On a sunny afternoon in September 2010, scaffolding and construction obscured the front of Cava Tapas and Wine Bar, a small restaurant with an outdoor patio tucked away on Commercial Alley in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. But within a few hours, the plain brick facade was transformed into a vertical garden, the first such garden in the area: The Coastal Home- Charles C Hugo Landscape Design Vertical Garden at Cava.
More than half a dozen species of predominantly native perennials fill the 160 square feet of vertical green space, a design planned and executed by Charles Hugo and Maya Travaglia of Charles C Hugo Landscape Design Lynn Felici-Gallant, former editor of Tastes sister publication Coastal Home magazine, spearheaded the project, the result of eight months of planning, fundraising, and organizing of volunteers.
Indeed, the project utilized the services of over a dozen sponsors and volunteers, including donations by film producer Chase Bailey and Seacoast businessmen William Matos and John Forma. Four New Hampshire nurseries Van Berkum Nursery, Stonepost Nursery Pleasant View Gardens/Proven Winners and Rolling Green Nursery plants and soil, Rainscape Lawn Sprinkler Systems supplied irrigation, and GroWalls donated the vertical wall system at a not-for-profit rate. Other generous donors included Rockingham Electric, FX Luminaire, electrician Sid Madore of Raymond, N.H. and Caswell Mechanical.
Felici-Gallant, who is also a garden and container designer and current marketing manager for Pleasant View Gardens, joined forces with Hugo and Travaglia to determine the ideal site for the garden.
Cava has a European feel to it, given the courtyard, outdoor seating, and location in Commercial Alley. Since vertical gardens originated in Paris, Cava felt like the appropriate spot. Because the garden would feature area woodland perennials, it also needed a wall with a lot of shade, and the Cava facade was ideal.
One of the reasons this vertical garden is unique, even on a national scale, is that it uses predominantly native New England plants, says Felici-Gallant. “To our knowledge, there isnt another native-plants vertical garden in the country.”
“When they approached us and offered to do the garden, it was a no-brainer to say yes, says John Akar, co-owner of Cava. Its a beautiful, beautiful piece of work. Chef and co-owner Gregg Sessler agrees. Its absolutely gorgeous, he says. It adds amazing atmosphere to the patio. Its pretty incredible, and were ecstatic and honored that its there.”
Hugo and Travaglia were both eager to be involved in this first-of-its-kind project. We were very excited to do something new, something cutting edge for the Seacoast, Travaglia enthuses. And something for the community too, Hugo adds. Its public art, really. We tried to choose plants that would look good, complement each other, and create an interesting design. The perennial plants are evergreen or semi-evergreen, so the wall will transform with the seasons.