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Nature in the City

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Urban Green Wall | A Living Laboratory

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The green wall is an active experiment to bring nature to unexpected places in the city. Part plant, part infrastructure – it’s living architecture! A year-round vertical installation hasn’t been tested in the challenging conditions of our local climate. By experimenting with different species and maintenance techniques over time, the research team hopes to learn what works best in Fort Collins, and share that information with the public.

The living wall is funded in part by the City’s Innovation Fund, and is 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.

Where is the Living Wall?

The living wall is located at 222 Laporte Ave. on the east-facing wall of the City of Fort Collins Utilities and Administration Building.

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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.

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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's Being Tested?

Currently, the following species are being tested and monitored to see how they hold up to temperature extremes, drying winds, fluctuations in delivery of water and nutrients, and vertical growing conditions:

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  • Sedum Dragon’s Blood
  • Sedum Nevii
  • Sedum Angelina
  • Sedum Summer Glory
  • Sedum Voodoo
  • Sedum John Creech
  • Sedum Blue Spruce
  • Sedum Blaze
  • Sedum Sexangulare
  • Buchloe Dactyloides
  • Dog Tuff Grass from Plant Select

In the first year of study, the following species have been strong performers:

  • Sedum John Creech
  • Sedum Nevii
  • Sedum Summer Glory
  • Sedum Voodoo
  • Sedum Dragon’s Blood

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

  • Delosperma John Proffit
  • Delosperma Lavender Ice
  • Delosperma Fire Spinner
  • Thymus Praecox Nutmeg
  • Thymus Coccineus
  • Thymus Elfin
  • Ajuga Chocolate Chip

How is the Living Wall Maintained?

The living wall is maintained by Parks with input from project partners. Vegetation patterns and conditions are 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 will help maintenance staff make better management decisions for the living wall while providing insight into best management practices for living architecture in Fort Collins.

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What's Next?

A detailed report of year one findings is being prepared for the living wall and will be posted to this site in the near future. For additional questions, please contact:

Stephanie Kopplin, Environmental Planner
City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Department

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