Landscape Architecture Student Benjamin Heim Grows Inspiring Things with Florafelt

Years of finesse has allowed Benjamin Heim create this botanical masterpiece for his clients vertical garden in San Francisco. The living wall started with mostly ferns and has evolved into an intense mixture of exotic species inspired by curiosity and experimentation. The result is astounding.

An aging bromeliad squeezes into it’s home while rooting into a Florafelt Root Wrap.

A spontaneous and inspired vertical garden masterpiece by Benjamin Heim of Groundcover Landscaping.

Florafelt Vertical Garden by Benjamin Heim of Groundcover Landscaping

Bromeliad Wall Vertical Garden

Laura Mast of Kingwood Center Gardens adds an exciting new addition to their showcase greenhouse. Florafelt Vertical Garden Planters are hung from a metal unistrut frame and filled with a colorful combination of root-wrapped bromeliads. The historic house and gardens are located in Mansfield, Ohio.

Florafelt Vertical Garden at Kingwood Center Gardens
Florafelt Vertical Garden at Kingwood Center Gardens
Florafelt Vertical Garden at Kingwood Center Gardens
Florafelt Vertical Garden by Joanna Wong and Durkin Inc. for a luxury remodel in San Francisco.

Urban Green Luxury Remodel

Luxury remodel in San Francisco’s Cole Valley gets a big dose of urban green. Florafelt Vertical Garden Planters are used to fill the 30 foot tall window well with ferns. Joanna Wong and Durkin Inc. created a living wall as a focal point for their luxury remodel located in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury area. Listed for $6M with Coldwell Banker here.

Real Estate Developer Joanna Wong describes her experience using the Florafelt Vertical Garden System to design and construct a 3 story plant wall to create verdant views where once there were walls.

Project Specs
– 16′ wide x 30′ tall
– 6 planters wide x 15 planters high
– Total 90 Florafelt 12-Pocket Planters
– Total 1080 Plants: 6 inch potted Mother Ferns, Maidenhair Ferns, Button Ferns, Blue Star Ferns
– Simple Drip-Irrigation at the top.
– Floor Drain at the bottom.


Florafelt Vertical Garden by FireDean Schilling, Woodland Landscapes at Atrium DUMBO, Brooklyn.

Bouncing Back In Brooklyn

Grateful for the spent fury of Jonas, our thoughts turn to that other superstorm, Sandy – and recall a vertical garden so tough, a historic hurricane couldn’t bring it down. In fact, for renowned New York restaurateurs Laurent Kalkotour and Leslie Affre, and acclaimed landscape designer FireDean Schilling, the logical thing was to build two more.

Florafelt Vertical Garden by FireDean Schilling, Woodland Landscapes at Atrium DUMBO, Brooklyn.
Florafelt Vertical Garden by FireDean Schilling, Woodland Landscapes at Atrium DUMBO, Brooklyn.

October 29, 2012: what is now Atrium DUMBO had been open just six months, following a year of pressure and preparation. The restaurant lies just a few feet from a waterside park in the eclectic and happening DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighborhood in Brooklyn.

For the opening, FireDean designed and installed a gorgeous 16×5-foot living wall made with Florafelt. “Vertical gardens are ideal for hotels and restaurants because you need a memorable experience,” he says. “There is an undeniable energy that resonates – maybe it’s the higher level of oxygen!”

Florafelt Vertical Garden by FireDean Schilling, Woodland Landscapes at Atrium DUMBO, Brooklyn.

A dark moment.

When Sandy hit, more than five feet of seawater barreled through the back door. Just about everything was demolished. The owners rang up one of their line cooks and then all went to the restaurant during the hurricane, but all measures to protect it were in vain. Closed for months, no federal assistance was provided to rebuild.

Ridiculously resilient.

FireDean Schilling, Woodland Landscapes, Atrium DUMBO, Brooklyn.About the only thing that survived was FireDean’s green wall. “It was kind of an inspiration. It looked pretty good, but with a completely destroyed restaurant around it,” he says. The owners brought him back, thinking it also needed replacing, but FireDean said not necessarily.

“We took out most of the plants, cleaned them up, replaced them and fixed the irrigation system. We also kept the structure.” In addition, FireDean donated toward the rebuild, helped with the cleanup and promoted fundraising efforts.

To date, FireDean has created a second wall and is busy designing a third for Leslie and Chef Laurent’s newest restaurant as well. “Green walls make complete sense with their impact and beauty. They’re practical and they work. If you make it pretty, they will come.”

Florafelt Vertical Garden by FireDean Schilling, Woodland Landscapes at Atrium DUMBO, Brooklyn.

With 20 years of experience, FireDean is an urban landscape guru, tackling tough spaces, rooftop gardens and living walls. He’s excited about the future, too. “There’s a huge cultural shift. Young people are growing up with this. Coupled with an architectural background, we have a generation of people who will incorporate this kind of design in urban planning,” he says. “Before building, planners and architects now ask: where will the plants go?”

