Get creative with plants in your balcony, terrace, garden, or even inside

Tea cups can be charming planters

Tea cups can be charming planters - Credit: Archant

You don’t need a lot of cash to transform your outside space, as West Hampstead-based balcony gardener Isabelle Palmer shows with these tips for creative planting

Grow salad in wine crates

Grow salad in wine crates - Credit: Archant

While talking to my friend the other day she asked me how she could transform her living space, on a relatively low budget, while stamping her own personal style onto it. In light of this, I thought I would write a little about how you can achieve this by making small space gardening an inexpensive hobby.

Balcony gardening doesn’t have to be pricey and you don’t have to be a DIY expert to do it. When I think about transforming my space I don’t want to embark on a six month project, I want something that I can do in a weekend, that will still have maximum impact. A little creativity can save money, and also add a touch of individuality to your area. By using a variety of recycled containers, from an old can to a wooden pallet, your plant displays will really command attention.

Creative recycling involves thinking outside of the box (or pot in this instance), and using what you have to hand to house your plants. This is the wonder of container gardening: you can use anything to contain it. So, take inspiration from an old colander to a wine bottle, as this can enhance your outdoor and interior space in a very individual manner.

Here are some ideas that I like to use around my home, my tried and tested favourites.

Wine crate herb and salad box

This is a wonderful mini garden created out of a reused wine crate, or any raised box.

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To grow your contents successfully it is important to prepare your box properly. Most crates have slats at the bottom, giving you that all-important drainage. If your box doesn’t, be sure to drill or puncture a few drainage holes at the base to allow excess water to drain away.

Herbs and salad leaves also prefer free draining conditions, so it is a good idea to mix in horticultural grit with the potting mix before planting in order to improve drainage. I would also recommend lining the box with some landscape material to prevent the potting mix falling out.

Bee and butterfly garden

Bee and butterfly garden - Credit: Archant

Plant your herbs or salad leaves in an ordered pattern and create lines to ensure room for growth, then position your box in a sunny area and water regularly.

Plants to use: marjoram, mint, rosemary, chives, all varieties of thyme. Add some violas, which are also edible, for colour. This year I have also used mine to grow potatoes, celery, dill, parsley and mint (and yes it does hold all of this) This is true seed-to-plate territory.

Butterfly and bee garden box

Another of my favourite uses for a wine or even a fruit crate is to create a stunning butterfly and bee garden, bursting with colour and scent, and perfect for attracting our beautiful winged garden friends.

Butterflies like warmth so choose a sheltered area. Use different plants to attract a wider variety of species and plant together in blocks, prolong flowering by deadheading flowers, and watering well to keep the plants healthy. Plants that are well-watered will produce far more nectar for hungry butterflies, and of course, don’t use insecticides and pesticides.

There is a wide range of plants, shrubs and herbs that are attractive to bees and butterflies, easy to grow and provide great colour in the garden.

Bees and butterflies seek out nectar, it’s all about the food for them. Butterflies often prefer a large flower head to land on too.

Plants to use: lavender, foxgloves, salvia, sweet williams, scabius, echinacea and zinnias work really well.

Vintage tin bath

Vintage tin bath - Credit: Archant

Vintage tin bath

I like to choose a range of vintage and eclectic containers to house my plants, such as this vintage tin bath. These can be used in two ways.

If you want to keep the bath for other uses, then I would simply place your chosen plant, contained inside another standard container, inside the bath. This is what I have done in the picture, and have placed a strawberry plant inside.

If you wish to plant up the bath fully and use as a permanent container then you will need to drill some drainage holes at the bottom of the bath. The possibilities are endless, and you can plant everything from your favourite flower and plants to herbs, fruit and vegetables. This vintage container is also a very eye-catching and a quaint alternative to standard containers.

Aquatic planting

As an alternative to the outdoors, why not bring your quirky and creative gardening talents inside to create a beautiful piece to enjoy whilst relaxing indoors. I love a water-themed garden, as it offers something entirely alternative, is incredibly relaxing to look at, and is actually one of the easiest plant displays to create and look after. These can also be housed in any glass jar, vase or container. You will need a selection of small and large pebbles to weigh down the plant, which I tend to collect from beaches on holiday for a nostalgic decoration.

Simply weigh down the plants with the pebbles and then add clean water. Tips for care include changing the water regularly, adding two aspirins to the water to aid plant growth and prevent bacteria build-up and removing any algae that may occur on the vessel by scrubbing with a cloth when changing the water.

Plants to use: you will need water plants for this display which can be purchased in aquatic shops and include taxiphyllum barbieri (Java Moss) bacopa caroliniana (water hyssop), myriophyllum (water milfoil), hygrophila difformis (water wisteria) alternanthera, fittonia argyroneurai echinodorus and aquatic fern.

An indoor aquatic plant display

An indoor aquatic plant display - Credit: Archant

Tea party

Using standard household items such as teapots, cups and saucers and vintage kettles, is also a lovely way to display plants and flowers in the garden. They also make great centrepieces when entertaining using fresh cut and also wild flowers.

These are very easy to create and plant and I especially like to plant my favourite flowers such as hydrangea and daisies.