Published July 21, 2021
The Art of Preserved Nature
By Jen Levisen
Driven to elevate individuals’ spirits by bringing maintenance-free nature installations to imaginatively designed spaces, Garden on the Wall is an award-winning provider of turn-key, maintenance-free garden installations created with all-natural preserved plants. They pioneered this concept in the U.S. market, particularly in commercial applications, and with over 950+ installations to date, they have close to 100,000 square feet of gardens under their belt.
In her interview, Miné Hisim, Garden on the Wall’s founder and managing partner, shares how the New Jersey-based company became the A+D industry’s go-to resource, more about the company’s commitment to sustainability, and how they intend to continue leading an increasingly popular field.
JL: Garden on the Wall has become the go-to resource for the A+D industry. How did the company get to that point?
MH: Architects have been increasingly specifying us in their designs, and in some cases, the clients themselves are. We've gotten rave reviews from clients, who in turn have reported enthusiastic responses from occupants of their spaces. Numerous interior designers we've worked with take their clients to see our previous installations, some of which were completed over five years ago, which is a testament to the longevity of our product and our reception in the designer community.
Biophilia is very popular, from the general public on up. Our gardens are a feel-good product, with an irresistible visual and tactile appeal that resonates across the viewers' spectrum. Our gardens require no water, sunlight, or soil and retain their vibrant look for seven to 10 years. Our gardens are the idyllic fulfillment of biophilic aspirations for any interior space. And we offer impeccable sustainability credentials that no others in the market come close to.
In terms of numbers, we have more than 100+ projects currently, working with 85 design firms. We also have more than 150+ projects in the pipeline with 128 design firms. We collaborate with the Top 100 Interior Design firms to service a growing list of Fortune 500 companies – particularly the tech industry and finance giants. These corporate clients have paved the way to establish confidence in our gardens’ impact and longevity, helping others realize the advantages of selecting preserved gardens over living walls.
Not only have these Fortune 500 companies become repeat clientele, but this success also opened up new applications – particularly within healthcare as we are the only garden supplier in the U.S. and the world to comply with the Healthy Hospitals Initiative. Our garden installations make biophilic design accessible and manageable and thus play a pivotal role in creating spaces that enliven the spirit and imbue peace and a sense of wellness that is lasting and enduring.
JL: Why is it important to bring elements of nature indoors, as your vertical garden installations do?
MH: While biophilic design has long been a popular feature of sustainable, modern architecture, it has been something of a rarity indoors — until now. Thanks to some pioneering product development in the use of preserved plants, we have transformed indoor gardens from a high-maintenance luxury into an eminently viable option for a wide array of interior spaces. Our vertical gardens incorporate plant species that have been sustainably preserved at the peak of their freshness, and as such, require no water, misting, or irrigation, nor even light or soil.
The result is a beautiful, vibrant garden that enriches an environment visually, and provides continual health benefits to match. Studies show that biophilic design has significant physiological effects on humans. It stimulates cognitive function, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress levels, balances hormone levels, and mood swings, and may even make us live longer according to a recent Harvard study.
JL: Your installations have numerous sustainability credentials and have contributed to many certified products. Tell me more about Garden on the Wall’s commitment to this work.
MH: Sustainability and biophilia go hand-in-hand, practically and spiritually. Both are philosophies that aim to create a symbiosis between humans and nature, for the betterment of both.
Sustainability is essential to all of us as a community, and it is at the heart of our core beliefs and vision. With that commitment to product transparency and sustainable design, Garden on the Wall is a pioneer in being the only preserved garden supplier in the world that has the Health Product Declaration (version 2.1.1), thereby enabling contributions to LEED® v4.1, The WELL Building Standard™, and fitwel®. Likewise, our gardens comply with CDPH VOC standards for both Classroom and Office Scenarios; are listed in the mindful MATERIALS database and Transparency Catalog, and conform to the "Healthy Hospitals Initiative" (HHI).
