Living Walls are Green Masterpieces
By Liza Long, Photography by Cy Gilbert
Jayme Mullaney is a self-described “plant geek.” That’s why she decided to leave a successful 25-year marketing career to pursue her true passion: all things green. As the new owner of Boise’s Greens N Things, Mullaney works with commercial and residential clients to create living works of art that inspire and enliven interior spaces, improving health and productivity.
“Have you heard the term ‘biophilia’?” Mullaney asks me when we meet to discuss her work. “It’s that innate connection we all have to other living things. For me that connection has always been with plants.”
Jason Doran, owner of WillowGlenn Landscape, feels the same way. Doran graduated from Boise State in pre-med, then decided to take another path. He expanded the part-time landscaping business he started in high school and 25 years later, he still works long but rewarding days at a job he loves. Doran took his inspiration from highly-regarded French botanist Patrick Blanc, who is credited with creating the vertical green wall concept in the early 1990s.When the local economy took a downturn in 2008, Doran found the time to experiment with both interior and exterior living walls, with increasingly dramatic and lovely results.
“I started with dirt box shelving,” he told me. “But water doesn’t want to cooperate with soil in a vertical arrangement. I’ve moved to a hydroponic/soil mix. I start the plants in soil, then move them to a hydroponic environment, which is much lighter.”
Like Doran, Mullaney, who earned an MBA, fell in love with plants when she was young. “I was always arranging them,” she said. “In a living wall arrangement, I get to design a tapestry of plants in one piece of unified artwork.” She loves to design, combining her business background with her creative talent.
Beyond the aesthetic “wow” factor, there are practical and health reasons to consider a living wall. Plants improve indoor air quality by absorbing common environmental toxins like carbon monoxide, VOCs, and formaldehyde. Plants also “exhale” oxygen, improving the quality of the air we breathe. For architects and builders seeking coveted LEED certification, living walls are a natural choice. Both interior and exterior green walls can reduce summer cooling costs by as much as 20 percent. Finally, simply having a view of green living things can help people to relax and be more mindful, improving their quality of life.
Though Mullaney primarily works with commercial clients and Doran with residential ones, they follow the same process with their clients, matching the space’s needs to the appropriate greenery. “In some spaces, a living wall is more effective than artwork or floor plants,” Mullaney notes.
In addition to living walls, Doran also works with clients to create water-wise landscaping. “I’m a big fan of sustainable design,” he said. “Grass is a very needy plant, and it takes a lot of water. You can have a lawn, but your entire landscape doesn’t need to be grass.”
Both Mullaney and Doran stress that living wall installation and maintenance requires a professional or highly trained person. Mullaney is building partnerships with architects and interior designers to build living walls into the design of new spaces. For these two Boise artists, it’s easy being green.
For more information about living walls:
Greens ‘N Things, LLC