Gardening in the City

It’s time of the year to celebrate blossoming flowers, fruitful trees, chirping birds and fluttering butterflies. Living in this day and age, these are wonders of nature one may only find in a garden. To the Japanese monks, a garden is a sanctuary of profound stillness. To the French royals, it is an aesthetic manifestation of nobility. However way you look at it, having a garden in your home lets you revel in the tropics for seasons to come. Read on for a guide on gardening in the city.

Urban Gardening

What distinguish urban gardening are landscaping factors such as size of lawn and housing design. Houses in the densely populated Jakarta have smaller space of lawn that requires management of space. The stacks-like housing order with dividers such as fences and cement walls also suggest less flexibility during landscaping a garden. What seems like a problem, these factors on contrary emphasize the natural, adaptable elements of a garden.

Ida Amal from Jakarta Berkebun suggested VertiCulture for the typical urban residence. VertiCulture gardening is a space managing method implementing vertical installation using containers, drain pipes, bamboos, even tin cans as planting ground. For apartments residents, you may find Bosco Verticale in Milan as one of the most advanced implementations of vertical planting to be an inspiration. Bosco Verticale is a twin apartment built with cantilevered balconies grown with oak and amelanchier trees, in other words, “a vertical forest”. If you’re not sure growing an oak tree on the balcony would work out well with the landlord, arrange generous amount of shrubs of a particular variant, accentuate with a choice of floral plants on an integrating container panel.

Another factor to be taken to account is time of maintenance. Urban dwellers may have less time pruning and sprucing their garden, thus getting familiar with cultivating seasons of specific plants, commonly referred to as annuals and perennials, is advised.

Design and Landscaping

The essence of garden design and landscaping lies in the usage hard material, such as cement and cobble stones. As H.E. Bates noted, gardens should be in shape of “all curves, secret corners, unexpected deviations, seductive surprises and then still more curves.”. That being said, hard materials surface the garden in a way that it provides not only distinctive texture but also shape. For instance, patio flooring made of water-resistant camphor wood, cement tiles for the stepping path and cobble stones defining patches for ornamental plants.

For home gardeners living in apartments or in houses with less space to garden, containers can be used for improvising planting placements, a method referred to as “container gardening”. Containers can be in form of pot containers, woven baskets, and window boxes, positioned hanging on the trellis or wall, by the windowsills, placed on terrace steps, or corners of either interiors or exteriors of the house. Selection of containers varied from plastic containers, ceramic containers, glazed containers, to clay containers, also decorative containers made of coral and andesite stones as alternative to conventional clay containers.

Businesses also embraces garden landscaping as part of service as much part of structure. Luxurious and intimate, Rumah Alexandra braces a stone-tiled Javanese shrine garden, embroidered by purple-streaked leaves of croton, jeweled by blossoming frangipani and coconut palm trees, with checkered stepping path escorting house guests to a Javanese joglo. The Phoenix employ rustic gray cement as material for containers and terrace steps, a minimalistic element balancing the monochromatic extravagance of the interior. A lush jackfruit tree greets the eatery visitors upon entering the garden and provides a cool shading especially during the day.

Planting and Harvesting

Trees, ornamental plants, flowering plants, and fruit plants are primary types of garden plants. While from the growth characteristics, garden plants are categorized into shrubs, bulbs, climbers, and creepers. Each category consists of plants of various shapes and colors. Important to note that each plant may require specific cultivating method.

Elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum schumach) and manila grass (Zoysia matrella) are most recommended grass for house lawns. Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), soka (Ixora coccinea), bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spectabilis), flamingo lily (Anthurium andraeanum), lobster claw (Heliconia rostrata), red ginger (Alpinia purpurata), mandeville (Mandevilla sanderi), frangipani (Plumeria sp.), shoe flower (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), and amaryllis (Hippeastrum) promise picturesque blooms throughout season for the garden or as houseplants. Ornamental trees, such as banyan (Ficus benjamina), korean banyan (Ficus coreana), coconut palm (Cocos nucifera), bali pandanus (Pandanus tectona), teak (Tectona grandis), acacia (Acacia gerggi), fern leaf bamboo (Bambusa glaucescens) and decorative palms such as the lady palm (Rhapis excelsa) can function as border hedges or as shading curtain.

Selecting vegetation to grow is similar to the process of design and landscaping of garden. Ideally,  plants enhance the shape and texture of the garden. Conventional house gardens employ the basic combination for gardeners to begin with, consisting of palm tree, teh-tehan pagar, and soka shrubs, planted on a grass lawn. Preparing a color palette for the garden helps determine plants to grow–whether a burst of radiant red of poinsettia, or an omni-elegance of a white flamingo lily. You may also grow productive ornamental plants such as aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis Milleer), sansevieria (Sansevieria ehrenbergii), and croton (Codiaeum variegatum).

Speaking of productive plants, vegetable-and-fruits gardening and herbal gardening are most common forms of productive gardening. Vegetations commonly cultivated for vegetable-and-fruits gardens are chili (Capsicum spp), tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum), eggplants, parai, pumpkin, papaya, and lemon. Seeds can be purchased from gardening markets or by placing order through local suppliers. Ida added that vegetable plants most practical to cultivate are spinach (Amaranthus spp.) and kangkoong (Ipomoea reptana) considering the relatively brief period of 21 to 30 days from plant until harvest.

Most fruits plants can be grown using tambulampot method, short for “tanaman buah dalam pot”, meaning planting fruits in containers, a method suitable for smaller lawns. Suggested fruit plants are soursops (Annona muricata), starfruits (Averrhoa carambola), lemon (Citrus limon), rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum), and water apples (Syzygium aqueum). For herbal gardening, Ida recommends saffron (Curcuma longa), ginger (Zingiber officinale), kencur (Kaempferia galangal), and galangal (Alpinia galangal), also grown in containers.

Markets and Community

Stroll down Jl. Dharmawangsa and Jl. Asia Afrika flower markets for grown plants. Shop for gardening tools and appliances at the nearest retail hardware shops or supermarkets. Get social with fellow gardening enthusiasts by visiting Jakarta Berkebun official website at and Twitter page at @IDBerkebun.


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