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Urban Gardens: How to Create Green Indoor Spaces, Even in a City Flat?

Monday, June 1st, 2015

Gardening is increasingly growing in popularity, and city dwellers are increasingly looking for their own green spaces. Being in nature is proven to reduce stress levels and raise mood, and having plants and flowers indoors has been shown to have a positive effect on well-being. While there are plenty of parks and woodlands in and around London and other UK cities, many people long to bring the freshness of the outdoors into their homes and there are lots of ways to do this. If you can’t afford a much sought-after allotment, it’s still possible to have indoor greenery and flowers to brighten a city home. Here are some ideas to bring the outdoors in and create green spaces even in a high rise flat.

Window boxes

Window boxes are the perfect way to create a mini urban garden – whether to create a beautiful floral look or herbs to use in cooking. Line your window box with black plastic liner to protect the box, and fill with potting mix rather than potting soil which is too heavy for a window box. The idea plants for window boxes are those that are fairly hardy and don’t mind changes in light and sunlight. Low maintenance plants are also ideal for those with busy lives and little time to spend tending to them. Salvias, ivy (which will create beautiful trailing leaves over the box) and succulents are all great choices.

Flowers are wonderful additions to window boxes – adding colour to your home and attracting butterflies and bees. Popular blooms are pansies, daffodils (for spring), cyclamen, heather and geraniums. Ornamental cabbages in shades of purple, white and green are also beautiful choices.

Herbs such as parsley, basil, rosemary and mint can be grown in window boxes or indoor containers and mean a constant supply of fresh herbs for your cooking. But bear in mind that different herbs have different needs and some are more difficult to grown than others: for example, basil needs lots of light so probably isn’t suitable for a shady spot.


Terrariums are glass containers of varying sizes that create unique atmospheres for growing plants. The glass allows heat and light and creates a humid environment with its own water cycle. Terrariums are the perfect way to create a miniature garden indoors and with the current trend for gardening, these are very trendy at the moment. As well as for the home, they can be the perfect way to add greenery to an office space or even a restaurant or hotel. Restaurant flowers can perfectly complement plants and terrariums to bring nature, colour and texture to create atmosphere and interest for guests.

There are plenty of places to buy ready-made terrariums, or ‘kits’ containing all the elements including the plants. They vary in size from tiny vessels featuring a single air plant to larger versions such as fish bowls, so are perfect for any space. Alternatively, there is the DIY option. Small vessels like jam jars or light bulbs mean you can create tiny terrariums perfect for small apartments or even for the office.

Ideal terrarium plants are those that love shade and humidity like ferns, starfish plants, moss, variegata, aquamarine and air plants. For dryer terrariums choose succulents or cactuses which are very low maintenance. The plants you choose to use will determine the base (for example sand, stones, charcoal or soil) as well as the type of vessel used, so be sure to do plenty of research before making your own.

Low-maintenance houseplants

Houseplants are the go-to option for those looking to add greenery into their homes or office. Having the signs of nature indoors lift mood and improves well-being as well as improving the look of an indoor space. There are plenty of low maintenance options for those with very busy lives and not-so green fingers too! Spider plants are a staple for offices and very undemanding. They don’t require much light and are very adaptable to different temperatures.

Succulents are very popular at the moment and are perfect for creating anything from window box displays, table centrepieces, added to outdoor pots on the balcony or porch or sitting in small pots in the window sill or kitchen table. Types of succulent include the green, round leaved jade plant; the colourful and rosette-shaped echeveria and the aloe plant.

Other low-maintenance plants include the snake plant which requires very little light (very good for offices!), the spiky leaved dracaena, ivy and bromeliad which produces a red flower. Large house plants like the dracaena can be used to create a true indoor garden look when you have these mini ‘trees’ to add greenery to the home. Offices can also be brightened by corporate flowers and plants.

Hanging gardens

There are lots of hanging plants to buy – from delicate little glasses to house air plants, to baskets for plants such as Boston ferns which freshen the air and add beautiful colour and texture. Up-cycle household waste and make planters out of wine bottles, jam jars, light bulbs – or even a birdcage! Hanging indoor plants are ideal for humid bathrooms (and add freshness and contrast to white bathroom decors) and the kitchen – adding a delightful rustic look.

Trailing plants like ivy are perfect for hanging planters, as is the beautiful senecio rowleyanus. Otherwise known as the string-of-pearls, this succulent prefers shade and will create cascading beads of greenery to brighten any home. Especially in summer, these plants add brightness and freshness to indoor settings, improving air quality and making a more natural, calming space.

For balconies and porches, or even outside your front door, hanging baskets of beautiful flowers are another option to create an urban garden. Fuschias, geraniums, pansies and begonias are great choices – creating colourful displays that will brighten any urban home. They will attract butterflies and bees and are a wonderful way to greet guests when they arrive, as well as brightening urban spaces.

Vertical Garden

In the same way as the hanging baskets are mentioned above, Rezu Khastou the founder of The Polytech explains “so often we overlook the opportunity to use our vertical space, especially in smaller yards confined by a fence or on balconies. You can use this space to create an inexpensive vertical garden by following these steps:
1. Start by getting some sticks from nature or those thrown away on a yard waste day. Look for sticks the same height as your fence or balcony, and up to 2 cm thick.
2. Position the sticks about 10 cm apart and screw into your fence.
3. Add cross bars by using additional sticks, also screwed into the vertical sticks..
4. Plant any kind of potted plant in small, plastic pots. Flowering plants make an especially beautiful display..
5. Using additional screws, attach these small plastic pots to the horizontal sticks of the lattice you just created.
These plants grow so that you can’t see the pots at all and it creates an absolutely stunning colorful garden wall. Because of the stick lattice, everything you see is natural and your fence doesn’t get damaged over time from watering because these sticks pull the pots just far enough away from the fence to allow extra water to drain off. The whole effect can be achieved for a minimal investment in the hardware to mount these sticks, pots, and plants.”

Focal Point

No matter what type of garden or green space you are after, a real focal point will enhance the space tenfold. Be this a large tree in an acre garden or a small impressive pot for your in-flat garden. Donna Atanasova from the Fantastic Services Australia suggests “transforming an old rusted cast iron urn into a beautiful focal point. These can be found in flea markets the world over and can be transformed with a little sanding and some paint.”