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Local Landscaper Has Big Dreams for the Future of Gardening

Emma Surber Emma Surber Local Landscaper Has Big Dreams for the Future of GardeningAll photos by Emma Surber.
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For a local Columbus landscaper, being able to design and create a garden that will change the way people view them is a work of art.

cultivar-vertical-garden-06Michael Creath, owner of Creath Landscape Design, became fascinated by plants and flowers from a young age, and that interest eventually grew into what he pursued professionally as an adult.

“I always loved being outdoors,” said Creath. “I just have such a huge love for plants so I knew I had to do something in the landscape industry.”

For the past 12 years, Creath has been working to expand his business, and also spends a good portion of his time dedicated to a particular style of gardening that he says is not yet popular in Columbus.

Green wall, or “vertical gardening” is a way of sustaining plants and flowers in a vertical formation. These “walls” can take up an entire or partial space covered in greenery, and can be freestanding or adjoined to an already existing structure. Most vertical gardens also have an irrigation system to source water to the soil.

Vertical gardening was originally invented by Stanley Hart, a professor at the University of Illinois-Champaign Urbana in 1938 when he began growing “botanical bricks” in his own backyard. Hart believed that creating this type of garden architecture had great possibilities for the future.

Later, the concept was modernized and popularized in the 1980s by Patrick Blanc, a French botanist who currently works at the French National Centre for Scientific Research. Blanc is a personal inspiration to Creath.

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Creath said that he got the idea to start creating vertical gardens on his own about four years ago. He has a vertical garden space in his own home, and already has about 10 frames within a few blocks.

“Having a vertical garden creates an intimate space,” said Creath. “Sometimes you forget you’re in Columbus.”

The gardens that Creath designs use no less than 100 individual plants per square foot. His preferred structural media is a plastic modular system with felt mats and an irrigation system.

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“Irrigation systems are easier, even though they make people nervous,” said Creath. “There’s a lot of liability irrigating indoors.”

Creath said that a traditional style of plant watering is not ideal for vertical gardens because it’s not only time consuming, but depending on the size of the space, would require watering every individual plant.

“It’s something that hasn’t caught on in Columbus yet,” said Creath. “I’m hopeful, and excited to be a part of it for the future.”

To continue this pursuit, Creath recently invited friends, family, and colleagues to his home for an event called “Urban Jungle” which was a viewing of his garden space. All who came were welcomed with warmth and were all equally in awe from viewing the “secret garden,” as Creath called it.

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Creath offered his guests a variety of fresh, locally sourced small plates including melon and prosciutto, and watermelon, basil, and mozzarella skewers. There was also a specialty drink menu featuring prosecco with fresh hibiscus, and a “lavender and blue” cocktail with vodka, club soda, blueberries, lemonade, and a fresh lavender garnish.

In addition to his vertical garden, Creath also displayed smaller vertical planters, and also discussed his love for birch.

“It’s such a versatile wood,” said Creath. “My favorite thing to do with birch is cut out sections and plant succulents or tea lights; they make great decorations.”

For the future of vertical gardening, Creath said he believes that there are a lot of smart people in Columbus doing a lot of great things, and hopes that the idea will catch on soon.

“It’s growing art,” said Creath. “It’s literally living art.”

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/CreathLandscapeDesign.

All photos by Emma Surber.

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