How to grow a garden even when you think you can’t

Lars in the garden

Like a proud mother, I want to show off my babies: my small but delightful-to-me garden. It’s small, but makes me so happy. And this comes from someone who knew not too much about gardening and didn’t know I could get so much from such a small space. But let me start at the beginning if you’re just joining in on reading Lars.

Read along for my tips on how to create a garden even if you think you can’t!

We moved into our walk-out basement apartment about 4 years ago when we moved to the US from Denmark. At the time, we thought this would be a temporary spot before we found something that fit our needs better. It was rather difficult to find a rental while we were abroad because no one would answer our phone calls from a foreign number and our emails appeared straight from a Kenyan prince (“we’re currently in Denmark looking for an apartment. We can transfer our deposit…,” yada yada yada)  so we took what we could get thanks to my sister who secured it for us. Fortunately, somehow we lucked out! We have all the space we need, our landlords are a god-sent, and they’ve allowed me to go crazy experimenting with my “garden”. I put it in quotes because it’s really just a couple of patches.Lars in the garden

As soon as the first spring hit, I started planting away, not knowing much about gardening other than really enjoying flowers. I wasn’t aware of soil types, knew a bit about sun/shade, and didn’t pay much attention to how to flowers blend together. But it was the best way to start. Just (literally) dig in.

A couple of years ago I added in a number of peony plants that I found at Costco and they took the front patch from ok to spectacular, at least during the early spring season. Peonies are hearty and awe-inpsiring, though their shelf-life is so short. This year they went absolutely bonkers and I documented it all daily on Insta-stories because I find that they are such a miracle. How so many petals can get in one bloom is beyond me. Sadly, these photos are at the tail-end of it, but at least they show how full they are. Lars in the garden

Last year I decided I wanted to focus on the front patio and turn it into a “living room” of sorts for the garden. I had bought that white planter from a vintage shop and had intended to use it as an organizer for my paper plants, back when I was selling them, but decided it was better put to use for real flowers. The long pots were originally a sage green and I painted them a mint and this year I filled them with a variety of rainbow plants in both spillers and fillers (ones that droop and ones that sprout tall). I wanted to create a little more privacy for our house as we get a lot of traffic especially right now as construction has quite literally torn up our roads.

I also create another layer of pots/privacy by creating a VERY DIY shelving unit for the edge of the patio consisting of a piece of 8′ wood that I got cut down in half for either side of the pillar in the middle. I placed it on pots and filled the wood with a variety of pots. Lars in the garden

The delphiniums pictured here in my favorite pots, below, are now fully in bloom and they are striking. There’s nothing better than delphinium blue is there? I have a set of these gorgeous aged pots from Terrain after a collaboration we did a couple of years ago. You can find something similar here.Lars in the garden

I got this lady last year. Someone knocked her over (my guess is a deer, which we get a lot of) and she could use some reconstructive surgery, but I love the grass head we’ve got going on this year. Here’s a photo from last year, what she’s supposed to look like.

This is my favorite time of day: I wake up early and immediately feed my plants. There’s nothing more restful or magical than evaluating the growth of something you’ve planted. It’s awe-inspiring every single time! Plus it’s a great way to meditate and get yourself ready for the day.Lars in the garden

At the end of last spring I mentioned to my landlord, Richard, that it would be so delightful to have hanging planters from the deck. The very next day I came home from work and there were four little planters hanging. You see why we can never move?! This year I got four new ones. I always love geraniums, especially after visiting Vienna and Salzburg and seeing the gorgeous way they add bulk and volume. Plus they come in such vibrant colors. I also have a mobile plant stand that I like to add geraniums to every year to create a cascade of color. You can see it below on the right: Lars in the gardenLars in the garden

The washer-board plant stand to the right was one that was already here when we moved in and can’t really be moved anywhere else because it’s so heavy. Lars in the garden

Heading around to the side plot, I planted some wild flower seeds the very first year we moved here and they are only now starting to show. We get some beautiful foxgloves (that came out after we photographed), and a couple of rose bushes. I decided to plant a rose bush every year for my birthday here, so now I have four. I love feeling like I’m adding something to this house.Lars in the gardenLars in the garden

We transplanted a number of irises from the side of the house over so they were more visible and they went nuts this year! Irises are a new found love for me, especially after visited Schreiner’s Iris Gardens in Salem, Oregon last year. I had no idea irises came in every shade of the rainbow. I guess that’s what you get when you come from a place where bulbs don’t exist (Southern California). Lars in the gardenLars in the garden

And the delphiniums this year went wild!

I found this old plant stand at a vintage market last year ($3!). Last year I filled it with herbs, but we found we didn’t use them much for some reason, so I decided a cheaper option were Alice in Wonderland pansies. I always always think of Alice when I see pansies. They have such bright faces. And then I think of this song.Lars in the gardenLars in the garden

SO, my advice for anyone looking to create a garden with little space. Here are three little tips to get you going:

  1. If you’re renting, check with your landlords if it’s alright to plant some flowers in the ground. It’s very likely that they will love the help. In the end, my landlord’s gave me a little gardening budget to go with it (I always spend a LOT more because I can’t help it) but they see the value in it so they help out.
  2. If you can’t dig directly into the ground, try out a container garden. Start going to vintage or gardening stores to see what they have in the way of plant stands. I found my favorite ones at the vintage store (plus I like the aged look) and they were much cheaper. When I see something I REALLY love from a normal gardening store I’ll save my pennies for it. My favorite, of course, is Terrain, and here locally in Utah, Sun River Gardens, which has a great supply of containers, as well as Cactus and Tropicals or if you’re ever in Newport Beach, I’d recommended visiting Roger’s Gardens, a mecca for gardeners. Here’s a tutorial on how to plant the perfect pot.
  3. If you own your home, what are you waiting for? If it’s a lack of time, wake up a half hour early. That’s my favorite time, or right when I get home from work. And if you don’t know where to start, just start by planting things you love (making sure you plant full-sun plants in the sun and shaded plants in the shade). You’ll become familiar with what works for your space and what you like and don’t like.

Gardening for me is my happy place. It’s a little hobby I can do that doesn’t require too much time, especially for the size garden I have, and brings me immense joy. This year it’s a bit different because construction has seriously gotten in the way and has layered everything with dirt, but at least the construction workers have commented on it 🙂

Are you a gardener? Do you enjoy hearing about gardening here on the blog? I haven’t done too much of it, but I clearly love it. Would you like to hear more? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Dress from here.

Photography by Anna Killian


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