8 Space-Savvy Gardens
For many city and apartment dwellers, obtaining any kind of outdoor garden area is a luxury. While the lucky few have a balcony or patio, most need to manage a fire escape or the occasional flower box to develop some plant life. A lush garden might feel like an impossible accomplishment in these very small houses, but as these inhabitants prove, developing plant life is possible in the tiniest spaces.
Name: Afsaneh Tajvidi
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Garden size: A windowsill
Afsaneh Tajvidi’s Toronto condo does not have much sunny area for potted plants, and also this windowsill was among those few spaces she could spare. “Living in a condo, you need to look for plants in small sizes and types which don’t grow very fast,” she says. “I guess that has been my philosophy for the windowsill garden: little plants in little pots.” Above is a shot of her garden in January, in which it still gets plenty of sun in the middle of sunlight.
Right now Tajvidi has a jade bonsai and several cacti and succulents climbing on her butt. The image above shows the garden’s growth from September to November — she changed out a few of the plants for a fresh new arrangement.
The largest challenge has been creating the right environment for plants. Frequently, she will put a bowl of water close to make a few humidity. She rotates each plant 45 degrees a day to allow the sunlight reach all sides. “Play beautiful songs for your plants too,” she says. “They love it and develop better if they hear good music.”
Photographs courtesy of Afsaneh Tajvidi
Location: Alberta, Canada
Garden size: 6 feet by 20 feet
This lush garden is set precariously onto a 16th-floor balcony with a high-rise condo. Because Canada has such a short growing season, owner Jeannie frequently chooses her plants based on durability. At the spring, she will plant the entire garden with annuals and after that allow the plants dry out in the autumn. “In winter, the snow generates natural sculptural shapes as well as the dried plants give something for your hoar frost to cling to — it’s quite beautiful when that occurs,” she says.
Currently Jeannie is developing just two little Amur maple trees, which she chose for their sturdiness and gorgeous fall foliage. The majority of the garden is visible from the property’s kitchen, dining area and living space, so Jeannie desired it to be as vibrant and lush as you can. “Think about the microclimate of your area when choosing plants,” she suggests. “Little spaces get hotter than larger gardens, so consider how much light, shade and wind you become.”
Name: Paul and Zoe Wilson
Location: Bloomsbury, central London
Garden size: A little fire escape
For most city dwellers, a fire escape is the only outdoor area they could call their very own. Paul and Zoe Wilson created the most of this very small metal construction to grow vegetables and herbs for their dwelling. (Note: Check local laws before you add anything to your fire escape, as most prohibit plants and other items.) With a little organizing, they were able to develop lettuce, courgettes, tomatoes, radishes, basil, parsley, mint, rosemary, geraniums and lavender — rather the listing for such a little area.
“I’ve always enjoyed gardening and growing things,” says Zoe. “And I think you can develop several things, even in a little, outside area. Every year we celebrate the beginning of summer with a bowl of radishes butter and salt.”
Pictures courtesy of Paul Wilson
Name: Priscilla Torres
Garden size: 6 feet by 14 feet
Growing up in Nyc, Priscilla Torres was never able to find an apartment with the area for a garden of any kind or size. “The very first thing I did when I moved to Florida was beginning going to a balcony garden,” she says. Although it’s not spacious, she’s been able to produce an oasis of Meyer lemon and key lime trees, herbs, aloe, succulents and leafy ornamentals.
Because it was her first garden, Torres was rough and wanted to fill her up space with everything in sight. But she learned fast that it was important to be realistic about how much space she actually had. “Pick plants that are acceptable for the size of your area,” she says. “I discovered the hard way that palms aren’t balcony appropriate.”
Name: Rum Kihn
Location: Midwest United States
Garden size: Pallet is 4 feet by 4 feet and holds 2.5 cubic feet of dirt
With a very small patio area wasn’t going to prevent Rum Kihn from using a garden. Though she had plenty of potted plants in the area, she wanted something more. “I love vertical gardening,” she says. “However, it can be difficult when you rent. The pallet is the perfect answer. It’s easy to move, and you will still get your deposit back when you leave.”
Photo courtesy of Rum Kihn
Name: Kelly Cloake
Location: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Garden size: 13 feet by 19 feet
Even though Kelly Cloake is in the process of renovating her outside garden area (those white tiles will gradually be replaced by a hand-painted mural), she’s managed to fill her up patio with cheerful greenery to create the most of the drab room.
Sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, chili trees, indigenous shrub pepper and pittosporums are sprinkled across the area, but succulents rule the roost. “Succulents aren’t only incredibly diverse and beautiful, they’re hardy too,” says Cloake. “This does not mean they will survive on complete neglect, but they will tolerate it somewhat longer than most other plants. I find them amazingly rewarding.”
A small Japanese maple along with a potted kumquat were added for height variety. For Cloake, making sure her plants get adequate sunlight (particularly the kumquat) has been the biggest obstacle, particularly during winter. The majority of the plants are in only containers so they can be transferred as necessary. “Sometimes a stressed-out plant just has to be transferred,” she says.
Pictures courtesy of Kelly Cloake
Name: Sarah and Dave Kramer
Location: Somerville, Massachusetts
Garden size: 200 square feet
Sarah and Dave Kramer had zero gardening expertise when they first bought their house outside of Boston, but after years of living in small flats they were thrilled to have an outside area. Despite the fact that the majority of it’s paved, Sarah moved plant-crazy in the single raised bed, exposed strip by the fence and heaps of containers. “I just kept on buying and filling cheap plastic pots in amazement,” she says.
Sunny horizontal space quickly ran outside, but Sarah needed to keep planting. “The rickety wood fence with its peeling paint appeared to tease me,” she says. Inspired by a TV show on the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, she utilized clothesline rope to make her very own miniature hanging garden. “Since every hanging kettle prevents those below it from getting the complete benefit of any rain, it’s important to consider water demands as well as plant height when organizing vertical space. My current garden development musings revolve around rain set and drip-feed watering,” she says.
Pictures courtesy of Sarah Kramer
Name: Rebecca Sheridan
Location: Oberohringen, Switzerland
Garden size: 260 square feet
Stunning views of the Alps, beautiful woods nearby — Rebecca Sheridan’s balcony appeared to have everything except solitude. A main street just before the house has been an unsightly addition to the view, and also the open design felt intrusive. Sheridan wanted to develop plants which would allow the view to be enjoyed but that would create a sense of intimacy.
Lavender, morning glory, nasturtiums, cosmos and sweet peas fill up the boxes and wind across arches around the B-shape deck. While the height of the plants made the spot feel cozier, the winds which sweep through the valley would knock them, therefore Sheridan secured them safely to the balcony.
Pictures courtesy of Rebecca Sheridan
Please discuss a photograph of your little garden below.
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