Written by Lisë Stern
On a sunny afternoon last month, 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 façade 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, editor of Taste’s sister publication Coastal Home, spearheaded the project, the result of eight months of planning, fund-raising, and organizing of volunteers. Indeed, the project utilized the services of over a dozen donors and volunteers. “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 isn’t another native-plants vertical garden in the country.”
Felici-Gallant, who also owns Indigo Gardens, a fine garden and container design and horticulture marketing company, 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 façade was ideal.
“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. “It’s a beautiful, beautiful piece of work.” Chef and co-owner Gregg Sessler agrees. “It’s absolutely gorgeous,” he says. “It adds amazing atmosphere to the patio. It’s pretty incredible, and we’re ecstatic and honored that it’s 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. “It’s public art, really. We tried to choose plants that would look good, complement each other, and create an interesting design.” The perennial plants are all evergreen or semi-evergreen, so the wall will transform with the seasons.
Lisë Stern is the editor of Taste of the Seacoast magazine and food editor for Hannaford supermarket’s fresh magazine. She also writes on topics ranging from software to health to travel, but her specialty is food, including recipe development, culinary customs and history, product reviews, and chef profiles. She is the author of several books, and most recently co-authored the beautifully photographed Culinary Tea (www.culinaryteabook.com).
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