Despite their ubiquity on land, indoor gardens have understandably been rarities in the nautical world. But as yachts become more and more residential and sustainability more important, suddenly tomatoes are ripening and tulips are blooming at sea.
When done right, onboard gardens can have practical and aesthetic benefits. Plants can help purify the air in an AC-filled yacht, as well as create microclimates and set different moods throughout the vessel. Some beautiful examples are already on the waves, from Boadicea’s tropical garden and the greenhouse on the explorer yacht Scout to the smart planters and pots programmed to regulate their own water, fertilizer and light exposure on Flying Fox.
Axel Massmann, CEO and founder of Yacht-Green, a Hamburg-based firm specializing in interior and exterior greening on megayachts, has created gardens for 300-foot-plus boats, including Dilbar. When it comes to designing your own, he recommends steering away from small flowerpots in favor of doing something incredible—bringing the jungle to you. “Imagine you’re standing on your yacht in the Arctic, looking at an iceberg. It’s beautiful, but it’s cold and uncomfortable,” Massmann suggests. “So you go inside into your own Mediterranean garden with olive trees, lemon trees and the sweet aroma of fresh lavender. Two climates meet in a never-seen-before symbiosis. Isn’t that fantastic?”
On a slightly smaller scale, London-based design firm Bannenberg & Rowell created a Japanese-inspired Zen garden to bring a peaceful ambience to the wellness area for one client.
And gardens aren’t just for looks. On some yachts, such as Sea Owl, chefs are growing fresh herbs on sundecks or vertical green walls in the galley. There’s even the potential to plant fruit trees or cultivate an onboard vineyard.
Green thumb or no, none of this is easy. Gardens can demand their own maintenance systems and additional crew training. Bannenberg & Rowell recently designed such an installation. “It required extensive research into hydroponics to understand what would be required to supply the yacht with a self-supporting food chain,” says Dickie Bannenberg, the firm’s founder and director.
“The scale of a yacht is a principal determining factor for the feasibility of a living garden,” Bannenberg adds. “Even then, there are maintenance and durability issues to consider.” For instance, many countries will force boats from abroad to dump both plants and the soil they’re grown in to avoid the spread of foreign pests or agricultural diseases, which is a further barrier to widespread uptake. But Bannenberg hopes that “the direction of travel is towards a greener and more self-sustaining pattern of life on board.”