We are a big proponent of the ‘green’ movement; we deeply believe that sustainability is the future for architecture and design, as well as for humanity. As a result, we pledge to do our part.
JL: Outside of sustainability, what sets GOTW apart from your competitors?
MH: Our garden installations have the highest visual and longevity standards in the market, and that's no coincidence. That is because our team is involved in all steps of the design and build process, from renderings to fabrication to installation and touch-up – all the while collaborating closely with architects, interior designers, and general contractors – in essence, providing a truly 'turn-key service. The hands-on approach with all these processes gives us the full confidence of providing a warranty for five years, although these gardens' lifespan typically goes beyond that. What's more, we offer tune-up services down the road, if needed, which extend our gardens' lifespan even further.
Additionally, we offer impeccable sustainability credentials that no others in the market come close to, and are our gardens have 0.45 SAA and 0.45 NRC, which prove the sound dampening effect of our products. We’re also the only preserved garden supplier in the U.S. with all of our garden types are categorized as Class 1 (and A) per Fire Spread and Smoke Index Test ASTM E84. The health and safety of the occupants of these designed spaces have utmost importance for us.
But with popularity, imitation is sure to follow. We are already starting to see more and more new entries flooding the space with mostly patchy floral applications. However, designers searching for reliably preserved gardens should recognize that none of these suppliers have third-party sustainability credentials, nor do they practice the meticulous fabrication and installation processes that we developed to ensure visual and longevity standards. When firms of this type use poorly preserved plants and subpar fabrication and installation techniques, their gardens will appear noticeably inferior and display alarmingly flawed longevity and color stability to the extent of requiring replacement despite the additional expense.
JL: The pandemic’s impact on 2020, and frankly even 2021 so far, was incredibly far-reaching. Did GOTW have to adapt to maintain or grow? If so, in what ways?
MH: In a challenging time for us all, we celebrated the strength, resiliency, and creativity of the design world. Together we have risen to the challenges that faced us and triumphed. GOTW in particular harnessed its own creativity, devotion to clients, and resourcefulness, going beyond our natural abilities and embracing new means and technologies to help architects and interior designers bring their biophilic aspirations to life. And we’ve been successful, delivering the calm and rejuvenation offered by indoor nature, and those little biophilic Zen moments that have proven to be more important now than ever.
JL: What’s on the horizon for Garden on the Wall?
The qualities that make us the go-to company undoubtedly excite architects and clients alike. Given our increasingly urbanized world, it seems inevitable that we will see a proliferation of interior gardens moving forward. But what will the indoor green walls of the future look like? We'll see a broadening variety of preserved plant species, increasingly daring and dramatic executions, greater longevity, and more. The future of green architecture looks compelling — and we’re set to lead the market with our beautiful nature installations.
The "All Natural Preserved Plant" concept we pioneer is relatively new in the U.S. As we create a considerable demand for beautiful garden installations in the market, the market will, in turn, attract more copycat companies in the future. Unfortunately, this will have the consequence of disrupting the reputation of preserved wall gardens in the U.S. So, while we are optimistic that the design community will increasingly demand and specify GOTW installations, we need to make sure we keep educating our clients about the pitfalls of using subpar patchy floral applications with no third party credentials.
Nevertheless, we will continue to be the leader in this increasingly popular field. We check all the boxes in terms of sustainability, health, and safety to ensure that architects and interior designers can specify us with peace of mind.
Recent Awards and Nominations
+ Multiple A+Awards in 2020, including the Jury and Popular Choice Awards in the Finishes-Wall & Wall Coverings category, as well as a Special Mention in the Finishes-Acoustics category
+ Interior Design Magazine Best of Year Award in 2018 for our unique collections based on application: Hospitality, Workplace, & Education
+ Finalist in NYC X Design in 2019
+ The Architect’s Newspaper Special Mention at Best of Year 2020
+ NY C&G Magazine’s Innovation in Design Best Product of Year Award in 2019