and salad leaves.

A punch bag planted with strawberries.

Needless to say I nearly fell in shooting this one – Daniela’s swimming pool.

This is a wire grid ‘planted’ with air plants (Tillandsia spp.) Makes a change from their usual habitat of overhead wiring.

At some stage, when my Spanish improves, I shall translate Daniela’s instructions and pass them on, but for now, this is how she does it. The grey stuff is wool shoddy or something similar, the blue is a very tough webbing kind of material. The plastic tube acts as a former, holding the blue webbing to form a tube.

Nifty work with a staple gun and knife and she creates pockets, which can then be filled with compost.



Noel Kingsbury

Noel Kingsbury

Noel Kingsbury is a gardener and writer based in the west of England. Author of over 20 books, including four collaborations with Dutch designer Piet Oudolf, he is passionate about wild-style planting and bringing nature into the garden.

Noel Kingsbury

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Karen Chapman December 14, 2012, 7:00 pm

Great article but have to say ‘painted trees’ really rubs me ip the wrong way. I’ve seen them here in Seattle and it seems almost sacrilegious to do this, biodegradable or not.

Cathy December 16, 2012, 9:29 am

Love the idea of the punch bag stuffed with potting material and planted with herbs and strawberries – there are so many ways to recreated something like that, and it’s perfect for a deck or porch. I also love the way the wall of the hotel was completely transformed. I have similar frustrations with Patric Blanc’s reticence to share his techniques and methodology but what they did to that wall in spite of his refusal to assist in a more equitable(financially) way is amazing! I have a fence I would like to do something like this to…. I’ve been thinking about ever since Fran first posted about his work. I looked him up and did a lot of research to no avail at the time, but seeing this has given me the impetus to brainstorm ways to transform our area with a living wall….. thanks for the motivation!

Usually I love the ideas you share with us but as for the painted trees .. not so much. I don’t know why, but it didn’t appeal to me at all… maybe because it makes the trees look less natural? It’s strange, but if they had put that on a wide banner and wrapped it around the tree, or draped it, I would probably have loved it, but actually painting on the tree… it didn’t appeal to me.

I’m always interested to read about all of the unusual and often incredible gardening spaces you share with us and I readily admit that some of the ideas that I find most fascinating (and that fit within the context of our garden and climate) find their way into our own landscape. But quite honestly, this is one idea that won’t make it to my garden. I can’t really articulate why it put me off so strongly — maybe I’m too much of a tree hugger and not really into tattoos LOL.

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