I began to stay at the Pershing Hall Hotel in Paris after Andree Putman redesigned it, despite the fact that it wasn’t in one of my favorite locations. I was taken by her special details and wondered how they would survive the rigors of hotel life.
There was a wall of plants in one of the dining rooms and I suggested that we have one at Bastide. Andree resisted, saying that she didn’t want to repeat herself and I commented that the sculptor used plants as a work of art, a sculpture, and that it was really his choice.
She finally came around and Patrick Blanc was commissioned to build one of his ‘sculptures’ at Bastide.
Blanc is a botanist that developed his plant wall. There are some others, but Patrick’s design was unique, but complicated. It involved a stainless steel and plastic backing covered by an artificial felt cover to hold the plants and the moisture from a hydroponic system. The water was continuously recycled.
He installed the technology of the wall and the plants and it was indeed beautiful, stunning. But the maintenance of the thing was problematic, and the various plants didn’t survive properly, some did, and some didn’t. Also, the sound of the water dripping and being recycled became annoying. I loved the special look that Patrick had established but some of his selections couldn’t or wouldn’t survive.
California is a strange place.
Patrick’s original idea was to duplicate cliff – growing mosses, but the plants ere neither cliff- growing nor mosses. The system was labor intense and inefficient because many of the plants needed varying degrees of moisture and suffered under excess moistures that Patrick’s complicated system demanded. Also, replacing dead plants by cutting into the fabric and having them relate was an issue.
The practical solution was simple. We built leaning shelves and replaced the plastics and just replaced the plants with potted plants. We just watered them by hand, no big deal. The solution was primitive and inelegant, but it worked. We just chose plants that hid the pots when they were placed at a slight angle.
Patrick was never told what we had done but the inspiration was his.