True green decor

Fall is here. In Montreal, it’s time to bring in the plants and batten down the hatches for another winter.

After a summer enjoyed in the great outdoors, once we seal up our homes for another winter, I wonder how many of us turn our thoughts to indoor air quality. In fact, indoor air pollutants can be significantly higher than outdoor air pollutants. Our homes and the stuff we have in them can contain a cocktail of hazardous substances such as formaldehyde (found in MDF, carpets, upholstery) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) off-gassed from carpets, upholstery, paints, insulation, plastics and countless other common products.

Green plants come in handy here. They absorb toxins, removing VOCs from the ambient air, and they actually improve air quality through photosynthesizing — that is, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing energy rich oxygen.

An effort to capture these health benefits is propelling the movement in corporate headquarters, arts institutions, universities and public spaces to incorporate into their interior architecture permanent installations of plants — or living walls. Living walls are covered by plants, which do not root in the ground but in soil or mats suspended on the wall itself.

living wall 8(source: egreenwall.com)

In addition to being visually stunning and delivering physical benefits, living walls provide psychological health benefits by inserting nature into human (and often corporate) landscapes.

ryanprange.com succulent wall

A wall of succulents (source: ryanprange.com)

Most living walls require a significant investment, a relatively sophisticated infrastructure and considerable maintenance commitments that can be met in institutional settings. But there is no reason that the infrastructure can’t be transferred to people’s homes, as long as they have the means and ability to pay for and care for the undertaking. Take, for example, this fabulous creation by garden designer Daniel Bell who created a living wall that runs inside and outside a house in north London in the UK.

The indoor section of the wall(source: the Guardian)

This wall is made from two layers of capillary matting (made from recycled clothes) with a waterproof plastic backing. Slits were cut in the outer felt, plants were inserted, and the opening was then stapled to anchor the plant. This system allowed the designer to create different-sized pockets to suit different plants. The innovative design coupled with clever plant choices resulted in an absolutely spectacular living wall masterpiece.

living wall 7(source: the Guardian)

When I opened Galerie CO in 2008 I budgeted out installing a living wall in the boutique. At the time it represented too large an investment when there were so many other things that needed to be done.

Nevertheless, I was committed to the idea of showcasing greenery and inspiring our clients to ‘green’ their own homes. So I set out to find affordable alternatives; ways to install plants inside en masse and in unconventional and beautiful ways. Here are four of the solutions I sourced, that are displayed and sold at Galerie CO and would be easy to install in any home:

1.  Colourful and petite, Thelermont Hupton’s delightful ‘off the wall’ ceramic wall pots are ideal for small bursts of interior greenery in the kitchen, living room, home office or bathroom. With invisible fixtures these simple pots let your plants nestle on the wall creating discrete and artful interior ‘gardens’.

thelermont-hupton--off-the-wall-pots--small-and-large--72-rgb

‘Off the wall’ pots (source: Thelermont Hupton)

2.  A larger option is available from Wooly pockets. Made from 100% recycled post-consumer PET plastic bottles, these planters hang on the wall.

news item woolly pockets

Wooly Pocket’s Wally 3 (source: Woolypocket)

They are easy to install, simple to use and modular, allowing you to create a custom-sized living wall to fit your space.

oliver heath comA gorgeous wall created using Wooly Pockets (source: Oliverheath.com)

3.  If you don’t have the space or the inclination for a living wall, Boskke’s innovative sky planters allow you to suspend plants upside down from the ceiling. They are striking on their own, but really pack a surreal visual punch when the three different sizes are displayed at various heights with an array of different plants.

Boske

Assorted skyplanters and plants (source: Boskke)

Boskke provides some guidance on the types of plants that love to be raised upside down. In our experience, orchids do especially well in the skyplanters. In nature they grow clinging to tree branches, their roots firmly attached to the bark of a tree, which explains why they are so content upside down in the sky planters.

BOSKKE Sky Planter Recycled medium White Orchid(source: Boskke)

4.  L.A.’s Sheleterblack has created beautifully simple and contemporary wooden wall mountable planter frames. The Garden State boxes are available with contrast detail on half of the perimeter in black, neon pink and neon yellow. They are designed especially for succulents, which are secured through a wire mesh.

living wall shelterblackShelterblack’s Garden State box planter (source: core77.com)

So, as the air cools in the evenings and the threat of frost approaches, when you bring in your patio plants think about creating your own, affordable, living wall on a smaller scale.

We’d love to see how you create green spaces inside you own home.

