The “living wall” you’re looking at was created by Seth Stottlemyer, who, as a proponent of the living architecture movement, was the keynote speaker at a recent Lunch in the Gardens event at Selby Gardens.
Stottlemyer, who studied horticulture and ornamental gardening at the New York Botanical Garden and worked at a prominent landscape design company in New York, returned home to Sarasota and opened Oasis Gardenscapes, which specializes in living walls and also more traditional landscape designs.
At six feet tall and 28 feet long, the living wall here is on the pool patio deck of a Harbor Acres bayfront residence. Because the wall is mostly shaded, except for a bit of sunlight as the sun starts to set each day, Stottlemyer used low-light tropical plants: various species of ferns, philodendrons, peperomia (“a workhorse for me because it adapts well to different settings”), and small flowering orchids. He also likes to work with bird’s nest ferns, cypress spikemoss ferns and variegated spider plants.
Living walls and rooftop gardens, which comprise the living architecture movement, have numerous benefits besides their aesthetic value, he explains, “especially for heating and cooling and mitigating stormwater runoff issues, plus the all-over health and well-being of people working and living in those spaces.”
At the Selby Gardens luncheon, Stottlemyer walked the audience through the steps required to build and install a living wall. A support structure with a lot of strength is essential, he says, because the wall has to hold a lot of plants and water. An irrigation system on a timer is a must, too, because in order to thrive the plants must be watered regularly.
Most importantly, he says, plant selection is key. “if you have a shady living wall, you don’t want flowering herbaceous plants that need sunlight and vice versa,” he says. “It’s about trying to be very smart and plan for what’s appropriate for a given space and environment.”
Regular maintenance, every week or every other week, is important, too. “If you’ve made that investment, you might as well pay a little bit to keep it up,” he says.
Stottlemyer has created four large living walls, including one for a West of Trail spec house and another for a large, high-end custom home on Siesta Key. “It’s on a covered dining terrace area, a really beautiful location looking south out to the Intracoastal,” he says. And he has commissions for several more. “It’s definitely taken off.”