Teeny Tiny Gardening + Interview

by Amy Azzarito

I think there was a collective gasp when this book slid across our desks – which sometimes happens when we stumble upon something good. Cute plants and TINY!  In vintage containers! Yes. That many exclamation points. Since we’re all friends here, I’ll confess that I don’t have the greenest of thumbs. I really really want to be one of those grand dames of gardening, but I can’t even seem to keep a succulent alive. (Those succulents in that New York Times story? All dead)  I’m not totally giving up on myself. Instead I’m going to blame it on the light and humidity (or lack of) in my apartment. The tininess of this book appealed to my shaky gardening confidence. That, and the fact that everything is in vintage containers. I might be able to grow anything, but I can hunt down a vintage container like nobody’s business. Stylist and design Emma Hardy created a book,  Teeny Tiny Gardening, perfect for the novice gardener. Everything is broken down into simple steps, which makes it feel more like a DIY project than a gardening chore, which for me, is a very good thing! –Amy Azzarito

Design*Sponge: How did you start gardening?
Emma Hardy:  My mother was a keen gardener and I shared her enthusiasm from quite a young age. As a child, I loved going to the garden centre on a Sunday afternoon with her and choosing plants. It was quite a while before I got my own garden, but I have always loved visiting other peoples gardens and have amassed quite a pile of gardening books that I have read avidly over the years.

All Photographs from Teeny Tiny Gardening by Emma Hardy, Photography by Debbie Patterson CICO Books, $21.95; www.cicobooks.com

Design*Sponge: What are some of your first gardening memories?
Emma Hardy: The first thing I remember planting was snowdrop bulbs. I remember being rather frustrated that nothing happened for a long time but was very proud when they finally emerged!

Design*Sponge: And why teeny tiny? What about this project appealed to you?
Emma Hardy: I am currently starting a new garden having moved recently and although I am very excited by it, I am also impatient to get it done and slightly daunted by the amount of work that we need to do. Making tiny gardens satisfies my need to grow without the need to cultivate large areas of ground. Making miniature gardens are a great way to use the plants that you love when you don’t have much space or simply want to brighten up an area like a terrace or window sill or even a dining table. They are also a very cost effective way of creating something beautiful and definitely require less time on maintenance!

Design*Sponge: One of the ways in which your book really appeals to me, is through unusual containers that you use – from egg shells to suitcases. How did you get started using such unusual garden vessels and why is that such an important component of the book?
Emma Hardy: I love the idea of using unusual containers for planting and once you start looking around for containers, just about everything becomes a potential planter! I am an avid visitor to flea markets and like nothing more than buying an old tin, bucket, suitcase, basket etc.. for next to nothing and transforming it into a beautiful garden. I have a collection of containers (old troughs, buckets and baskets) that are packed with herbs and flowers outside my back door, which look wonderful throughout the summer and can be chopped and changed to create different arrangements.

More of from Teeny Tiny Gardening and Emma’s interview after the jump!

Design*Sponge: Can you talk about the English gardening tradition?
Emma Hardy: Gardening is definitely a very popular past time over here. I think as a nation we are very proud of our gardens and like to share them with other people and you don’t have to go far to find beautiful front gardens, planters and window boxes. The first sunny weekend of the year will find us dashing to our local plant and garden centres in huge droves, eager to start on our summer planting! I love many different styles of gardens but I have to say that my favourite look is a traditional cottage garden, which is quintessentially English. Informal borders packed with colour, fragrance and blooms, that buzz with insects are my idea of gardening heaven!

Design*Sponge: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges that new gardeners face?
Emma Hardy: I think it is easy to feel overwhelmed when starting gardening and sometimes reading a gardening book can make it seem even more daunting. There are so many different planting mediums, plants with specific requirements etc. and I think it is easy to feel put off. My philosophy with gardening is just to have a go! I find that generally things just grow – there have been a few disasters along the way but if you tend things regularly and always use decent compost, you can achieve a lot. I hope my book will gently guide the novice to begin gardening, starting small scale and gaining confidence along the way.

Design*Sponge: What do you see as the benefits of gardening?
Emma Hardy: Gardening is pure relaxation for me. I love to potter round the garden, watering and deadheading plants as I go, and at the end of a busy day it is the perfect switch off. I love growing fruit, vegetables and herbs, which have the added benefit that you can eat them, too but I have realised that it is the growing that I enjoy more than the end result. Although being able to step outside and pick fresh vegetables for lunch is an added benefit! Also growing plenty of flowering plants means that I have a constant supply of blooms throughout the summer, too. There is nothing nicer than a jug full of gloriously fragrant sweet peas and I usually have a steady supply!

Design*Sponge You have two daughters. Do they participate in gardening with you?
Emma Hardy: My daughters have grown things from a young age starting with fast growing plants like sunflowers, nasturtiums and courgettes. Betty, my youngest daughter has grown some HUGE sunflowers the last few years and is always very proud of them! My eldest daughter, Gracie has recently started a cacti collection, which is a lot of fun. Gardening has given them an understanding of where things come from and I love the fact that they just wander into the garden and pick fresh fruit and vegetables to nibble on. They have made a tiny garden themselves, using miniature conifers to create a forest for Betty’s dolls to play in and so I am confident that they have got the gardening bug will continue to get great pleasure from gardening for years to come.

Suggested For You


  • I’ve only recently started to get my fingers green. I’m enjoying it, but in certain areas I’m completely clueless. I think that this is just what I need – everything looks so cute, too!

  • What clever ideas! I must try some of these an see if I can turn into a green thumb. Spring in Texas is perfect but keeping things alive trough the summer seems next to impossible (at least for an amateur like me)

  • I love plants though I don’t have much of a green thumb. I’m more of a tree/bush trimming and chopping wiz. I like to clean up what’s already growing.
    We are about to move to my husbands childhood home and his mom used to have wonderful gardens before she moved and took a lot of her favorites with her. She is amazing at growing anything. I am looking forward to giving my hand at it and with the rich soil I’m hoping to have a few successes.
    My daughter, Emma, is still young but when she’s a little older I’d like for her to join me outside. I love the small planters featured in the photos and I want to create some wonderful little garden worlds for her and I to share.

  • these all looks soo great!! I might have to give it a go….even though ,traditionally, I kill everything green!!

  • Bonjour et Félicitations pour cet “Article” qui “booste” le Moral ! J’adore “détourner les objets”, aussi, suis-je “à la Fête” . Merci pour toute cette Beauté, Simplicité, Originalité, Fraîcheur. Sympathie de Belgique. Vi

  • wonderful idea! :) i am a fan of these cute little flowers – the picture with the chair and that one with the cases – so much fun :) like it

  • These are precious, beautiful and uplifting in a tiny space. I love them. I’m buying the book.

  • I live in an apartment and have 3 medium- sized indoor gardens, but I wanted to start making smaller container gardens because they take less time to create. I happened to be at Barnes & Noble the other day browsing through the gardening books for ideas when I spotted your book on *teeny, tiny gardening*. I fell in LOVE with your tiny gardens using vintage and unusual containers. My favorites were the glass tumbler planters, egg shells planters, teacup planters, but basically I LOVED all of your creations. I can’t wait to go back and purchase the book. :)

  • Love the chairs, but what are you using to put the flowers in after removing the seat??