How to Create an Urban Oasis

How to Create an Urban Oasis

With spring just around the corner, it’s time to start venturing into the outside world. Nothing beats a strong morning coffee, sat in the sunshine (with any luck) in a beautiful setting - and it’s even better when that setting is just outside your own back door! Whether large or small, having a piece of outside to call your own is a wonderful treat, but making it beautiful can be quite the challenge. So where to begin!?

We chat to Isabelle Palmer - otherwise known as The Balcony Gardener. With two books down and a host of impressive achievements under her belt, Isabelle knows a thing or two about creating a beautiful garden, particularly when space is limited! Urban gardeners, take note…

You launched The Balcony Gardener in 2009 – What inspired you to launch your site?

I have always had a passion for the outdoors and gardening in particular, but when I moved to London it was my two balconies that really inspired me.  I wanted to recreate the essence of the wonderful gardens I'd enjoyed  in Worcestershire, whilst growing up, and make a space that I could use fully and enjoy.  My balconies are very small and I wanted to create a modern and stylish space that emulated my own décor inside my home. I tried to find someone/somewhere that would help on a small scale but simply couldn’t find it. That’s where the balcony gardener idea was born. 

You’ve seen huge success, with two published books and countless wonderful opportunities to spread the gardening word – what has been the highlight so far?

I have really been blessed to have so great many opportunities come my way, and they have all been special. I think if I had to pick one or two seeing my first book in hardcopy holds a really special place in my heart. It was a culmination of all the years of ideas, inspirations and sheer hard work, finally put on paper and something I never dreamed would take place. I’m sure my English teacher didn’t think it would take place either! Our range in West Elm in America a few years ago was also pretty exciting!!

You offer inspiration to others, but where do you go to feel inspired?

Everything I see day to day gives me inspiration and I think is indicative in my work.  I like to take different elements and whittle them down. From fashion to interiors and even simple things like paint & fabric swatches. Different combinations of items, colours places and items enthuse me and creep into my designs.

You focus on small-space inspiration – what are your top 5 (or less / more) tips for creating a small-scale escape?

1.         Pick plants & flowers that make you smile and give you an inner pleasure. So your favourite colours and scents.

2.         Start small; try maybe one or two pots to get going.

3.         Use all the space available, from the walls to hanging pots from the ceiling to create dram and impact.

4.         Make a mini edible garden, its great to cook with herbs you have grown.

5.         Use the biggest pots you can, large and a few rather than small and many.

6.         Keep your pots and colour scheme simple using the same tones throughout and only use a few colours in your planting scheme. This will stop the space looking cluttered and overcrowded.

You offer a design service for small spaces and balcony gardens – what has been the most exciting / unusual / standout request?

I am currently working on a living wall, for a small urban space. This is a really exciting project.  We are making a green wilderness  from a 1x 2 metre area.  By adding great lighting, trees and a clever storage box, we've created a seating area & BBQ which forms the space into something really special.

What is your must-have for the perfect balcony garden?

An exciting planting design to look on to, a place to sit, a place to get the sun and all of my favourite plants and flowers. I love creating a space from floor to wall that looks like a real garden but made out of pots that becomes seamless in the height of the summer. So using height, colour and light to make the most of what you have.

If you could locate your garden anywhere in the world, where would it be, and why?

I actually love where I live so the only thing I might wish for is to have a garden or just a bit more space. I love my balconies but I would really like to have room to run. Luckily I can indulge my dreams through our client’s gardens….

Finally, what can we expect from The Balcony Gardener in 2016 and beyond?

Lots more exciting projects are in the works. I really want to develop the living wall aspect of my business and the design side. Also to focus on our work with houseplants. I can see that they are really becoming more popular but I still think they are underutilised and under loved. They are the best way to start your entre into gardening even if you don’t have any outdoor space.

Thanks Isabelle!

With these top tips in mind, why not check out our balcony furniture range here

You can see more inspiring balcony gardens over on our Pinterest page too. (link: )

Happy planting!

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