Former Shows & Episodes

The Manic Gardener

Kate Gardner

The Manic Gardener – More Space Than You Thought: gardening on balconies, porches, and terraces with Fern Richardson

Fern Richardson’s balcony measures four feet by ten. On it she grows a fig tree, an apricot, a kumquat, two apple trees, and an abutilon, an ornamental tree with bi-colored leaves and red, hibiscus-like flowers. Of course, she also herbs, succulents, and vegetables, including peppers and tomatoes. In other words, she grows more in her forty square feet than many people manage in a full-fledged, ground-level garden.

If this sounds so unlikely as to be impossible, trust me, it isn’t; all you have to do to believe this is to take a look at the lush photographs in her book, Small-Space Container Gardens: Transform Your Balcony, Porch, or Patio with Fruits, Flowers, Foliage & Herbs. As my guest this week, Fern describes the special problems that people gardening on roofs and balconies face (those falling pots, you know), but she then goes on to talk about the many (many) tools and techniques that these folks can use to make the most of their extremely confined spaces.

Once one puts one’s mind to it, hanging pots seem fairly obvious, but even trellises anchored in large pots are a stretch for most of us, simply because we don’t think of trellises as belonging on porches or balconies. As for the three or four ways that Fern has for anchoring pots to fences, or for straddling railings with various soft planters or molded pots—my bet is that most of these will be new. Beyond this, there are myriad green walls, including the one she describes in some depth during the interview: the pallet planter, in which an ordinary pallet is transformed into a lovely, vertical display of spring and summer flowers.

It seems there’s no end to Fern’s imagination, and her great gift is to liberate our own. She has ideas about how to deal with noisy neighbors (or nosy ones), how to cope with wind, with blazing sun, with incessant shade. The space that was far too small for a “real” garden may have possibilities you never realized.

Fern Richardson blogs at Life on the