Some sprout from milk jugs, plastic bags and rain gutters. Others hang in handmade frames, old pallets and repurposed shoe organizers.

Many decorative plants today don't merely climb fences, walls and doors, but grow on them -- taking root in a variety of containers or the wall itself.

Also called "living walls" or "green walls," vertical gardens are rooted pretty much anywhere except in the ground. The concept of vertical gardening is not a new one, but it has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially in areas where space is scarce.

"Even if you have a small apartment or condo, you can put it up and still appreciate the flowering end of things," said Wendi Stull, a master gardener in Casper.

You don't have to be an apartment-dweller to enjoy vertical gardening: It's a great way to decorate your home -- both inside and out -- and is often used to cover eyesores. Best of all, every one is unique.

"There are no two alike," said Tom Heald, owner of Wyoming Plant Company in Casper. "In a lot of ways, it's like art -- living art."

Anything that can be planted in the ground can be planted in a vertical garden, he said. But succulents are great for beginners, as they are particularly hardy in arid climates such as Wyoming's.

Container options are endless, too. Weather-proof bags made specifically for vertical gardening can be purchased at most home and garden stores. Repurposed items also make unique garden containers. Whatever you choose, make sure it can hold at least three inches of potting soil, Heald said.

The greatest challenge in vertical gardening is keeping the soil in the container. Landscape fabric is often used to hold the soil in place. Choose one that is porous, so it allows water to pass through it. Hardware cloth, one-quarter or one-half inch wire mesh, is often attached to the front of containers to hold the plants and soil in place. It's available at most hardware stores.

Before you begin, keep the location of the vertical garden in mind. The container may have to be taken down in order for the plants to be watered. If that's the case, make sure it is easy to access and lift.

Once the garden is planted, store it horizontally until the plants take root -- about three weeks.

"When the roots are rooted well enough that they hold the soil, it's at that stage that you can go vertical," Heald said.

For a fool-proof vertical garden, see the project below. Designed by Stull and Judy Linn, it's great for those who are just getting started.

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Carol Seavey is special sections editor at the Casper Star-Tribune. Contact her at 307-266-0544 or carol.seavey@trib.com. Follow her on twitter at Carol_Seavey.


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