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Experimental Nature#

Understanding how different factors, such as urban development, affect biodiversity and the overall health of the environment is essential for creating effective management plans and City policies. One way to assess these variables is through experimental projects that look for ways to increase our understanding of nature’s response to increasing urbanization. These projects can help us test new ways to incorporate green infrastructure into the City of Fort Collins and evaluate the economic, social, and ecological benefits that green technology can provide. A combination of tools and options to protect biodiversity and access to nature will be essential as our city continues to grow and evolve.

Click on a project below to learn more about each experimental project.

Living Wall#

The living wall is an active experiment to bring nature to unexpected places in the city. Part plant, part infrastructure – it's living architecture! After two years of testing and experimentation at 222 Laporte Avenue, the living wall is moving to a new home in the Butterfly Pavilion at the Gardens on Spring Creek. 

What are the Benefits of Living Walls?#

With the right conditions and proper maintenance, living walls can regulate temperature, enhance habitat for wildlife, and provide health-enhancing respite from the hustle and bustle of life in the urban core.

What are the Components of a Living Wall?#

The living wall is a hybrid system made up of the following components:

  1. A structural frame that anchors all layers to the wall.
  2. Modular cells called “Flexipanels” that are made of a unique, moisture retaining medium covered with felt and equipped with 30 pockets to hold plants.
  3. A drip irrigation system that delivers water and nutrients.
  4. Plants!

What Was Being Tested?#

In 2018, 11 different species were tested and monitored to see how they would hold up to temperature extremes, drying winds, fluctuations in delivery of water and nutrients, and vertical growing conditions.

In 2016, the following species were been strong performers:

  • Dragon’s Blood Sedum | Sedum spurium ‘Dragon’s Blood’
  • John Creech Sedum | Sedum spurium ‘John Creech’
  • Czar’s Gold Sedum | Sedum spurium ‘Czar’s Gold’

While the following species struggled to adapt and/or overwinter:

  • John Proffitt Ice Plant | Delosperma ‘John Proffitt’
  • Lavender Ice, Ice Plant | Delosperma ‘Lavender Ice’
  • Fire Spinner Ice Plant | Delosperma ‘Fire Spinner’
  • Creeping Thyme | Thymus praecox ‘Nutmeg’
  • Pink Creeping Thyme | Thymus praecox ssp. articus Coccineus
  • Elfin Thyme | Thymus serpyllum ‘Elfin’
  • Chocolate Chip Carpet Bugle | Ajuga reptans ‘Chocolate Chip’
  • Dog Tuff Grass | Cynodon hybrida ‘Dog Tuff’
  • Buffalo Grass | Bouteloua dactyloides

How was the Living Wall Maintained?#

The living wall was maintained by Parks with input from project partners. Vegetation patterns and conditions were photographed and recorded in a maintenance log that tracks key events (e.g. hand weeding, pruning, plant replacement, plant die-off, irrigation frequency, fertigation ratios, etc.). Overtime, the data collected helped maintenance staff make better management decisions for the living wall while providing insight into best management practices for living architecture in Fort Collins.

What's Next?#

Initial findings were captured in the  2016-2017 monitoring report. Keep an eye out for the living wall's debut at its new home at the Gardens on Spring Creek. 

The living wall was funded in part by the City’s Innovation Fund, and was a collaborative effort among Nature in the City, Parks, Urban Lab, Institute for the Built Environment, and CSU’s department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture.