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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

See website, design work and favorite flowering plants at  gardengurumontreal.ca

Consultation and coaching for do-it-yourselfers is provided. Occasional emailed questions are welcome and answered free of charge. Oui, je parle francais.

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Entries in Fern Richardson (1)

Monday
Mar122012

How to Grow Food and Flowers on a Balcony: a book review

Small-Space Container Gardens: Transform Your Balcony, Porch, or Patio with Fruit, Flowers, Foliage & Herbs, Fern Richardson, Timber Press.

One doesn’t need a yard in order to garden. In the equal-opportunity world that many of us inhabit, anyone who wishes to grow plants ought to be able to do so, no matter where they reside. The fact that so many apartment-dwellers and condo-owners choose gardening as their passion, speaks not only to the ingenuity and zeal of the individual hobbyist, but also to the versatility and adaptability of most plants to container gardening.

Master Gardener, Fern Richardson writes about small-space gardening with an authentic voice. She lives in an apartment with minimal outdoor living area, yet manages to grow food, flowers, and plants with only a balcony and front porch as her garden. Her book is filled with ingenious ways to convert tiny areas into outdoor oases, complete with plant vegetation and small-scale furniture so that anyone’s balcony, porch, or tiny patio may become a multi-purpose outdoor living area.

The book is divided into nine easy, comprehensive lessons. Chapter One overarches the main elements of a small garden, namely the colors, shapes, sizes, and textures of plants and containers, appropriate furniture, and the option of lighting. Chapter Two discusses the pivotal role that weather and climate play in affecting the productivity, hardiness, and health of container-grown plants. The third chapter offers suggestions for attracting wildlife and the fourth is about growing food - yes, one can grow food in containers. Read the book to discover how it can be done.

The author grows, figs, peaches nectarines, and blueberries on her balcony in Southern California, and offers suggestions for successfully growing vegetables, not only in her warm climate but also in colder areas where, due to shorter growing seasons, seeds must germinate quickly. Readers who garden in northern locations will be pleased that the author has paid attention to their climate needs.

Chapter Five includes a photo essay on designing with succulents and aromas. The theme of the sixth chapter is about building privacy, while the seventh introduces lushness and verticality in the form of wall gardens and vertical plants that draw the eye upward to relieve a feeling of claustrophobia that sometimes occurs in small spaces.

The eighth chapter is aptly titled Green Thumb Crash Course, Learning the Essentials for Success. Here, the author writes about the importance of using high quality potting soil, essential details for container planting, repotting root bound plants, the role of fertilizer and irrigation, bulb forcing, whether or not to deadhead, and pruning technique. The last chapter is devoted to troubleshooting pests and diseases. In this fascinating segment, we learn how some companion plants help to control such uninvited guests. Even readers who do not garden in containers might find reasons to include these beneficial plants in their growing beds.

It must be mentioned that the photography sourced for this book is outstanding. To illustrate Ms. Richardson’s text, the works of over thirty illustrious garden photographers were tapped. For example, the cover image by Marie Viljoen that is repeated on page 72 is a masterpiece of narrative photography and composition.

All of the stunning visuals enhance the reader’s understanding of the advice offered by Fern Richardson, who, by the way, is an extraordinarily effective communicator. Add to this recipe, Timber Press’ hallmark, avant-garde graphic design, and the result is a publication that raises the artistic bar for all future gardening manuals. This is a beautiful and inspiring book to own.