Sunday, 16 September 2012

The Balcony Gardener

One sad thing about moving to a flat has been the loss of a garden. But I am very fortunate in that my dad still lets me use his garden and greenhouse to grow things, and our flat has a little balcony.

Isabelle Palmer has written a wonderful book just for small spaces like ours, called The Balcony Gardener. As well as chapters for absolute newcomers to gardening in general, it also has lots of ideas for making the most of small balconies, roof gardens (we should be so lucky!) and even windowboxes. Well, as soon as I'd started to read her book, I knew we needed to use our balcony for more than just hanging out the washing!

I went to the RHS Wisley Flower Show last weekend. It was nice - there were many different growers from the ones I saw at RHS Chelsea, and because it's later in the year, there were beautiful displays of different types of flowers, as well as different things for sale. At Chelsea, I bought basil and pennyroyal seeds from Jekka's Herb Farm. At Wisley, I bought herb plants from Hooksgreen Herbs. At the May show, there were stunning displays of daffodils, grown in special conditions so that they all flowered at the same time. At the September show, I became a bit of a bulboholic, especially when I learnt that the grower was from Bridgend (where I've been visiting friends since 1998).

So last week I went to look for a balcony trough and planted up the herbs. I tried to plant them according to the conditions needed for them (thank you, Jekka), but I think I got the lemon mint wrong and it should have gone in a single pot. Hey ho. We'll see how well they survive. Here they are on the balcony. I know, gardening and floristry are all about odd numbers, and I did plan to just put three single pots at the bottom and one somewhere else. But...there isn't really anywhere else except right by the door (accident-prone person plus tripping hazard equals mess plus swearing). The top pot contains (left to right) lemon mint, orange scented thyme, and marjoram 'Gold Splash'. The single pots are (left to right) bay, blackcurrant sage, myrtle and rosemary 'Sudbury Blue'.

It's a shame the weather's starting to get cooler and the days are getting shorter!

I'm hoping that they survive well into spring. In flower language, mint means virtue, myrtle means love and marriage, sage means health and a long life, and thyme means courage and happiness. They're all good sentiments for weddings, I think, and they look beautiful and smell good. The blackcurrant sage has beautiful red flowers and the rosemary has pale blue flowers, but I don't think they'll be flowering in spring.

Here are some more herbs that I grew from seed. From left to right: sweet basil, cinnamon basil, upright pennyroyal, and another cinnamon basil. One cinnamon basil is now sitting with the sweet basil in the kitchen, the pennyroyal is on a windowsill in the lounge, and I have wrapped up one of each basil for a friend who likes gardening and cooking Italian food.