Photography: Urban Retreat Homes
Balconies, as an extension of our living space, can offer a wonderful respite from city living. Here’s how you can create a lovely oasis, just beyond your balcony door.
LOCATION AND USE
The location of the balcony determines its use. Is it located off a public space such as a living area, or a private bedroom space? What is the view? Can you enjoy a stunning sunrise or sunset, or do you need to shield the view to a neighbouring roof? How much sunshine do you get? This will determine the types of plants that can be used. How will you use the space—as a quiet reading space, an herb garden, or an entertainment area?
Can the balcony accommodate only a single chair or chaise lounge, or is there enough space for a table and chairs? Many balconies in new condominiums are “standing-room only” and every square inch must be considered before purchasing items. Measure the floor space and also the height of the railings and sidewalls. Many condominiums have thin glass railings and sidewalls, and regulations that prohibit making holes into the aluminum frame, which make vertical gardening a challenge.
Among the many beautiful containers available today, my my go-to places are Planters Perfect or Greenville Planters. Both are Canadian distributors and they offer an extensive selection of modern and traditional planters. Custom options are also available.
Many balconies are equipped with hose bibs, which make watering more convenient. In this case, consider self-watering containers that have a reservoir at the bottom—capillary action waters the plants. If you are short on floor space, consider a railing-mounted planter. I’m a big fan of Lechuza Self- Watering Planters. Remember, one oversized container makes more of an impact than several small pots.
Once you decide whether you want a food or flower garden, there are still some choices to be made. Do you want to attract butterflies or birds? Is your balcony accessible to squirrels or rabbits? Designing to attract or deter insects and animals is a consideration.
Unless you have room in your home or garage to “winter over” plants, you will want to consider annuals. They provide the most colour and often bloom from May to November.
Do your research on shade gardens vs. partial sun or sunny gardens. Vegetable gardens need about five hours of sunlight per day. This means food gardens should typically face south or west. The more direct light the plants receive, the better their performance.
Easy-to-grow plants include oregano, parsley, rosemary, basil, tomatoes, and peppers. Cucumbers, radishes and some lettuces will also flourish. Tropical plants, such as fuchsia bougainvillea, are a stunning addition to a balcony. However, they can be expensive, so bring them indoors before the first frost.
Begonias, hostas, impatiens, ferns and violets are good examples of plants that thrive in the shade. Remember, outdoor soil is not suitable for pots. Choose a soil-less potting mix and fertilize frequently for the best results.
When shopping for outdoor furniture, look for pieces in cast aluminum, teak, stainless steel or faux wicker. Andrew Richards offers a patented woven material called Solartex, which evokes the look and feel of wicker and can withstand salt, sun and extreme temperatures. Shop around online to determine the styles and prices that suit your taste.
Don’t forget about fire pits and patio heaters (if regulations allow), lanterns and screens. Many retailers offer bamboo screens or faux boxwoods that can help with privacy or less than desirable views. They also look great in the winter months and can be a backdrop for holiday balcony decor.
Interlocking patio decking modules improve the look of concrete balconies and are easy to install. Deck tiles come in natural-wood choices such as Ipe, teak, cedar, acacia, as well as composite materials, stone or porcelain tiles. Some companies offer sandstone, mosaic and pebble tiles, such as Swiftdeck.
Outdoor rugs can ground the space and add a pop of colour and style to the area. Because rugs can deteriorate or fade in the summer sun, consider UV-treated, 100 per cent polypropylene rugs. While natural jute or sisal rugs look great, they can get mildew and be difficult to clean.
Most importantly, have fun with your space! Whether creating an elegant oasis or a fun entertainment space, consider adding personal touches like artwork, garden statues or part of your favourite collection.
Battery-operated water features can help mask city noises and create a relaxing environment. Focus on establishing a theme, such as Mediterranean, beach, coastal, forest or fairy pool, and design your space to inspire and delight.
OUTDOOR FURNITURE Chairs, modani.com; table custom;
Origin Lounge Chairs & Paris Bench andrewricharddesigns.com