ISSUE 13  |  India Song

Required Reading: The House Gardener by Isabelle Palmer

April 01, 2014 4:00 PM

BY Christine Chang Hanway

Isabelle Palmer, aka The Balcony Gardener, is always up for a challenge. Determined to bring greenery to the smallest urban spaces, she has just come inside from the balcony and turned her attention to the indoors with her newly published book The House Gardener. With her trademark inventive gardening ideas, be prepared to look at the humble houseplant with fresh eyes.

Photography by Helen Cathcart.


Above: Palmer painted a terracotta pot with her favorite shade of gray to contrast with the vibrant Zantedeschia ‘Picasso’ calla lilies and Dahlia ‘Violet’. “This display isn’t merely for decoration, however, as it provides a real opportunity to be an indoor gardener, tending to the leaves and flowers,” she says. “The storm-cloud-gray pot emphasizes the flowers, creating a wonderful display for a dull spot.”


Above:  A Hedera helix (common ivy) in a copper hanging container brings green calm into a bathroom.


Above: “One of the ways in which I like to use plants in the home is by placing them in an unusual position or to replace common household objects,” Palmer says. “So, here, where you would usually expect to see two lamps hanging above the table, I have used these hanging baskets instead. Not only is this a really interesting way to display plants, it also adds a lovely and unique touch to a dining setting.”


Above: By mixing the different greens of Soleirolia soleirolii (also called Mind-Your-Own-Business or Angel Tears), Palmer paints an indoor arrangement using pale pebbles for contrast.


Above: Palmer plants a miniature French herb garden in a vintage wine crate with rosemary, thyme, and lavender.


Above: With their warm and often humid conditions, bathrooms are ideal environments for growing plants, especially tropical ones such as the tall Maranta leuconeura (Prayer Plant), the dark green Aloe haworthioides and the Sansevieria trifasciata (more commonly known as Mother-in-Law’s Tongue) seen here. Did you know that Mother-in-Law’s Tongue is a plant you can’t kill?


Above: Palmer creates an indoor country garden by planting Avena sativa (Catgrass), Ostiospermum (African daisy), Chrysanthemum, Saxifraga paniculata (white mountain saxifrage), and Phlox divaricata in different terracotta planteres of different colors, textures, and sizes.Isabelle-Palmer-The-House-Gardener-Gardenista-03

Above: Palmer uses a tall Howea forsteriana (Kentia palm) planted in a vintage industrial steel planter as a “living” room divider in a living room with a home office in the corner.  If you like the look, in 10 Easy Pieces: Galvanized Trough Planters, we round up some of our favorite steel planters.


Above: The hanging basket of trailing Hedera (ivy) and Nephrolepis exaltata  ‘Bostoniensis’ (Boston fern), both typically outdoor plants, come inside and hang from a door frame between rooms in an urban townhouse.


Above: The House Gardener by Isabelle Palmer is published by CICO Books; $35. The book is available in the UK from Amazon; £25.

Have you got houseplant envy but are scared to commit? Our expert landscape gardeners and designers recommend the 10 Best Low-Maintenance Houseplants. Browse some more and take your time to find your favorite, in Gardenista’s Gallery of Houseplants. And over on Remodelista, have a look at the dramatic impact a potted Mother-in-Law’s Tongue can make in a Budget Bedroom in Brooklyn.