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Pursuing Perfection
LiveWall Living Wall Transforms Suburban Chicago Landscape
by David Aquilina

Chalet Landscape, Nursery and Garden Center has provided landscape design, installation, and maintenance services to homeowners in the North Shore communities of Chicago since 1917. The new owners of a sleek, post-midcentury-modern house in suburban Winnetka presented Chalet with one of the most intriguing challenges they have taken on in 100 years. Could they transform a dated jumble of disjointed landscape elements into a coherent, Skeleton Watches contemporary landscape that would complement the simple architectural style of the house and transition gracefully into the neighborhood?

Problems And Solutions
According to Eleanor R. Brandt, landscape architect, and a member of the Chalet project team, they had to contend with a number of problems. For instance, an area of washed gravel was mismatched to a nearby concrete aggregate walkway. In the midst of the washed gravel, perhaps originally intended to suggest a Japanese garden, overgrown Japanese maples commanded and overwhelmed the landscape. An existing patio and a walkout deck were both ready for demolition. There was a pond that lacked a design relationship to the house.

Chalet created a set of interconnected spaces for gathering, entertaining and quiet solitude. One of the new areas features a fire pit set with new birch trees, which will mature into a grove and establish woodland space. The pond was replaced with two water features. Landscape architect Ian Wagan, another member of the Chalet project team, commented that the water features reference the lines of the house and provide points of focus within the landscape. Hardscaping made good use of repurposed flagstone from the original design.

Pursuing Perfection

Of course, Chalet did not forget the new homeowners' three dogs. They have an open expanse of turf grass.

The Garage Wall
To complete the transformation of the landscape, Chalet had to figure out what to do about the garage. "As you come up the driveway, the wall on the north side of the garage is the first part of the house you see. It is right in front of you," said Brandt. "It was just a plain brick wall and not an attractive welcome to the house within the new landscape."

The homeowners have traveled widely. The exteriors of houses in California and Spain inspired them - houses with front walls and entryways adorned with plants. When discussing the problem of the garage wall, they shared several photos with Brandt. Some showed flowers cascading on trellises. Others pictured rock walls with plants growing out from niches and crevices.

Pursuing Perfection

Could Chalet fulfill the homeowners' vision of the plain brick wall coming to life as a vertical garden? The challenge: how to bring a vision based on images of lush tropical plants growing on bright, sunny walls in warm, Mediterranean climates to the north face of a wall in a cold, northern climate.

A Green Wall Solution
What about a green wall - an attached structure that supports growing medium and plants on the face of a wall? Brandt had previously seen a presentation on the LiveWallA(R) green wall system. She had not yet had an opportunity to consider incorporating one into a project. Could LiveWall be the solution? Brandt shared the idea with Robert Milani, senior landscape architect at Chalet and Chalet's lead designer on the project. He was intrigued and asked Brandt to develop a design to disguise the garage wall with a vertical garden.

Her inspiration came from the triptych style of art, a painting divided into three sections that are separate but integrated thematically and visually as one work of art.

Pursuing Perfection

"This style opens up creative possibilities for expressing unique designs and seasonal themes with varying plant palettes, making the green wall a landscaped expression of living art," explained Brandt. "This artistic style, along with the size and placement of the three sections, also allows the wall's brick to be seen, which was the client's preference."

Completed in September 2016, the green wall has three panels, each 4-foot wide by 6-feet 4-inches tall, with an 8-inch wood frame all the way around. It was installed with a winter plant palette featuring seven different types of evergreen boughs. In the spring of 2017, new plants for the summer growing season gave the green wall an entirely new look.

"One of the advantages of LiveWall is that its liners containing the growing medium and plants slide in and out of the modular planter boxes, which attach to the horizontal rails of the system," said Brandt. "That gives us the flexibility to fulfill the homeowners' vision by varying mixes of perennials and annuals for different pops of color seasonally."

Pursuing Perfection

The green wall as a living work of art is one of the homeowners' favorite features in the entire landscape. "As the project shows, green walls transform unadorned walls into vertical gardens, giving landscape architects and contractors a green option for creating distinctive features," said Dave MacKenzie, horticulturalist and president, LiveWall.

Project Summary Outline
aEUR? Name of Project: Winnetka Home
aEUR? Installation Date: October 2016
aEUR? Type of Building/Facility: Private Residence
aEUR? Type of Installation: Outdoor
aEUR? LiveWall Wall Planter Color: Sage
aEUR? LiveWall Inserts (#): 6 - 8" and 15 - 16" per wall
aEUR? Number of Plant Varieties: Winter, seven different evergreen bough types
aEUR? Size in Sq Ft: 76 (three panels 25.5 sq ft each)
aEUR? Dimensions: Each panel is 4-feet wide by 6 feet 4 inches tall, with an 8-inch wood frame all the way around
aEUR? Slope in Degrees: N/A
aEUR? Wall Orientation (outdoor): Green wall is on north face of the garage at the front of the house
aEUR? Access /Visibility: Private - no access; visible from driveway

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July 21, 2019, 1:14 pm PDT

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