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.”