June 3, 2013 update: Here’s the vertical garden, hung up:
I’ve been wanting to attempt this project for the longest time, but I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to do it. There are versions out there (like this one), that use a picture frame, but then you basically have to build a box for the back. I figured it would be easier to use a shallow ready-made box, and was looking for a tray to repurpose when I came across this shadow box. It worked perfectly for this project, and it shouldn’t be hard to find a similar one at local craft stores.
Most of my plant clippings came from my yard, but if you don’t have any I highly recommend that you beg/borrow/
steal them from the yards of friends, family, and neighbors. Under the right conditions, these things grow like weeds, and you only need a few sprigs of each type. If you’re harvesting them from outdoors, try to pull up as much of the roots as possible. You can also buy succulents at most home and garden stores.
Shadow box (mine is 12″ x 12″ x 1″ deep)
Staples (make sure they’re short enough that they won’t go through your wood)
Wood sealer (I used Minwax Wipe-On Poly)
Brush or rag
1. First, seal your shadow box according to the instructions on your wood sealer. I used a polyurethane wipe-on sealer, and did 3 coats on every surface, even the ones that were going to be covered up with plastic. If you want you can stain your box before you seal it, but I didn’t. Let the sealer dry.
2. Cut a piece of landscaping plastic to fit your box, plus a few inches extra. My box is 12 by 12 by 1 inch deep, so I cut the plastic about 15 by 15 inches.
3. Fold the top edges of the plastic a couple of times, and staple the plastic to the interior of the box along the top edge. Don’t be afraid to use plenty of staples. When you get to the corners, fold the plastic to form a corner.
4. Fill the box with cactus soil, then add a half inch thick layer of dried floral moss on top.
5. Use the wirecutters to cut the chicken wire to fit the opening of the box, plus about 1/2 to 1 inch extra. Wear gloves–the wire can be sharp!
6. Bend the extra chicken wire so that it protrudes down into the box, and then tuck it down into the moss. Staple around the edges to secure it.
7. Now for the best part! Using your finger (or a stick), poke holes in the moss/soil, and start planting your succulents. Just tuck the roots into the holes, then pat down the moss around the plant.
Start with the bigger ones, then fill in around them with the smaller plants.
Continue until you’ve got at least about 75% plant coverage. Over time they’ll grow to completely hide the chicken wire and fill the frame.
8. Keep your box flat, but give it a good water, and put it someplace nice and sunny. Keep in mind that the plastic lining means there’s no drainage, so don’t overwater!
Now comes the hard part: waiting! You need to wait at least 2 weeks for roots to form before you try to prop it upright. It’s only been a week so far for mine. I’ll definitely post an update after I get it vertical!