Green walls—also called vertical gardens or living walls—aren’t new phenomena, but in recent years, their adoption has seemingly come with a greater sense of urgency. In mid-2016, Mexico City initiated the Via Verde project, transforming hundreds of pillars holding up elevated highways into vertical gardens to reduce air pollution and improve the cityscape; famed “green” architect Stefano Boeri unveiled plans in February for a “vertical forest” in China—two side-by-side towers covered in 23 species of trees and over 2,500 cascading shrubs purported to suck out 25 tons of carbon dioxide from the air and add 60 kg of oxygen per day—as an attempt to quell the increasing pollution of the urban sprawl. 

On a local scale, Seth Stottlemyer of Oasis Gardenscapes brings vertical gardens to life for private residences and (soon) for new large-scale developments being added to the Sarasota skyline. “There is an overall quality-of-life benefit for people working around a space with a living wall,” he says. “It soothes people—it decreases anxiety. When you bring greenery into working environments it makes people feel better, plus the plants are always putting out oxygen.” And with the steadily growing condo market, Stottlemyer believes there is a growing opportunity for living walls to be implemented in the smaller spaces. “People are living in more and more confined spaces,” he says, “so vertical gardening is a no-brainer for those patios and terraces.” A Certified Green Roof Professional, Stottlemyer studied horticulture and ornamental gardening at the New York Botanical Gardens and worked with New York City’s preeminent landscape design company, Town and Gardens, before returning to his native Sarasota to launch Oasis. In tandem with local nurseries such as Sarasota Growers and Albritton’s Nursery, Stottlemyer tailors each greenspace for the conditions in which they will reside; a recently completed Siesta Key home built by Bruce Saba Homes for Chris and Laura Jessen features a sprawling wall overlooking a gazebo-covered outdoor dining space. Rich in tropical greenery, the Zen-inspired plot bursts with Bird’s Nest ferns, peperomias, spike moss and cypress ferns. Held together in a web of pocket panels made from recycled plastic water bottles, the roots (if healthy and thriving) will spread and weave together across the entire wall, becoming one large living system.

“Living architecture has been a movement for a couple decades, but now local governments and cities are realizing the benefits for people and incorporating it into the urban environment,” says Stottlemyer. “Vertical green architecture cools everything down and acts as a buffer to asphalt and cement. It softens the edges.”