With the Chelsea Flower Show taking place this week, we're feeling inspired to do some gardening, but without lots of outdoor space we've turned to Isabelle Palmer for some great indoor gardening projects that anyone can do! So if you're visiting the show, or have already visited and need some indoor gardening inspiration, or even if you'd just love to have more flowers and plants in your home but you're not sure where's best to start, take a look at these 5 projects from The Balcony Gardener...
Bowl of Succulents
This stylish display is a must for the “I wish I had more time!” gardener, the “I always forget to water the plants” gardener, or simply the lazy gardener. In recent years, succulents have come out of the shadows and they can be seen regularly on the tables of trendy cafes and in the pages of hip interior design magazines. The odd shapes, the fleshy leaves, and the sculptural globes make very modern and stylish interior plants. They are minimalist, with simple, streamlined shapes, and easily add a “desert chic” look to any home.
It can be a lot of fun putting together a display of succulents—you can definitely include the weird and the wonderful here. I chose a selection of my favorites, including Crassula ovata (jade or money plant), Sempervivum tectorum (common houseleek or hens-and-chicks), Aloe “Pinto,” Sedum, Kalanchoe thyrsifl ora (paddle plant), Epipremnum aureum (devil’s ivy), Echeveria “Fred Ives,” Crassula perforata (string of buttons), and Pachyveria glauca “Little Jewel,” along with Lithops (living stones or stone plant) and neutral pebbles. I painted the bowl a dark slate color, which I think offsets the overall look very well.
French Herb Container
What could be more satisfying than reaching over and picking some fresh, home-grown rosemary to use with your Sunday roast lamb? Parisians and other apartment dwellers living in mainland European cities are often starved of outdoor space, so they make the most of their balconies and indoor planting areas. Walking through the streets of Paris and looking up to the sky, you will often see apartments lined with window boxes and lushly planted balconies. The rustic-looking crate is perfect for the herbs housed inside, creating a picturesque miniature French herb garden. You can often find wooden crates in vintage and antiques stores; sometimes, you might spot a neglected one at the back of the store, containing other bits and pieces—they’re often cheap and you can haggle with the seller!
The compact thyme bushes look great in this crate. Thyme can be grown successfully indoors; it simply needs a bright windowsill and some basic care and attention to thrive. The heady scent emanating from rosemary is delicious, and this highly fragrant herb can be used in many dishes. It is very easy to grow and, being a Mediterranean herb, it will appreciate a sunny spot. Finally, the lavender plant makes a lovely partner for both the thyme and the rosemary. Lavender is hard to resist, boasting beautiful flowers and an equally arresting scent. It gives a delicate flavor to cooking and is especially wonderful in light desserts.
Summer Floral Arrangement
Flower-arranging is often regarded as a rather staid and old-fashioned hobby. However, there has recently been a noticeable resurgence in floral arrangements, with edgier displays featuring wilder flowers that are markedly different from commercial blooms. This bountiful floral display, which includes roses, peonies, delphiniums, Salvia farinacea (ornamental sage), Chamelaucium uncinatum (Geraldton waxflower), and Brodiaea (cluster lilies), is bright and colorful, and housed perfectly in a white kitchen jug. The eclectic mix of color and foliage makes for a lovely contrast with the pale hues of the open kitchen.
Mason Jar Containers
These three vintage preserving jars are perfect for a kitchen display of indoor plants. Terrarium-style planters need not be expensive, since the plants don’t need to be housed in antique cases or terrariums commissioned from a specialist maker. In fact, it’s more fun to think outside the box and be imaginative. So, visit antiques stores, flower markets, and thrift stores, or look in your own home—are there any jars or vases that you’ve always kept but never found a use for?
When I found the jars I was on vacation close to the coast, so I have kept that lovely feeling and can remind myself of walks on the beach by using golden sand as a base for the plants. Succulents grow very well in sand; simply place a spoonful or two of succulent potting mix in the base of the jar, then sprinkle the sand around the sides and over the top to hide the potting mix. I used reindeer moss in all three jars and picked different glossy succulents, including Crassula ovata (jade or money plant), which is one of my favorites. Other succulents you could use include Schlumbergera (Christmas cactus), Sempervivum tectorum (common houseleek or, rather charmingly, hens-and-chicks), and Kalanchoe tomentosa (panda plant). Spend some time looking into your preferred succulents and thinking about which colors would work best in your own kitchen. Water your succulents sparingly.
Ivy and Fern Hanging Basket
Hanging arrangements are a wonderfully creative way to display indoor plants. They create a fabulous point of interest in a living room, above a long table in a kitchen, or displayed in a hallway. This arrangement features lush, green, trailing Hedera (ivy) and busy Nephrolepis exaltata (Boston fern), both typically outdoor plants. This bountiful hanging basket makes a wonderful contrast to the crisp white surroundings of the room.
These projects are from House Plants by Isabelle Palmer.
Photography by Helen Cathcart ©CICO Books