Modern Container Gardening

Modern Container Gardening: How to create a stylish small-space garden anywhere, by Isabelle Palmer, book review

This colourful guide to planting container gardens from the Balcony Gardener, is full of ideas, ranging from the simple to the complex. Reviewed by Rosanna Morris

Modern Container Gardening: How to Create a Stylish Small-Space Garden Anywhere
By Isabelle Palmer
Hardie Grant Books
£16
ISBN 978-1784883133

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If you live in a city or a town, you may have a tiny outdoor space – a balcony, a terrace or a courtyard. You may think it has limited potential in gardening terms. Not so, says the author of this book Isabelle Palmer, also known as The Balcony Gardener, a small-space garden designer who has been cultivating and beautifying diminutive corners of London for the past 11 years.

Bottom pond Exbury Gardens
© Cathryn Baldock

Happily, you can have a garden in a small space – even a wild meadow garden if you choose – and Palmer shows us how to do it in this accessible guide to creating container gardens. It’s aimed predominantly at novice gardeners (showing it’s not as complicated as it looks) but seasoned pros may find it useful for inspiration, as it has original ideas for planters and how to grow plants in unlikely places.

The bulk of the 175-page book is given to Palmer’s 28 container projects, some as simple as planting a ‘Black Star’ morning glory in a painted terracotta pot or combining Japanese laurel with spindle tree in a planter, but also the more extravagant – a frothy pink sweet pea trough with snapdragon, diascia, verbena and coneflower, for example, and a meadow planter billowing with common yarrow, German pink, viper’s bugloss and lady’s bedstraw. Each project comprises four pages and includes images, an introduction, lists of equipment and plants needed (including botanical names), instructions on how to ‘get the look’ as well as symbols showing difficulty level, growing season and conditions.

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Some of her combinations might not be to everyone’s taste – neon geraniums, perhaps – but you are sure to find something to please here. Palmer’s novel ways of adapting dull containers using paints are particularly inspiring. Throw in a glossary of gardening terms, a stockist list, beautiful imagery, practical gardening advice and a condensed two-page ‘calendar of care’ and here is a book that should encourage more gardening in petite urban pockets.