In the week of The Chelsea Flower Show, with florals and foliage sprouting from every shop and fringe event, it’s hard to not get just a tiny bit caught up with the love affair we Brits have with our gardens. But what if you don’t have a garden to tend to?
I used to live on the second floor of a block of flats in Battersea which overlooked the main line to Waterloo. The rent was all I could afford at the time and it had what they laughingly called “a balcony” the size of a postage stamp. Undeterred, and inspired by some very smart window boxes I used to admire a few miles away in Chelsea as I cycled to work, I purchased a mini barbecue along with three plastic window boxes into which I lovingly planted a few petunias and some trailing lobelia. My very own mini hanging gardens of Babylon!
These box displays seeded a love of container gardening which I still enjoy today twenty five plus years on. For me it’s the instant fix, the fact that when you’ve had enough of one thing you can plant on or in my case, lob out once the season is over and begin again with a new set of bulbs or plants.
From my first rather safe and predictable displays I progressed onto sowing night scented stocks which, on a balmy summer’s night, would waft into my little flat (along with periodic rumblings from that busy railway track).
The great thing about a window box is that they come in all shapes, sizes and styles to suit the most eclectic of tastes. You can plant anything from flowers, herbs to box hedging – whatever is your “thing”. Wild and rustic to meticulously neat and tidy. Colour co-ordinated perfection to a veritable rainbow of psychadelic colour. Your call.
I cut my teetth on those classic container favourites: red geraniums inspired by French holidays where they seemed to flourish in the hazy summer heat. I wanted to bring a bit of French chic to my south London balconette. By late September, early October I would pull out the leggy blooms and bring in new blood – hebes or purple heathers, thus creating a more Autumnal feel to my trio of little boxes.
Once I realised a splash of water and maybe add the odd sachet of Miracle Gro into the watering can was all that was required, I progressed onto the dizzy realms herbs and salads! By the time I left my Battersea flat and moved into my suburban terrace complete with cottage style garden, I was ready to really get my hands dirty.
The rest as they say, is history.