There should be a place for a garden in everyone’s life, whether it’s a 5-acre property or a 5-metre square balcony. If you're working with the latter here are some of our tips to green up your balcony.
Start with evergreen shrubs in the large containers. For screening, elegant camellias, glossy leaved murrayas, the exotic magnolia Little Gem, the fragrant port wine magnolia or small growing cumquat trees with their sweetly scented spring blossom and decorative orange fruit are ideal. Leave plenty of space in the tubs to under plant with seasonal annuals. Cascading petunias, dainty white alyssum, trailing blue lobelia, or sparkling multi-coloured portulaca sun jewels will add a riot of colour. Always try to combine plants into big planters rather than use a host of small individual pots. It simplifies the area and gives greater feeling of space, minimizes work, and reduces the chance of pots drying out.
Herbs and vegetables are made for balcony gardens. For the cooking enthusiast a hanging basket of herbs is essential. Mint, thyme, parsley, chives, and prostrate rosemary will all flourish in hanging baskets. Scarlet nasturtiums, yellow marigolds or violet pansies mixed in your herb planters give extra colour, with the added benefit that you can add these edible flowers to your salad. Tiny Tumbling Tom tomatoes grow in baskets, the new Roma Tomato will grow in window boxes, together with basil. Taller growing Sweet Bite or Grosse Lisse will grow in pots or planted directly into bags of potting mix with a trellis for support against the wall. Bush beans, lettuce, carrots, silverbeet, bush cucumbers and zucchini are all good for large pots and window boxes. Make sure that your veggies get the full sun.
Another great option for herbs and vegies is a Greenbo pot. They fit over the railing, which keeps the floor space on your balcony free and gives the plant access to the maximum amount of light.
A few selected cordylines, dracaenas, yuccas, agaves or New Zealand flax will add elegance to the most exposed balconies. Succulents and cactus are easy to care for as multi-planted table bowls, and pots of dark green mondo grass and strappy liriope add softness to a bare verandah, but need little attention.
Shady balconies can be filled with foliage plants, golden cane palms, small growing parlour palms, kentia palms, black bamboo, ferns of all varieties, ficus, dwarf umbrella trees and Peace lilies creating a cool calm and tranquil place to sit and relax. Colour can be added with cordylines, crotons and dracaenas. Cymbidium orchids in spring, begonias in summer, cyclamen in autumn and poinsettias in winter will add interest. Indoor plants will happily grow outside during the warm summer months but need warmth and shelter from damaging wind in the winter.
If you enjoy Australian Native plants, Bush Gem kangaroo paws have been bred in a rainbow of colours, scarlet, burgundy, orange, pink, brown, cream, yellow and green. They thrive in pots. Tiny native brachyscome daises, pink, blue, mauve, yellow and orange will spill from pots or tumble from hanging baskets, and for larger tubs and planters the dwarf banksia “Birthday Candles”, the prostrate casuarina “Cousin It”, grevillea Robyn Gordon or the small growing bottlebrush “Captain Cook” are easy to grow.
You can cover the wall or screen the balcony with the native climber pandorea jasminoides. The Auzzie Belle series will flower from spring to autumn with pink or white clusters of bell shaped flowers, is tough, loves the heat and is easy to grow.
If you prefer not to grow climbers but love the look of a 'wall garden', consider using a vertical garden system. A bracket system with snap in and out pots allows you to easily change sections of your wall - so that you can always be growing in season herbs and vegies, colourful flowers or both!
Before you start to create your balcony garden there are a few important rules to follow:
- Make sure that the balcony is strongly built, and that ceiling hooks and brackets are firmly fixed, pots can be heavy.
- Check where the water will drain from your pots and window boxes, water can cause problems with neighbors below!
- Use pots with saucers or, even better, waterwell pots that will look after your plants if you go away. Read more about picking the perfect pot for your balcony here.
- Always use the best quality potting mix for successful gardening. If your budget is tight purchase smaller plants, they will soon grow.
- Remember that pot plants need regular feeding, a slow release pelleted fertiliser is ideal.