Sourced from Honolulu Magazine
Most of those stunning living walls popping up around town can be traced to 1st Look Exteriors, a family business that’s created a hybrid art form here over the past 12 years.
With decades of plant nursery experience and a degree in landscape architecture, Greg Lee says he learns from each wall, from small homeowner projects that cost hundreds of dollars to big commercial projects that cost thousands.
Lee explains that the state’s largest living wall, at Ward Village, took four years of planning and about two weeks to install. Looking up at the indoor/outdoor sea of some 10,000 tropical plants—bromeliads, syngonium, laua‘e and other ferns—waving gently from the Anaha condo wall, the concept looks simple enough. There’s a series of various plants arranged in a grid and watered from a hidden source.
But Lee and business partner/wife Terri Rios-Lee explain that it’s far more complicated. “As soon as you go vertical, it changes everything,” Lee says. “There’s no book out there, so you have to just figure it out through trial and error.”
Since 2006, the Lees have experimented with plants, watering systems and design; they built systems large and small, residential and business. As they refined their work, the big living walls—with all of the engineering, construction and upkeep required to keep them green and growing—have come to dominate their business.