Outside Number 39 by Elaine Portch


Garden Award: Gold

Designer: Elaine Portch

The garden is a quirky, individual balcony as part of the first home of two young professionals living in an urban environment. With an ever-expanding collection of houseplants, pot-grown herbs and window-sill chillis, these budding plant enthusiasts and keen cooks are longing for some outside green space in which to relax, entertain and grow. 

The design creates two distinct informal spaces - a relaxing seating area and an area to dine in, both surrounded by plants arranged at different levels to create the effect of being within a larger garden. The outside walls of the balcony act as spaces for 'living' pictures and shelves for plants. The planting focuses on the use of easy to maintain sempervivums, succulents, grasses and plants to use in cooking. Furthermore, they will allow for all year-round interest.

Re-purposed objects used as planters and sculptural works, along with up-cycled items of furniture will make this a creative, environmentally-friendly and personal space to relax in and enjoy.

Five Key Plants in the Garden 

  • Sempervivums
  • Bamboo
  • Restio
  • Other succulents
  • Erodium

About the Designer

Elaine designed a New Zealand-inspired Birmingham Border at BBC Gardeners’ World Live in 2011 and won an RHS Gold Medal and Best in Category award. She runs her own Garden Design and maintenance company, specialising in designing gardens for residential outside spaces.

She graduated from Nottingham Trent in 1983 with a degree in Fine Art (Sculpture) and subsequently embarked on a 33 year career teaching art at a secondary school in Northamptonshire. Furthermore, involvement in the RHS Schools Campaign - Green Plan It project for the past two years as a teacher and in 2017 as a volunteer mentor enabled her to share her knowledge and passion of gardening and design with young people.

Elaine and her husband William have opened their own garden as part of the National Garden Scheme for seven years. Their’s is a plantsman’s garden for all seasons with quirky original sculptures and an imaginative use of re-purposed objects. As well as raising funds for charity, these open garden events provides the opportunity to share ideas and inspire others to explore their own garden spaces in a unique and creative way.

Elaine’s inspiration for creating Outside Number 39 - a balcony garden, came from her step-daughter, Emily and her partner Peter, looking to buy their first flat in Milton Keynes. After three years of living in cramped rented accommodation with no outside space, they are looking forward to the opportunity of having their own balcony space where they can grow plants and relax.