Tired of the February blahs, Manitoba? Try a living wall

In the middle of February, most Winnipeggers just want the white winter weariness to end, but local company is hoping to help with a unique take on plants, called a living wall.

Winnipeg horticulturalist hopes to breathe some green back into our white winter

Nikki Bouchier with one of her live pictures. (CBC)

In the middle of February, most Winnipeggers just want the white winter weariness to end.

A local company is hoping to help with a unique take on plants, called a living wall.

Nikki Bouchier is the owner and lead horticulturalist for Off the Wall Greenscapes, where she designs and plants walls for people, designed to add some greenery and fresh air where there may be none.

"It's called a live picture," she said, showing off a small creation at Klean Gro Hydroponics in Osborne Village. "It's a framed, self-contained system that looks like a framed photo, but in the middle of it, a cartridge that is sort of a foam-sprayed, water-tight cartridge, is placed inside the frame."

Those cartridges are much like tiny flower pots, she said. Scale that up, and you can create an entire wall of living plants. 

"The frame itself is watered from the top and has a reservoir at the bottom. So you pour the water into the top and it fills the reservoir into the bottom," Bouchier said. The back of the cartridge is lined with a cloth that wicks water from the reservoir to the cartridge. 

Living walls generally only need to be watered every five to six weeks. 

Green beginnings

Bouchier has been working with plants professionally since she was a teenager. About 13 years ago she moved from Minnesota to Winnipeg, where she worked with the city as a gardener.

"That's only seven months out of the year, tops," she said. "Cool experience, but I really wanted something that I could do year-round as a horticulturalist."

Five years ago she took care of someone's living wall and was instantly hooked. 

"I just said 'You know, I want to do this for a living, this is great. This living wall thing is so cool.' And I saw that it was really just starting to pop up in Winnipeg."

One of her biggest pieces is in downtown Winnipeg.

"The YMCA has one of our largest walls, that is downtown off of Vaughan Street. That had 280 plants on that wall, so that's one of our best features."

Working with plants in the winter is like having her own mini-vacation, she added.

"I didn't get an escape this year, so … doing this is my tropical escape, being able to offer that and work with that on a weekly basis.

"I'm born to do this," she said. "My graduation from college, my parents actually had one of those baby photos of me with a watering can, I was probably two years old, with the overalls … I just love doing it. I don't know if I've ever really thought of a reason, it's just a calling, a passion."