(Published in Inside Out, spring 2012)
Perhaps you live in an apartment with just a small balcony? Or perhaps you have a tiny outdoor space, such as a patio, back porch or even just a doorstep?
With container gardening, even the smallest of spaces can be turned into a lush getaway from which to retreat from the stresses of daily life.
Planter boxes, wooden barrels, hanging baskets and flower pots are just some of the containers that can be used to create your garden. And when it comes to your choice of greenery, the only limit is your imagination. Fill your containers with colourful flowering plants, prickly cacti, or nourishing vegetables and herbs.
Planting in pots dates back to the first Egyptian, Roman, and Oriental cultures. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and, in Ancient Greece, there is evidence of rooftop gardens.
Today, container gardens can be found squeezed into the smallest of outdoor areas, transforming these tight spaces into a tranquil oasis.
Before getting started, Henrik Lindhardt of Power Flower suggests taking pictures or drawing a diagram of the outdoor space, so you know the area you have to work with.
“No matter how small the area, there is a lot to take into consideration,” Henrik says.
“The environment, maintenance, pot sizes, how exposed the area is to the elements as well as budget to name just a few.”
The most important thing is to be creative. Henrik suggests grouping different sizes, colours and species together to create interest and depth.
If you want a colourful garden, you will also need to choose plants that flower throughout the year, such as bougainvillea. Crotons are an ideal plant as their beautifully coloured leaves ensure a splash of colour year-round.
Henrik advises going to a nursery to pair the plants and pots, as not all pots and plants are suited to each other.
“You need to be aware that the plant will grow, so the pot needs to be large enough to accommodate the species of plant,” he says. “Also, if the pot is not in a sheltered area, it needs to act like an anchor in strong winds. If the plant is too large or tall for the pot it could easily be blown over.”
Nutrition is also important as the soil area in a container garden is retained, therefore limiting the root zone to the size of the pot. The use of a good fertiliser on a regular basis is essential.
For those who believe a container garden involves less work than a sprawling backyard, Henrik has a word of caution.
“You have to be realistic about the time it takes to maintain,” he warns. “There is no bullet-proof method. No matter how small, large or robust the plants, you will still need to constantly monitor and water them.”
All spaces, great and small, can accommodate an enchanting garden. All it takes is imagination, and a little help from the experts.