How to enjoy gardening when you don't have a garden

How to enjoy gardening when you don't have a garden

What can you do if you don't have a garden? Indeed, you might not be fit or able enough to access outdoor space. There are ways and means of bringing a garden to you, rather than taking yourself to it.  Here's our guide to  gardening for those who need to adapt the idea of a garden to suit their individual circumstances...

Firstly, you might have a doorstep. You will definitely have windows, and hopefully some of those will be external.  In this case, pots, windowboxes and hanging baskets could be the way to go. These pots can act as your garden. You can have outdoor plants which will brighten up your life. Particularly during spring and summer if you like annual bedding plants.

Geranium or Pelargonium

Annual plants for the garden, the doorstep or the windowbox

Annuals like the geranium, or more correctly termed a Pelargonium, above, can be planted up from March onwards. But don't be tempted to leave them outdoors if the weather is likely to be frosty. They need mild temperatures, light, a bit of water and of course a nice pot that shows them off. They will also benefit from some weekly feed as the season progresses because nutrients in the compost will become depleted. In return, these colourful and cheerful annual plants will make you smile every time you see them. The Primrose family, of which Primula (below) are the colourful ones, are some of the first annual plants to become available in early spring. Flowers such as pansies tend to be available for most of the year, even during the winter.

Primulas come in many types of colours

Interest in the topic of indoor gardening in its many different forms has increased exponentially over the last five years and particularly during the last year. Indeed, houseplants have reached the pinnacle of chic in terms of interior design and their popularity seems to know no bounds. You might have acquired some leaf-enjoy during ‘Lockdown Zoom’. Did you notice some of the artistically-placed, living green backdrops on screen? They certainly succeeded in achieving maximum elegance, including Meghan Markle’s fiddle leaf fig that featured in her well-publicised video conference call. Noticing plants in backgrounds and on film sets has become a bit of an obsession – once you start, it’s difficult to stop!

The Social media effect

Houseplants with a wow factor

Then there’s Instagram, of course. It’s all about appearance for Insta fans, and what better subjects could you possibly wish for? Some of the most photographed plants on this social media platform include the ubiquitous Swiss cheese plant – Monstera, with its glossy, split leaves. Also the Chinese money plant – Pilea peperomioides which has lozenge-shaped foliage, not to mention huge, architectural cactus plants with their stately form and spikey personality. The ‘jungle-theme’ is particularly popular, largely due to fashion but also for good health. Plants are capable of producing wonderful clean air – so, the bigger, the better!

The unmistakable form of Monstera, the Swiss cheese plant, with its split leaves

The unmistakable Swiss cheese plant (above), has holes and splits in the foliage. This allows the sunlight to reach beneath within the tropical rainforests from which it originates.

Pilea peperomioides, the Chinese money plant

Pilea peperomioides (above) has lozenge-shaped foliage that looks a little like coins. Hence it is known as the Chinese money plant.

How can plants help our health?

Science shows that houseplants are capable of absorbing toxins from the environment. They mop up pollution and are particularly beneficial when placed around computer equipment. Plants can neutralise some of the negative energy caused by static and electrical devices. They adjust the humidity of the environment for the benefit of our breathing and they produce oxygen. Some people also suggest that they can remove bacteria. Succulent plants, including Crassula horn tree pictured below, are able to produce oxygen at night and this makes them ideal bedroom companions.

Crassula ovata the horn tree

But that's not all. The simple act of tending to plants has shown to be immensely good for both physical and mental health. The latter is an increasing concern, especially after the year of the pandemic. Mental health experts described depression as a global epidemic even before the pandemic struck.

The human mind and body are capable of producing a happy chemical, serotonin, when the psyche is immersed in nature. Serotonin affects mood, appetite, sleep, learning and social behaviour, amongst other things. A huge number of gardeners, both indoors and out, prefer to garden without gloves because people tend to feel better when they get their fingers dirty. There is a specific bacteria in soil called Mycobacterium vaccae which is a natural anti-depressant. A lack of it can lead to depression.

The joys of indoor gardening

Indoor gardening gives people a chance to nurture something that responds to human intervention. Plants can be shaped and preened, re-potted, fed and watered. Their leaves can be polished using a soft, damp cloth. Indeed, some people talk to their plants whilst others sing to theirs. The indoor palm, Howea forsteriana, for example (pictured below), is also hugely architectural and pleasing to the eye. 

Howea indoor palm tree with bicycle indoors 

Right plant, right place

If you are lucky enough to own a conservatory, there are plants that love bright conditions. They include palms including the Canary Island date palm, the ponytail palm (Nolina maya), luscious succulents including Crassula varieties, cacti and even citrus plants complete with full-sized lemons and grapefruit.

Citrus lemon tree

But don’t be tempted to stick any old plant in such unforgiving conditions. Some houseplants need shade and they will shrivel in bright sunshine. There are plenty of plant choices for north-facing rooms and gloomy corners.  Select carefully and you will avoid unnecessary deaths! Ferns tend to like to be kept out of direct sunlight and others such as Aspidistra (nick-named the cast-iron-plant), seem to be able to withstand just about any position. The ‘Z Z’ plant, Zamioculcas zamiifolia is another robust plant that can put up with neglect and varying light levels.

Every plant has unique characteristics. For example, members of the Marantaceae family including Maranta, Calathea, Stromanthe and Ctenanthe, tend to fold up their beautiful leaves at night. They are known as prayer plants for this reason. They originate from rainforests where they gather light during the day but need protection from too much moisture at night.

Don't kill your plants!

Watering can shaped as a swan

Want to know the biggest cause of death to houseplants? It’s over- watering. Plants can easily be killed with kindness. Water is a necessity, but watch those roots to make sure they don’t stay soggy. Naturally, every plant parent needs a stylish but functional watering can, just don’t use it too often! You will also require plant food to be used during the growing season, stylish pots, perhaps baskets and hanging brackets. There are indoor terrariums suitable for moisture-loving plants and even miniature ornaments for tiny indoor gardens too.