Author of The Balcony Gardener and now The House Gardener (£25, CICO Books), Isabelle Palmer is the authority on how to conquer small-space gardening, inside and outside. We caught up with her for a chat about both her fab books and The Balcony Gardener business.
What gave you the initial idea for your business, The Balcony Gardener?
My own balconies. I live in a top floor apartment in Hampstead, and for a long time I wanted to do something creative with my small outside space to include greenery, flowers and also something sustainable. I couldn’t find anything online related to small-space, balcony or novice gardening in an urban environment and so saw a niche in the market; hence the idea for The Balcony Gardener was born in May 2009.
Tell us a bit more about the company…
The Balcony Gardener is an innovative online company based in the UK that specialises in indoor and outdoor garden design and products related to small urban outdoor spaces - balconies, patios, containers and roof terraces. The Balcony Gardener can either provide bespoke design or a range of ready made planted containers and window boxes for those who don’t have the time to DIY. They are available in different themes such as Contemporary Urban, Edible, Evergreen and English Country Garden. We also sell a small selection of gardening goods and accessories including containers, seeds, planters, handmade furniture and more.
What is your career background?
I moved to London to study at Chelsea College of Art and Design and then embarked on a degree in Economics, which led to a career in PR. So not a gardening background at all!
Have you always had green fingers or did this develop slowly over time?
Yes, my family are keen gardeners so it has always been a part of my life whether helping my grandparents and parents or visiting gardens over the weekend. I had a small plot in my father’s kitchen garden and loved to grow strawberries, hence my desperation to transform my small space into a garden oasis.
Have you always wanted to write a book?
Considering my career history, it was never something that I ever thought about. I never would’ve dreamt that I would have written a book, and it has been one of my most amazing achievements that I have fulfilled, without even knowing that I wanted to.
How did you feel when your first book, The Balcony Gardener was published?
I was over the moon. To see it in print was so exciting. I remember taking my Mum for afternoon tea at Claridges, and the publisher called to say he had the first printed copy. We ran out of there without even finishing our beautiful tea as we were so ecstatic. Mum was so proud, but I think she was rather miffed about missing her birthday tea too.
How does your latest book The House Gardener, published last year, differ?
I wanted this book to be inspirational, like a coffee table book. I wanted something that readers could enjoy aesthetically due to the beautiful photography and print quality, and I also wanted it to inspire people to take on really creative house gardening projects of their own.
What achievement, since you started your business, are you most proud of?
When writing The House Gardener, I wanted to completely reinvent the house plant and introduce it in a more creative and stylish way. I wanted to take it from a pot in the corner of the room and turn it into a part of someone’s interior styling. I like to think of plants, especially house plants, as pieces of art that can be used as an interior style focal point. The book was such an enjoyable and creative challenge, which has been really well received.
We’ve heard you run workshops from your apartment, can you tell us a little about these?
I launched these in autumn 2014. They provide a personal insight into my books, looking at the many projects with an overview and demonstration so that guests can do them at home. I also offer guests bespoke guidance and tips for improvement of their own personal green space.
What’s next for Isabelle Palmer and The Balcony Gardener?
2015 has got off to a great start, and I am taking on lots of design projects that range from office installations, to home balconies and house plants. The house plant design is very popular as people are integrating plants into their interior style makeovers and displaying them as they would a piece of furniture or wall art. There is also a real push in regards to surrounding yourself with houseplants for the general sense of well-being that they bring and also the added benefits that they provide such as the extra oxygen they release and the toxins that they absorb from the atmosphere.