Debra Prinzing

Get the Email Newsletter!

These green walls will blow your mind

January 28th, 2010

A Woolly Pocket wall of succulents adorns the retail shop at Descanso Gardens near Pasadena

A Woolly Pocket wall of succulents adorns the retail shop at Descanso Gardens near Pasadena

Designed in Los Angeles, fabricated in Kansas, and soon to hang on a wall near you, the Woolly Pocket is a soft-sided planting envelope that makes it possible to have a lush wall of vegetation without having to hire a structural engineer.

Vertical gardening is all the rage, so here’s a way to bring plants into your home (indoors or out) with a breathable fabric container that is easy to hang and maintain.

Fill the 15 x 24 inch pocket with a little potting soil, plant it with lush greenery and allow the vines or foliage to spill over the top edge. Combine multiple pockets to create a living wall as is shown in these photographs.


Miguel shows off a 5-pocket Woolly planter

Miguel shows off a 5-pocket Woolly planter

I met designer Miguel Nelson at his studio in Culver City earlier this week and took a tour of Smog Shoppe, his event space where the Woolly Pocket was created.

Miguel was trained as a sculptor, but he obviously thinks about sculpture in a completely different way than artists whose work stands on a pedestal in the garden or in the foyer of a home.

The type of sculpture Miguel conjures is an entire building and outdoor courtyard that contains green events. He and Sherry Walsh, his wife, retrofitted an unsightly garage used to do emissions tests on cars (thus, the clever Smog Shoppe name).

The analagous blue-green plant palette nearly covers the exterior of Nelson's Smog Shoppe event space in Los Angeles

The analagous blue-green plant palette nearly covers the exterior of Nelson's Smog Shoppe event space in Los Angeles

Used for private and corporate events, the warehouse-y space needed to be softened up. And so Miguel and his brother Rodney created huge wall-hangings with pockets and stuffed them with succulents, tropicals and other plants that cascade and drape. The hangings look like those large shoe-organizer pocket panels, but are oh-so-much more elegant.

Over two year’s time, the plants have thrived, nearly obscuring the concrete block walls and the black wool pockets. Once partygoers started asking if they could buy the planting system for their own homes and gardens, Woolly Pockets was born.

A detail shot reveals how happy these plants look

A detail shot reveals how happy these plants look

Instead of wool felt like the original system, Miguel and Rodney now use an industrial-strength USA-made felt from recycled plastic bottles (it is available in chocolate brown, black and cream – with a promise for more colors in the future). The pockets have a built-in moisture barrier that allows the plants to breathe while keeping moisture off your walls or floors.

The blogosphere and a few design magazines have discovered Woolly Pockets, which are priced at $49 for a single. Multiples range from $125 (3-pocket, 68 inches) to $188 (5-pocket, 112 inches).

Miguel’s eco-publicist, Corey Scholibo, is convinced that this green gardening solution will capture the imaginations of non-gardeners. It is a cool interior design application that is at the same time retro (think indoor plants of the 1970s) and futuristic (plants will save the planet!).

“You can now garden any time, anywhere, with little or no skill,” Corey says.

Interior walls of the courtyard are planted top-to-bottom

Interior walls of the courtyard are planted top-to-bottom

The team is inventing all sorts of new iterations of the Woolly Pocket. There is a Vagabond, which I wrote about last month for LA At Home (think “Garden Container meets Handbag”) and at this weekend’s Accent on Design in New York, Miguel will introduce a 5-sided wee-woolly tabletop planter and a gorgeous, free-standing 6-, 8- or 10-sided planter that has zippered sides so you can unzip sections to accommodate sculptural tree branches poking out. Those items appear to be ideal for the interior space and are a lot more attractive than some of the plastic, clay or faux planters I see hanging around garden centers.

You can mostly find Woolly Pockets online, but Miguel expects to sell through several retail channels by later this year.

“I see all these amazing living wall installations in public spaces,” he points out. “But you never read about a vertical garden you could have yourself. Now, even with just one Woolly Pocket, you can grow plants on your wall.”
With a cluster of them, arranged like a giant patchwork quilt, pretty soon you can have your own living, green wall.

I have four dark-brown Woolly Pockets to try out and I’ll report back soon on how they are doing. I’m going to hang them outside to try and mask some of that ho-hum tan stucco we’re so lucky to have here in SoCal.

10 Responses to “These green walls will blow your mind”

  1. kopurdy Says:

    Maybe in your area you don’t have to worry about moisture collecting between the pocket and the wall and rotting the wall, but that would be a concern of mine.

  2. Lorene Says:

    This ought to be fun to watch!!! I have enough trouble keeping things watered in the GROUND!

  3. Laura Livengood Schaub Says:

    Ooooh, I want Woolly Pockets for the SF Flower & Garden Show….I’m on a quest! Thanks, Debra
    .-= Laura Livengood Schaub´s last blog ..January Clippings =-.

  4. Sharon Lovejoy Says:

    WOW! I always love planted walls and these look great.

    Thanks for this Debra dear.


  5. Joan S Bolton Says:

    Did Miguel say where he found his inspiration?

    At last year’s San Francisco Flower & Garden Show, landscape architect students from UC Berkeley mounted several rows of very similar felt pockets on sliding walls, then planted them with ornamental grasses and an odd conglomeration of ferns, delphinums and yellow marguerites.

    So same concept, but Miguel’s is far more practical and attractive.
    .-= Joan S Bolton´s last blog ..Resurrecting Bedraggled Holiday Amaryllis and Poinsettias =-.

  6. Living wall artist Says:

    Looks amazing. This is one of the best systems for making living walls easily. The garden looks great!
    .-= Living wall artist´s last blog ..Outdoor vertical succulent garden =-.

  7. Cameron Says:

    I wish that I had seen these when I was in LA recently. What a wonderful idea!


  8. Lydia Plunk Says:

    If I start planting on the walls- my husband will definitely have me locked up in recovery for plantaholics ):

  9. Garden Beet Says:

    great article …thanks – i will link to my blog (I sell the pockets in the UK)

  10. Dirty Girl Gardening Says:

    I just ordered a bunch of those! I can’t wait to get them and get planting!

Leave a Reply