Review: Urban Flowers

With the continuing success of campaigns such as the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) Greening Grey Britain, there is a greater awareness of the importance of small city gardens and their value both as an outdoor space and as wildlife habitats.

Urban Flowers’ – Creating abundance in a small city garden – written by Carolyn Dunster is timely, as it explores the many ways in which you can bring colour and interest to a small city garden, whatever its location and whatever your taste.

The author is an award-winning planting designer, florist and urban gardener. She trained in floristry with Jane Packer and now runs her own business in north London. Her small cutting garden at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in 2016, won the People’s Choice Award that year. She sources and sells gardening items that are ethically made by small producers using upcycled, recycled and sustainable materials to create products with a soul and a story.

Carolyn divides the book up into six sections taking the reader from an overview of The City Garden, Evaluating your space and Choosing a Style, to Selecting your plants, Experimenting with colour and Reaping your rewards. There is plenty of information to get your teeth into here, written in a lively and entertaining manner. The book contains some really lovely, easy achievable projects, such as a Herb Wall, Dressed up Drainpipes and upcycled tin can displays to name a few.

As one would expect, her background as a florist comes into its own with hints and tips on pressing flowers, making edible floral treats and conditioning and caring for cut flowers to prolong their life.

What I liked about this book is that it doesn’t frighten you – Carolyn takes the reader on a sensible, gentle pace beginning with the city garden and setting out her aim: ” …. to share not only my love of flowers, and the joy they have brought me throughout my life, but also to show how it is possible to grow your own blooms in the heart of an urban area and in the tiniest and most unlikely of spaces.”

There are themed planting recipes and a palette of reliable urban plants. The book has excellent colour illustrations with photography by Jason Ingram.

I am amazed at how much information Carolyn has crammed into this book. Everything from identifying annuals, biennials and perennials (often one of the most difficult aspects of gardening to learn) to choosing a style and colour palette. However, she doesn’t finish there – sections on hand-tied gifts, harvesting your own seeds and decorating your living space are all included as part of the ‘reaping your rewards’

Carolyn explains that she is lucky to live a flower-filled life: “I grow as many flowers as possible in a small inner-city garden cramming every available space with pots and planters that change with the seasons,” she says. She clearly understands how growing your own flowers can transform the urban environment to bring a multitude of benefits for everyone who lives there: “As our 21st century cities get bigger and become more densely populated it is imperative that we remain in touch with the natural world,” she says.

From cultivating courtyard gardens to planting window boxes or growing vertically against walls and up drainpipes, there are lots of easy-to-follow projects in this book that will inspire you and give confidence to actually go out, assess your plot, no matter its size, and start growing your own flowers, not only for their beauty outside but also for their value inside the home.

Carolyn is a strong believer in the healing therapeutic power of flowers and her love of gardening, colour and plants flows through every page.

Urban Flowers is an excellent book for the beginner gardener or someone who has just moved into a new house, however, it will also serve as motivation for those who feel daunted by the prospect of trying to grow flowers themselves.

Urban Flowers‘ by Carolyn Dunster with photography by Jason Ingram, is published by Frances Lincoln (The Quarto Group) in hardback at £20.00. Available from 6th April 2017.

Review copy supplied by Frances Lincoln –