Best Plants for the Balcony Garden

 

There really is something quite special about having a morning coffee seated outside enjoying the sun’s early rays. Balconies are simply an important part of our relaxed, alfresco style of living. So it only makes sense that we need to celebrate this area and give it the attention and styling it deserves. And no, this doesn’t just mean an outdoor seating arrangement and leaving it at that. In fact, you can transform a blank outdoor canvas into a truly special space by paying attention to just a few details…the secrete being all in the plants and balcony suitable trees.

A balcony garden should be an extension of your home, choosing the correct plants will create an urban oasis you will want to escape to. Here are 10 plant suggestions that work well on a apartment balcony.

1. Silver falls

When it comes to under-planting, there really isn’t a better plant than ‘Silver Falls’ Dichondra argentea. The grey silvery foliage, which weeps downwards, looks stunning against a charcoal-coloured pot.

Can be used in full sun to part shade. They require very little water. Once established, the foliage will weep down as much as two metres! For best results, try planting a feature tree in a large pot, and under-plant around the inside edge of the rim. Over time, this will form a complete curtain around the pot. It’s a good idea to regularly go around the pot with a pair of hardy scissors and trim the foliage to promote new growth.

2. Geranium

They thrive, add colour andmost importantlythey are easy to look after. Few flowers look as good in a pot as these do.

The ‘Ivy-leaf Geranium’ Pelargonium peltatum, blends handsome foliage with large clusters of show stopping blossoms in colours, of red, pink, magenta and white. Although many people use geraniums as bedding plants, they perform even better in containers.

With so many exciting varieties, including some with scented leaves, the humble geranium is earning new admirers. It does require help to keep them looking fabulous and needs to be reshaped and cut back to maintain that neat clean cut look.

3. Gollum

A popular indoor plant, Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’ works just as well on balconies and rooftop gardens. Its coral-like foliage creates a striking feature that looks amazing planted in small egg pots.

Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’ is a slow-growing plant and, except for a monthly water, requires literally no maintenance. We’ve had great success with this hardy succulent in full sun to full shade and when left long enough they start taking the form of a large bonsai trees.

4. Meyer Lemon

This popular variety of ‘lemon’ is not a true lemon but a hybrid between a lemon and an orange, with colorful fruit, fragrant blossoms, and glossy evergreen. This is also perfect if your after a small tree for your balcony.

The ‘Meyer Lemon’ Citrus × meyeri is the perfect fruiting tree for the balcony, it’s an easy care, heavy fruiting lemon suited to small gardens as it grows well in pots and containers. So why not enjoy harvesting your own fruit while having the delightful natural smell of lemons scent your balcony, The ‘Meyer Lemon’ tree is good news for gardeners who want a steady supply of fruit all year round while making the balcony look like an oasis.

5. Rosemary

Has to be one of the toughest edible plants, making it the perfect candidate for balcony gardens. These plants will tolerate wind, heat and dry conditions and grow well in containers.

Rosmarinus officinalis Pink Rosemary is a favourite, an evergreen shrub with pink or mauve flowers and strongly aromatic foliage, it is a small to medium shrub reaching up to 80cm tall, so perfect for container gardening.

You can encourage growth by regularly cutting a sprig or two for use in the kitchen. They also can deter bugs from the balcony letting you enjoy those warm summer nights outside.

6. Frangipani

Frangipanis are a spectacular plant and you know that summer is well and truly on its way when they start to flower.

The most common Frangipani, Plumeria rubra is usually seen in white with a yellow centre, but are also available in many hues of pink, orange and yellow. Their flowers and fragrance bring a romantic feeling to any garden, and they’ll never go out of fashion because they’re drought tolerant.

They also look fantastic in large potted containers, as a small tree on any balcony gives it that feeling of grandeur.

7. Gardenia

With beautiful cream flowers and glossy deep evergreen leaves, the ‘Gardenia Radicans’ Gardenia jasminoides has become a must have throughout the world and a favourite with florists. Gardenias make wonderful and attractive container plants and have a pleasant fragrance once in bloom.

Best suitedfor warm, bright and sunny locations and are perfect for balcony’s that have good air circulation, as it’s an essential for your Gardenia to thrive.

8. Lavender

Containers provide a great opportunity to grow them in an otherwise unsuited balcony garden, which is fantastic as there is nothing like ‘Lavender’Lavandula in full bloom.

There are many varieties of Lavender, including dwarf cultivars which are ideal for container growing and can be clipped in decorative balls and cones. To state the obvious, compact varieties make the best choices for a balcony and small spaces.

Lavenders appreciate full sun. Grow them in shade and they grow out towards the sunlight, and they also like well-drained soil.

9. Jasmine

‘Jasmine’ Jasminum polyanthum, is a traditional favourite with container gardeners, and the powerfully evocative fragrance of the scented species wafts through gardens, often signalling the onset of warmer weather.

Jasmines vary in hardiness and drought tolerance depending on their origins, though few species will withstand repeated severe frosts or drought. They prefer moist, well-drained soil, and a position in full sun or partial shade.

Jasmines can be kept neat and tidy if pinched back and pruned in spring before new growth occurs and can be enjoyed to evoke the senses.

10. Yucca

The Yucca plant is a widely popular evergreen garden perennial. Yuccas should receive full sun to part sun. Low light levels cause spindly growth and fewer flowers. And nobody likes a skinny Yucca.

These plants are interesting and slow-growing houseplants that have the added benefit of being extremely drought tolerant. Under the right conditions, yucca are not difficult plants to grow. They tend to thrive on a little neglect, rather than too much attention.

We’ve all seen a failed balcony garden; outdated pots and drooping plants that just don’t go together. The secret to a successful balcony garden is to choose plants and trees that will not only survive but thrive.