Send us your photos on twitter or instagram @GalerieCO or tag yourself as a #COclient to be featured.

Compost: not just for worms

In nature, nothing is wasted or thrown away.

While there is nothing natural about urban living, composting our organic waste mimics natural processes carried out by insects, worms and micro-organisms to decompose dead plants and return valuable nutrients back to the earth. Importantly for how we live now, composting also reduces waste sent to landfills, methane greenhouse gas emissions and the need for synthetic chemical fertilizers. Fully composted organic waste is a rich, natural fertilizer that helps create beautiful gardens.

If you live in Montreal, you might have heard the recent announcement that by 2016 we’ll have four City-run composting facilities. That’s great and timely news. composting-533x181In Canada, organic waste makes up the largest component of solid household waste, at around 50% (www.crcresearch.org). This means that if the average person composted all of their organic waste, up to half of the garbage that goes into landfills could be diverted.

While we’re not close to 100% participation in composting, some provinces are doing very well. In 2011, an average of 61% of Canadian households composted their kitchen and garden waste. During that year, provincial composting varied widely, from highs of 96% in Prince Edward Island and 94% in Nova Scotia to lows of 43% in Newfoundland and Labrador and 42% in Quebec. Compost of kitchen-yard waste by Province (2011)(Source: Mustapha, Iman. Composting by households in Canada. Statistics Canada. Environment Accounts and Statistics Division, EnviroStats (2011, vol. 7, no. 1)).

At the provincial level in Quebec and other provinces, clearly there’s room for improvement. In the City of Montreal the statistics are equally dismal. Every Montrealer produces approximately 514 kg of organic waste each year or which only 11% is composted. (CBC News)

Part of the problem has been that Montreal lags almost ten years behind other major Canadian cities and sits below the national average when it comes to curbside organic waste collection and composting. For example, Toronto has been collecting organic waste from single-family households since 2005 and expanded its program to apartment buildings and condos in 2008. By 2011 71% of households in Toronto had access to curbside collection, compared with 30% in Montreal. Composting by curbside collection, select canadian cities(Source: Mustapha, Iman. Composting by households in Canada. Statistics Canada. Environment Accounts and Statistics Division, EnviroStats (2011, vol. 7, no. 1)).

While waiting for the City to institute a curbside collection program, some Montrealers pay for weekly pick-up services from organizations such as Compost Montreal. They’ll give you back a portion of the composted soil later in the year from a pile like this: compost montreal pile

(Source: Compost Montreal)

But, given the lack of City services related to composting, you’re not alone if your garbage looks like this when it goes out to the curb: organic waste

(Source: CBC News)

If you have a backyard, you don’t have to wait for 2016 or hire a service. You can start you own backyard composter. Choose an outdoor compost bin and put it in a location that is easily accessible, and has good drainage. It can still be in amongst other plants and bushes, as long as it’s not entirely shaded the whole day.

Composter in the garden - galvanized steel

Composter iavailable from Galerie CO (Source: Garden Trading via Galerie CO)

Collect your organic matter, which includes cut grass, leaves, straw, hair, paper, vegetable and fruit cuttings, egg shells. It does not include fish, meat, bones or dairy products.

compost do-and-dontsDos and don’ts of composting (Source: http://www.stopfoodwaste.ie)

To prevent fruit flies and other pests, it’s a good idea to keep a pile of cut grass, garden clippings or peat moss to sprinkle over top each time you add organic waste.

Depending on the size and style of your composter, you will need to rotate the organic matter. This can be done with a pitch fork or a shovel.

The amount of time it takes your compost pile to produce finished compost will depend on the material you add and the effort you put in. A compost pile that that is turned often and receives a balance between “brown” and “green” waste materials will decompose faster than one that is not maintained or is tilted too heavily in favour of one particular kind of waste material.   compost What goes in the backyard compostGreen vs. brown organic waste (Source: http://www.yellowknife.ca)

So, be patient and be kind to your compost and it will reward you with your very own ‘black gold’.

compost black goldFinished compost (Source: waystogogreen.com)

Try it at home. And if you’re in Montreal, encourage the City to keep its word so we all have access to widespread composting in the next couple of years. Meeting its stated goal of composting 60% of Montreal’s organic waste once the new facilities are up and running would put Montreal back in the pack when it comes to urban composting and is something to be celebrated.

Do you have any composting tips? We’d love to hear about your experiences and how you’ve reduced your own landfill contribution. Leave a comment below, or get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter @GalerieCO. Keep Calm and Compost