Plants in the City: You Can Grow Plants Anywhere!

Plants in the City is our brand new column by horticulturalist Jackie Bruce. In this regular column, Jackie will give us her expertise about how you can start your own garden absolutely anywhere. Even if you have only small windowsill, or a window box, you can grow your own plants. Jackie first appeared at Cosmopolita Scotland when we interviewed her about the Tiphereth community, and with her thoughts on how to save the declining bee populations. We’re very excited to welcome her as a regular contributor.


Jackie Bruce

In some ways, I was very lucky to have started my gardening career in the Perthshire countryside. There, I absorbed the elements, the problems and the joys that come with living on a windy hillside.

Gardening on that hillside was full of challenges. We were always first to receive any snow, even before the local villages. The rabbits continually tried my patience by sampling anything new that popped up through the ground. Sheep were another obstacle to my progress. I learned very quickly how easy they found it to jump the dry stone wall into the garden to trample and nibble.

Now that I live in the city, I feel my hard earned knowledge and experience has taught me a lot about dealing with problems. No matter how many times you feel like giving up, it’s always more rewarding to persevere.

Over the past few years, it has become more and more apparent that horticulture is exciting and rewarding for everyone, not just for the older generation and not just for people living in the countryside. The gardening revolution is here! It’s becoming a must-have hobby here in Edinburgh, which I think is great.

There are so many ways to grow. Where there is a space there is a way. Gardening can be all about that window box, that balcony, that plot or that garden. You can create a place almost anywhere for you, your friends and your family to enjoy spending time in nature. Grow your own herbs, salad or vegetables and cultivate that sense of wellbeing that can help us to cope with the increasing stresses of life.

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Gardening is one of the most satisfying ways to spend your precious free time, even if you live in a small flat in the city.

[column col=”3/5″]Allotments are in great demand and the waiting lists are huge. A better place to start is the network of community gardens and clubs in and around the city. It can be fun for children and adults alike to experience nature in a sociable environment, to learn to grow and harvest their own food and flowers.

In this column, I’m going to bring you some great ideas about how you can get to know green stuff and nature better within the city. I would love you to join me on my journey through the growing season. I hope you’ll be inspired and excited about the coming months and the lovely food and flowers we are going to grow together!


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The Federation of City Farms and Gardens produce a great newsletter regularly to help people contact other like-minded groups and community gardeners. Link up with them to find out what is happening in your part of town.




Things to do in Mid February

In January, I planned my spring and summer plant and seed list ready for the new season. I generally start seeds into growth in February under heat in propagators.


[cml_media_alt id='5777']Elephant Garlic to Grow[/cml_media_alt]There is still time to plant garlic. In fact, the cloves need some cold snaps to stimulate growth. Supermarket garlic bulbs do not give the best results. I order mine from an online plant nursery or buy them from a garden centre. When planting the cloves, it is important that there is a small piece of root-base plate attached. Sow the cloves 2 – 3 inches deep (5 – 7 cm) and 6 inches apart (15cm). When the leaves start to turn yellow from early to late summer (depending on when you plant them) then it will be time to harvest your bulbs. A cool, dry place will be best to dry and preserve the bulbs before storing.

Trees and Shrubs

Trees and shrubs can still be planted now, as long as the ground isn’t too hard with frosts. There are some lovely trees and shrubs for colour and interest at this time of year. Winter berries are great for hungry birds. Shrubs come in varieties to suit small or large spaces, such as the many varieties of Holly, Cotoneaster or Mahonia.

How to Lift Your Mood in the Winter Darkness

Scented winter plants can lift your spirits in the dark days. I love the Japanese-looking Viburnum bodnantense with its sweetly scented pink flowers. Jasmin nudiflorum, with its bright yellow scented flowers, can also be trained up a wall or over a fence to brighten up an entrance. I spent some time in the Greek islands when I was younger and love the fact that a lot of the salads, fruit and herbs are often grown in old tins and tubs, like olive oil tins. The colour and designs of these tins look great with the greens and reds of peppers and tomatoes spilling from them. As a result, I have been collecting as many large food tins as I can get my hands on from here and there. In spring, I plan to make my own little Mediterranean courtyard in my small balcony. I am aiming to pack the different sizes and heights of containers with lots of salad and herbs. I hope to post some pics of the result later in the season.

[cml_media_alt id='5790']Bee and Sunflower2[/cml_media_alt]Wish a Happy New Year to the Bees

Flowers from herbs will provide food for bees. I am an avid fan of bees. Bees will thrive in the city environment if they can fly around from garden to garden collecting nectar. I may be biased in some of my gardening choices. Most of them have bees, insects and wildlife planning incorporated into the planting schemes.

If you would like me to answer any questions or give advice on any of my ideas or suggestions, please feel free to e-mail me at

Images adapted from photos by Oliver WendelDixit MotiwalaPawel Wojciechowski and Jeremy Keith

Autor: Jackie Bruce

Jackie Bruce is a horticulturist who works at the Tiphereth Camphill community. She writes the Plants in the City column for Cosmopolita Scotland, which gives a fun guide to growing plants in small spaces.

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