Cracking up

Walls – whether retaining, dividing or defining – look a lot better when nature softens them. You could scatter some seeds of Erigeron karvinskianusCentranthus ruber, or Corydalis lutea at their base to create billows or froths of foliage and flowers, but what about higher up? If you want to give your senses a treat at eye level there are plenty of willing plants that just beg to be tried. And the good news is that these aren’t horticultural prima donnas – they’re the ultimate in low-maintenance design.

Plants for a purpose
Is your wall north- or south-facing? That’s the first question to ask yourself. The amount of sun, shade and moisture the surface gets will determine which plants will thrive there. It’s also important that the plants can get a foothold – there’s no point trying to set plants off in a fully pointed red brick wall unless specific planting pockets have been made. Crumbling soft bricks, slate and stone offer natural nooks and crannies. For sunny spots, you can’t go wrong with succulents. Hardy sempervivums, saxifrages, crassula and sedums will all work well. Lewisias and auriculas also lend themselves to this environment. Start with small plants – it’s much more tricky trying to establish a fully mature specimen than a plug. For shade, you can’t beat ferns. Hardy aspleniums and dryopteris have the ability to readily spread via their spores once established, allowing vertical dells to quickly take shape.