Woolly Pockets are a living wall planter that allow people to build their own vertical garden on most indoor or outdoor walls. The pockets are made from a fabric manufactured from recycled plastic bottles. The fabric enables a plant’s root system to breathe (thereby providing a healthy growing environment) whilst conserving water usage.
The pockets were designed and developed in America by artist Miguel Nelson and have proven to be very popular in the states. The pockets were released onto the US market in May 2009. Garden Beet understood their potential in an urban environment in the UK and Europe and began importing the pockets in September 2009.
Over the past few weeks Woolly Pocket’s living wall system has been gaining more coverage in the UK gardening world. For those who are uncertain of the product performance Garden Beet can confirm the living wall system has worked very well during our trial plantings in London throughout 2010.
Garden Beet is a retailer of the Woolly Pocket. Nevertheless we have done our best to make an independent evaluation of the product. Based on our observations to date, we can recommend Woolly Pocket wall planters. Please be aware that the background of Garden Beet is in landscape architecture, not horticulture. This recommendation is based on our own observations which we do not claim to be scientifically proven.
Woolly Pocket Background
Garden Beet's planting of Woolly Pockets in the UK began in September 2009 and became more wide ranging in April 2010 in preparation for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Images 1 and 2 illustrate two living walls set up in Garden Beet's communal back garden. The planting of these particular walls began in early April 2010. The living wall shown in Image 1 has an easterly aspect and the other a north-eastern aspect.
You might have noticed that some plants have changed location over time. This is because these are trial plantings. Garden Beet still continues to rearrange the plants well after the Chelsea Flower Show. Vertical gardening lends itself to plant rearrangement. You can easily tend to your garden without the need to constantly bend (as demonstrated in Image 3). Great for the elderly and disabled.
Geranium Lady Plymouth
Geranium Madam Sallleron’
Geranium Wilhelm Langath
Names written as on plant labels. The plants were sourced from various nurseries within a 20 mile radius from SW London.
All plants thrived throughout spring and summer except for the , the ferns and . The ferns were scorched by the sun whereas the got some type of fungus towards the end of summer as shown in Image 6. The sage also had some fungus but recovered. It is interesting to note that the suffered the same fate in one of our client’s Woolly Pockets.
The bottom row of the pockets (where the was planted) is now being covered in patches of moss as shown by Image 7 (Sept - October). The ferns have recovered from the summer sun.
It is unknown at this stage why the failed.
Garden Beet found plants in the pockets require less water than those in traditional terra cotta pots. The felted fabric does a good job of conserving water.
Nevertheless, Garden Beet has been advised by one of its customers that they felt like they were watering their pockets every day during summer. This customer has two different walls, one facing east the other facing west. The western wall has no shade, loads of reflective light and of course it was this wall that required constant watering.
Garden Beet has suggested to the customer that some of the plants be changed to drought tolerant species and/or install water granules (note that these Woolly Pockets were purchased already planted - they were ex-Chelsea walls. They were never intended to be located in such a harsh micro-climate). There is also the option of installing a drip irrigation system with a timer to save her the effort of daily watering.
It is now entering autumn and the plants on Garden Beet’s east facing wall are still looking great. It certainly not as spectacular as it was during the summer but we had a last minute poppy flower two weeks ago. Lady Plymouth has performed beautifully. The plants on the north eastern wall are fairly shabby. But the pockets are just like any other garden bed - and also autumn is not the best season for many of the plants used on these trial walls.
THE WOOLLY POCKETS:
All the pockets shown in the photos were demonstration pockets. Most were relocated around various parts of London, replanted, stood on, thrown around and generally were given a hard time by Garden Beet.
After the Chelsea Flower Show all the pockets were taken from the display wall, piled on top of each other in a very small van and driven to Garden Beet's home. All planted pockets remained fully intact during and post transit.
Each pocket was then returned to Garden Beet's walls.
Half of the pockets on the display wall have since been sold. The planted pockets were simply inserted into the back seats of various cars and then carried to their next destination (Image 3). Two people were required when moving the larger Wally Three and Five and only one person for a Wally One.
Pretty nifty hey! The itinerant tenant’s answer to a long term garden.
Prior to the Chelsea Flower Show Garden Beet replanted and replanted the Woolly Pockets. Garden Beet was experimenting with colour, texture and form. During this process there was less concern for the pockets welfare than the final visual effect of the planting arrangements.
Its now October 2010 and all pockets are still in good robust condition except for two pockets which only failed under severe stress tests.
After much replanting in those two pockets Garden Beet decided to replant them again with the absolute maximum volume of soil. Then Garden Beet squeezed in plants in two rigid oversized plastic pots. (Garden Beet always goes beyond the manufacturer's recommendation to test a products limits).
Yep - the stitching tore.
Regardless, one of the two pockets remains planted to this day. The other has since been taken down for repair. Image 9 shows the pocket with the torn stitching and Image 8 shows you the same area of an undamaged pocket.
One of the major benefits of Woolly Pockets is the ‘breathability’ of the felted material - it allows the root system to be air pruned as opposed to becoming pot bound. Every plant that Garden Beet has removed from a pocket has shown signs of a healthy fibrous root system (Image 10 and 11). The root system does penetrate the fabric to some extent (as can be seen in Image 12) but appears to stop if it does not find soil.
10 11 12
BEHIND THE WALLY POCKETS
So what has happened behind the pockets?
The fibrous roots of the plants do grow along the back of the pockets (Image 13) however the brick walls show no signs of moisture, watering marks or root damage. Nor did my clients timber fences (Image 14).
13 14 15
The back of the outdoor pockets can become a haven for spiders, cobwebs and snails (Image 15). Of course spiders and insects are all part of gardening. We all have to live and work together - its a management issue that can be easily overcome with a bit of common sense.
A major feature of the Woolly Pockets is their ability to be used indoors. Garden Beet’s indoor living wall has not been installed long enough for a comprehensive assessment. It is certainly looking good. We just need a few more months.
VERDICT: Woolly Pockets are adaptable and make gardening possible for those who have little outdoor space, find bending difficult or would like to soften their walls with plants other than the usual plant suspects such as ivy. With minimal effort the pockets appear to create healthy robust homes for a vast range of plants that could otherwise never perform well and/or look as good on walls without a huge living wall budget.
Woolly Pockets have changed Garden Beet's approach to gardening.
To purchase Woolly Pockets please refer to our Vertical Garden section of this web site.