a blog about plants, cats and other lovely creatures

Saturday, October 16, 2010

what can a gardenless gardener do...

At first, I started fulfilling my gardening dreams by filling up my balcony with plants. Ten came the window boxes. Then I was sorry I had nowhere to expand. I thought about all the lucky people who had gardens. I thought that perhaps one day in a very distant future, I would be able to afford a house with a garden. A dream… And then a thought came – why wait for years to fulfill a dream when there may be other ways to make it come true? And so I started digging up grass in front of the entrance to our apartment block and planting some flowers there.

The neighbors warned me that people or dogs would destroy the plants. I kept on planting, fulfilling my dream. Nobody destroyed anything.

On the contrary, every time I was doing something on this small plot, people would stop by and comment on how they liked it and what difference it made.

People who would not normally talk to me started to greet me from far. I know many people in my neighborhood now.

Although it was not my aim, I expanded from working on my own dream to reach out to other people, too.

And then I started noticing subtler changes. The flowers attract insects. Dead plants attract earthworms, insects attract lizards, earthworms and lizards attract birds and hedgehogs. With all these birds hanging around the house in the middle of winter, I put up a bird feeder on one of the pine trees and started feeding them, and a squirrel came to the feeder for nuts. This year we see her often on this linden tree next to the southern wall of our building. I hope that she has a nest there.

Now in the fall I am noticing that she likes the softer ground on the flower beds to hide her nuts for the winter.

flower beds at present, way past their prime time (entrance to the house from the east)

I started noticing how very much alive this little piece of urban land around our house is. With the increasing tendency of humans to cover every piece of ground by concrete, I am discovering these precious signs of nature right here outside my window, surrounded by buildings and parking lots. It is important to me that I do not harm but try to help preserve this fragile ecosystem. It is a small thing but it is comforting to know that I can do something for the environment and I don’t even need to leave my home.

our building surrounded by trees – view from the south

our building from the west

At the moment I’m busy getting ideas on how to help the useful insects overwinter. You can buy a fancy insect hotel for your insect helpers…

or you can make one yourself with pretty much anything you can find… I have made a very simple insect house using a plastic bottle, some birch twigs and leaves for my balcony.

I plan to create something that looks a little less like junk for the flowerbeds outside, maybe something similar to this which I am going to put on my window sill (lying, so that it forms a "roof").

The next exciting project Silky Soul and I have in mind is a squirrel feeder. Squirrels are such lovely creatures, I believe they make everyone smile. In our country they are protected by law as endangered species. And you can imagine what show that would be for the cats to watch from the balcony! So now on my walks I collect anything she might like in her feeder in the winter time, such as acorns, beechnuts and maple seeds, and I'm drying apples and plums for her. I will keep you posted on this project… In the meantime, why not consider building your own insect hotel to ease this coming winter for your little insect buddies. You will surely appreciate their help with aphids and slugs next gardening season! And if you have some maple leaves left over and all the roses in your garden are already faded away, you can get even more creative

Even autumn can be fun…


  1. You have very dextrous fingers, and how much more fun than plastic form the shop. These flowers are real (leaves) and you had the enjoyment of crafting them!

  2. Thank you Diana, but those fingers aren't mine! The link with instructions under "get even more creative" eventually leads to the original source:
    Otherwise, I know that you are probably the only one among my readers to whom this autumn topic doesn't apply...

  3. Hi Chamomilla,
    What a wonderful thing you have done for your apartment entrance. I am a shy person but I overcome it when people come near our garden and comment about it.

  4. Hello Malay-Kadazan girl, thank you for your kind words and yes, I know what you mean by being shy... At first I felt embarrassed and went to work on the flower beds only at times when I didn't expect many passers-by... With time I have overcome it and now I just greet everybody and smile at them.

  5. Thanks for stopping by Nyack Backyard - nice to "meet" you and your blog. What a wonderful thing you're doing for your community, connecting them with nature. Hope you attract lots of insects, birds and squirrels, too.

    Love the maple leaf rose idea, too!

  6. Welcome JGH and thank you for your kind words and wishes, I will keep working on it...

  7. Dear Chamomilla, This post is amazing! I am so impressed with your gardening achievements. Your neighbors are very lucky to be able to enjoy the results of your hard work. Well done. Pam x

  8. Dear Pam, thank you for your nice words, as always! x

  9. ah, chamomilla .. i had a similar experience when i lived in an apartment in the city .. i started gardening the perimeter of the apartment block .. met neighbours .. smiled at passersby .. enjoyed a new gardening experience .. an now i live on a lot with a big yard to garden .. dreams do come true ..

    and i love your bouquet of roses ..

  10. Thank you Jane! Also for the hope... because although it's nice to connect with nature in the city, there is still one thing missing - you cannot just sit down in a quiet place on your own to enjoy the trees, the plants, the animals... Now I guess your reply would be - you cannot do that even when you do have a garden of your own, because there is never time for that! But at least you know you have the chance...

  11. Hi, I'm enjoying discovering your blog after Diana of Elephant's Eye steered her readers here. What a wonderful improvement you've made through your "guerrilla gardening". We've had amazing success attracting wild bees by simply hanging up a chunk of wood with holes drilled in it.

  12. I think we all should do sometimes something to let our dreams become true. You had a lot of really great ideas and I would tell - very important ideas for the nature. Keep on dreaming! Maybe one day your dream from own house and garden will be true and then you will have a lot of exercise!

  13. Welcome Barbara, and thank you for your nice comment. I'm not a real guerilla gardener as I do it quite publicly and get praised for it... And thank you for the tip on attracting wild bees!

    Hello Brigitte, thank you for the kind words and the wishes...

  14. This is a very great idea. Only less people see beyond one's one nose. I can feel good as it is, if one wants a garden and I wish you that your dream will someday come true.

  15. Your garden looks just wonderful and it's great you just claimed it - for your own and for everybody's else good. Have you heard about the Guerrilla Gardening movement? I think that's what you do. ; )

  16. Hi Cat with a Garden, actually, I wrote about Guerilla Gardening here http://gardenless.blogspot.com/2010/06/gardenless-gardening-inspiration.html
    and I have a permanent link to their website next to my profile here... yes, I love the idea and have some guerilla projects in mind...

  17. It looks to me like unfolding from Guerilla Gardening to Community Gardening and ... well much more than "just" gardening ;-) You are creating the world you want to live in, you are healing and taking care for yourself, your cats, squirrels all sorts of birds and bugs and people around and the Earth itself. Thank you for being the way you are :)

  18. hm... well... eh... thank you, Silky Soul :-)

  19. Your experiment is absolutely successful, dear Chamomilla! Those patches are lovely, vivid and radiate like precious stones on velvet.

    When I started the new part of our garden that is framed by crossroads I felt shy, too. The passers-by were quite doubter first but as the garden shows itself with time people look happy about the changes.

  20. Thank you Eszter, you are very poetic...

    It's nice that you embellish the part of your garden where strangers passing by can enjoy the beauty of flowers, too!