Before I started working at the Balcony Gardener, I would watch in vain from my top-floor window as my neighbours would tend to their garden and pick their home-grown produce; without any outdoor space and any seeming green-fingered ability my home was bereft of living things. On many attempts my flatmates and I would try keeping plants inside, but more often than not those poor plants would start to wilt in the corner and would eventually be sent to the lofty garden in the sky, like so many before them. My Dad was a keen and busy gardener when I was growing up and I had spent summer holidays helping him re-seed lawns, cut back bushes and making compost so why couldn’t I keep a supermarket basil plant alive in my kitchen?
A few months working with the Balcony Gardener soon opened up my eyes to urban gardening, the idea that you could create a small oases in your limited space and that it could be manageable and easy to look after – very important factors for a now novice gardener like myself. I saw Isabelle’s two beautiful balconies overlooking the London rooftops, within the city she had created two gardening gems that were bountiful, bright, peaceful and vibrant. It was amazing to see how she had created two gardens up in the sky that easily rivaled most people’s backyards. I was introduced to the idea of container gardening, and was looking into different groups such as London based Guerilla Gardening and the New York High Line, organisations like Isabelle that promoted and encouraged urbanites to roll up their sleeves and get gardening. I was well and truly bitten by the green-fingered bug, I wanted to take part! But how? My flat is on the top two floors of a Victorian terrace, our neighbours downstairs have the sole use of the garden and I didn’t think they would appreciate me planting pansies on their lawn. I needed to re-think. Then I realised the whole idea behind balcony gardening is being able to create your own green space however restricted and limited it maybe – it could be in the sky, outside your window, on your roof, there was always the potential to create a green gem. So I looked outside our front door, we had a scruffy communal entrance set back from the road where we kept our bins. Could this be my balcony garden?
I told my parents of my plans, and ever-supportive my Dad gave me a planted pot to start with. I positioned it carefully next to the bins, and admired it every time I arrived home. We then had a mini-heatwave and I forgot to water it for a week, it was on it’s way out. I didn’t want my hopes for a new garden to wilt like so many other plants before, I realised that Isabelle actually had to water and care for her plants for them to thrive. After I carefully pruned the dead leaves, and eventually gave it some water and plant food by a miracle my plant resurrected itself and blossomed. Even though it was one pot sat next to three bins, I was happily calling it my garden. With help from Isabelle I planted some lavender in a vintage bath, and then started to increase my number of pots. I even re-arranged the bins and moved them out of the way, painted our meter boxes green and placed some solar lamps that lit the garden up at night. It’s blooming! No longer the scruffy entrance it once was, the walk to my house is lined with colour and aroma eminates from the mint and lavendar plants. I even managed to re-use a casserole dish that had cracked and planted some geraniums.
Inspired, I even started some plants in the house and they’ve thrived!
As the pictures show, it’s still a work-in progress, I’m experimenting seeing what works and moving things around to see what sits well together.
My next project I’ve set for myself is to start chilli plants from seeds, I’ve been coached well and have started them inside on the window, watch this space – maybe in a few months it’ll be thai red curry everyday for dinner.