Florafelt Vertical Garden by FireDean Schilling, Woodland Landscapes at Atrium DUMBO, Brooklyn.

With New York City no stranger to sub-zero temps, FireDean takes care to help clients learn what works best in their climate. “I generally choose from a spectrum of plants that adapt to low light and feel like you’re walking in New York State. Look at the High Line (a public park built on an old rail line above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side). They chose scrub oaks and stuff that already grew there. We test growth habits, whether it’s a natural cascading effect or aggressive vine. And we emphasize maintenance to always look 100 percent.”

And hurricane-proof.

He built one, and here they come.

Seth Stottlemyer’s first vertical garden is a stunner! Trained in Washington, DC, apprenticed in New York, and now headquartered in Sarasota, this entrepreneur brings a little northern exposure to the sunny South.

As a rising star landscaper, Seth is big on keeping up to date ─ not surprising since he managed energy efficiency programs at Con Edison, received professional certification from Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (headquartered in Toronto), and studied at the New York Botanical Garden. He apprenticed at the renowned Town and Gardens firm in New York City, rising to manage high profile residential and commercial sites.


One might think that in Florida, only tropical plants that soak up the sun all day survive – not so. “Our vertical garden is north facing and doesn’t get a lot of direct sun. In fact, there is a slight roof overhang,” says Seth. So he created a masterpiece including ferns, philodendrons, bromeliads and peperomia, which work well in lower light. Peperomia’s many varieties include silver and burgundy stems and leaves for added punch; that and its attractively mounted compact habit make it a great wall companion.

Needless to say, the living wall creates “A lot of buzz. I think this will take off big for me,” Seth says. One project gained as a result is a 9×11-foot wall for a new client’s dining terrace, which is surrounded by indirect light.


Seth also creates gorgeous container gardens and raised vegetable beds, and is particularly adept at xeriscaping ─ the process of creating water-efficient, striking landscapes that replace those water-hogging grass lawns. (Xeros means “dry” in Greek.)

“Xeriscaping is taking off down here,” he says. “We’re using hardscaping like shells and rocks and drought resistant plants. There is a lot less maintenance: no need to cut, weed and fertilize all that grass.”

Seth-Strottlemyer-Oasis-Gardenscapes-Xeriscaping-ProjectsSeth grew up gardening and running the family business in Sarasota, but after years of work and education up north, he enjoys getting to know the southern plant palette again.

Seth-Strottlemeyer-Oasis-Gardenscapes-Florafelt-Vertical-Garden-Planters-4“We have a lot of courtyards where vertical gardens would be perfect,” he says. “I want to promote herb gardens and lettuces, which are popular here. With my experience in New York City, you have to bring your professional A game to high-end properties. I’m also excited to bring in my own artistry and flavor.”

Designing In Sync With Mother Nature

Holy bromeliad, Batman! Jeffrey Allis of Tru Vine Design creates spectacular living walls and adds real value for his clients just by looking around.

“I don’t sell just green walls −it’s an environment,” this South Florida designer and horticulturist says. Passionate about plants since age 13, he’s built much of his success by embracing the scientific principles of biomimicry. Put simply, biomimicry is an approach to finding sustainable solutions by imitating nature’s own patterns and strategies. For instance, the design behind velcro actually mimics how burrs grab and hold on in nature!



Jeff sees biomimicry in action through his extensive travels through the U.S., Europe and Central and South America. It’s in these latter regions − Panama, Brazil, Nicaragua – where he finds inspiration for his Florida gardens. He observes how plants act in their natural environment and comes back with new and often surprising revelations.

“I never thought agaves would work, but I traveled to Nicaragua and saw agave sticking out of a wall. I saw it grown in nature,” he says. “The philodendron family likes to crawl up, over rock faces, so they’re a good choice. Bromeliads also do well.”

“God’s got this down. Don’t be complicated, be observant.”

Jeff has built a distinguished name for himself as a trusted expert on which plants work together in a vertical garden and which don’t.  Often his walls contain more than 1,000 specimens. “Lots of people build green walls that are meant to fail,” he says. “There are so many nuances: wind, sun, light, time of year. I’ve turned down projects that won’t work. Be honest. When I turn down business, I gain business.”


Jeff also calls himself a biophilic designer, biophilia meaning the instinctive bond between human beings and nature.  “There’s evidence that our environment shapes our feelings and has a positive impact on us,” he says. “Plants make people feel happier, healthier. They have positive energy and affect our psychological well-being.”


With this in mind, Jeff works with each client to deliver an intensely personal experience. And that’s not all. “I want to take biophilic design to another level and get involved with a children’s hospice, creating gardens to help people heal,” he says.

Jeff thinks we’ve just begun to tap vertical gardening’s potential as a healing tool for ourselves and for the planet. “Right now, America designs green walls for decorating mostly,” he says. “In the future, green walls will be more recognized for their ability to cool spaces, bring the electric bill down, and use water wisely.”