A Gypsy Garden Is Full Of Magic
It takes a lot of time to move into a place and the garden is often last on the list. Making my garden took a long time but I had to wait for the right moment. For a year I had been looking for a wagon wheel as the central motif for my garden. Some people might think a wagon wheel is out of place in a high rise building, but for me it holds deep meanings from my country upbringing and in Romani culture the wagon and horses hold a central place. It represents that need to be free to roam that space between earth and sky. I have always felt that need to be free and the wagon wheel allows my mind to roam as I please.
My goal was to create a rainforest feeling that would remind me of my youth in the jungles of North Queensland. There were beautiful places there I would escape to and my favorites were rocky ledges on mountain sides where I could look out into the sky with the forests far below but surrounded by that wet smell of ferns and rainforest greenery. An apartment balcony on the 12th floor is a surprisingly good place to recreate that rainforest mountainside experience. To do it though would require careful planning and selection of plants.
The wagon wheel is the focus of the garden. Tropical looking plants such as a large leafed variety of non-variegated devil ivy, mother-in-law tongue, boston fern calathea, rex begonia, and parlor palm give a rainforest feel. The French window boxes will be filled with spider plants and ferns as the garden develops.
A small umbrella tree and a non-variegated happy plant give a rainforest feeling while very hardy plants like mother-in-law tongue and yucca at the edge of the balcony act as a wind break to help protect the plants inside.
Gardening on the 12th floor is very different to gardening at ground level. Firstly the relatively small size of a balcony means careful planning to get the best effect. Secondly winds are much stronger up high than near the ground meaning that plants have to be very hardy types. And lastly light can be problematic. Some apartments face the sun and experience baking heat, while others face away from the sun and can only support plants adapted to full shade.
My balcony is south facing, and being in the southern hemisphere that means away from the sun. During mid summer part of my balcony gets some afternoon sun after 2pm but during mid winter I get six weeks with no sun at all. I chose wind resistant plants for the outside considering light requirements for the exact placement of the various plants.
No garden is complete without a gnome. Mine is named Raphaël. I named him after Amelie's father in the French movie Amelie. In the movie his garden gnome is stolen by Amelie who loans it to a friend who is a flight attendant. Raphaël subsequently receives polaroids from exotic locations all over the world with the gnome in the foreground. Raphaël is perplexed by the situation but eventually decides to pack his bags and see some of the world that his gnome has enjoyed. The fact that Raphaël is also the name of an artist is just an added bonus. Keeping Raphaël company is a meerkat and a cupid. Coincidentally this cupid is based on a cupid painted by the artist Raphael.
There is something magical about sitting in the garden enjoying the sky and the forest of skyscrapers all around. Gardens bring a sense of peace to the city, and tending a garden brings a sense of peace to the psyche. People may go into space and live in busy metropolises but there is always a part of us which belongs in a wild natural place. A garden reminds us of that natural world we ultimately come from. There is a special feeling I get from living with my plants and letting my mind wander off with that wagon wheel.