Across the street, along my neighbors’ sunny driveway is a wooden fence covered with potted bromeliads. They are primarily Neoregelias — the kind you can pick up at local hardware or grocery stores — yet the massed statement of them is spectacular.
I’ve admired their plant-lined fence for years and when COVID-19 forced me to stay at home, I channeled my energy from garden envy to garden enthusiast. If I could have a rose-covered wall, why not a bromeliad wall?
According to Susan Gideault of G.N.O.B.S., or the Greater New Orleans Bromeliad Society, “One of the reasons for the popularity of bromeliads is they thrive on neglect.” So I embarked on a garden wall filled with pots that forgive you for ignoring them and produce breathtaking blooms despite my tendency to laziness.
My friend had given me several bromeliads she had grown and separated, so I had a few for a beginning. The mother, or the original plant, will sprout offshoots or “pups,” then produce a colorful bloom after which it dies. This means you can start with a few bromeliads, they reproduce, you divide them and add to your collection without having to buy more.
Jeanne Garman, an internationally accredited master bromeliad judge, recommends using Hapi-Gro of Hope Agri Products, a 100% organic compost she buys from Lowe’s for potting soil. Hard-leaved bromeliads like Neoregelias are hardy and can take more light and cold; soft-leaved bromeliads prefer shadier environments. To protect bromeliads from severe cold below 40 degrees Farenheit, Anne Jenkins, G.N.O.B.S. president, waters hers and then covers them with flannel sheets topped by plastic ones.
My neighbor had also shown me how he had hung the bromeliads in terracotta pots using an ingenious and inexpensive pot clip available from Amazon that uses the pot lip, a screw and leverage to hang the pots on his fence. I had chosen the brick and lattice-topped wall in my shady service alley that I view from my kitchen sink as my new bromeliad garden location. Then, I called Niki Epstein, landscape designer, horticulturist and master gardener to help me get started. I had seen a vertical garden wall she had created for several retailers and I knew she would help me jumpstart my own.
One morning, we got together and while laughing, talking and drinking coffee, we screwed in the pot clips for the potted bromeliads and zip-tied in a few window boxes I had on hand onto the lattice. A carpenter had handbuilt with 1 by 2s the lattice onto the brick wall, as regular lattice panels would not be strong enough for the weight of the potted plants.
Later, I included asparagus fern, kalanchoe, English ivy and other tropicals in pots and in hanging baskets to add further interest and we ran irrigation lines to those plants that require more water. Now, I have a glorious green view from not only my kitchen window but also from my backdoor and through the window looking onto the alley.