 

Plants That Discourage The Bitting Bugs

 

Our patios, decks, porches and yards offer the rare opportunity to extend our living space, and to be truly at home in the outdoors. From Landscaped grounds to the tiniest urban balcony, nearly any exterior area can be the setting for a comfortable outdoor room, but pesky bugs are quick to drive a party indoors. Many slather themselves in a synthetic chemical cocktail in efforts to keep biting, stinging nasties at bay. But there are plenty of reasons to stay away from traditional insect repellents and use more natural deterrents such as plants. For a chemical-free way to keep insects at bay in the warmer spring/summer season here are some easy-to-grow plants that can help deter bugs and insects. Planted near the doorway, these 7 natural plant options deter mosquitoes, flies, and uninvited guests in the garden and home without harming people, pet’s or the environment.

MARIGOLDS are hardy annual plants which have a distinctive smell which mosquitoes, and bugs, like aphids find particularly offensive. Marigolds prefer full sunlight and reasonably fertile soil. Although marigolds can be planted from seed, starter plants are inexpensive. Potted marigolds can be positioned near entrances to your home and any common mosquito/bugs entry points, such as open windows and furnished courtyards and balconies. The smell may deter mosquitoes and bugs from going past this barrier.

ROSEMARY Is also a herb that contains wonderful properties to keep fleas and ticks away. The woody smell keeps all the unwanted bugs away that’s why permaculture farmers love planting Rosemary throughout their fields. Grow rosemary in pots then shift it indoors in winter, since the plant does not tolerate long periods of cold climate. To control mosquitoes in warmer months, place rosemary plant pots in the yard and they can be moved about as you please.

LEMON BALM This easy-to-grow herb also has several additional applications, from infused teas and vinegars to green salads. Lemon balm also keeps the mosquitoes at bay as its leaves contain citronella compounds. You can grow lemon balm in your garden and allow them to thrive, leaving less room for mosquitoes to want to linger. To keep mosquitoes at bay, you can also rub crushed lemon balm leaves on your skin.

LEMON GRASS contains natural citronella essential oil to repel mosquitoes and stable flies, which prey on domestic animals. Lemongrass is widely used as a culinary herb in Asian cuisines and as medicinal herb in India. It works in a similar way as a potent natural insect repellent, with the added benefit of antibacterial and antifungal properties. 

LAVENDER offers practical protection from mosquitoes, flies, fleas, and moths. Lavender can be planted near entryways or freshly cut and placed in a window to keep bugs outside. Lavender has been used for centuries to add a pleasantly sweet fragrance to homes and clothes drawers. Although people love the smell of lavender, mosquitoes, flies and other unwanted insects hate it.

BASIL repels houseflies and mosquitos naturally. Simply get your garden area some pots of basil. As one of the most pungent of herbs, basil makes an outstanding natural mosquito repellent, giving off a scent without the leaves having to be crushed or touched.

PETUNIAS repel aphids, tomato hornworms, asparagus beetles, leafhoppers and squash bugs. . They are popular mostly because they are available in a variety of bright colours, require such minimal maintenance they are almost foolproof to grow and can be grown in garden beds, containers or hanging baskets. Plant them in sunny areas near vegetables and herbs such as beans, tomatoes, peppers and basil.

 

Style Your Home With Plants

 

Plants add a sense of life and energy to a home which is why you should add them to your entryway to create a natural and vibrant ‘wow’ factor. Indoor plants set a welcoming tone as the colours of nature make our homes feel fresh, calm as well as renewed, which is a nice ambiance to enjoy after coming home for a long day of work or school. Not only do indoor plants make a space feel alive, they also add great texture, shape and colour to a room. Plants are also a long term design solution as they can stand the test of time. This can save you money in the long run.

It’s a great way to tie the outdoors in, so on those rainy cold days when we don’t wish to venture outside we still feel like we have been! They are also beneficial to our health, removing the air of toxins, so not only do they look great indoors they are also cleaning the air we breathe, creating a natural barrier as we make our way in and out of the home.

Plants are a great way to dress up your homes entryway for the festive seasons, for example, by adding a Dwarf Pine tree during December will instantly make your home look and smell like Christmas. 

Add plants to compliment the theme of your home. If you have a more coastal vibe, choose some tropical style plants. If you’re going for a more modern chic style, then a fabulous orchard would look amazing and vibrant in your entryway. 

If lack of space is an issue in your entryway, utilise your walls and ceiling by installing hanging baskets of foliage or perhaps even a beautiful green cascading wall.

Suggested plants that look fantastic in the entryway are; Ficus elastica (Rubber Tree), Sanseveria (Mother in Laws Tongue), Ficus lyrata (Fiddle Leaf Fig) and Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily).

 

Fresh Cut Flowers & Foliage

 

As the new year will soon approach, one of my new years resolutions I have for my home is to be able to fill my home with fresh cut flowers and foliage collected straight from my urban garden.

Filling your home with fresh, fragrant, colourful greenery is never easier than when you can head out to the yard and clip what you need.

In order to do this i’m going to have decide what it is I would like to grow, and what also will work well in the current environment and climate that I live in.

Why not think ahead and plant shrubs that you would love to bring indoors. I’ll defiantly be adding to my collection plants such as Viburnum, Birds of Paradise, Magnolia, Arum Lily, and monstera whose foliage adds an organic sensibility and often a natural scent to the home. 

Greenery gathered from your own garden will be far fresher than any you can buy, and the variety will likely exceed what you can find at a market.

Consider carefully which branches to cut and which ones to leave. You don’t want to end up with bald spots or just wood. Distribute the cuts evenly around the plant in order to preserve its natural form. 

It will be great having lush foliage and flowers to decorate your home with all year round

 

How To Get the Kids Gardening

 

It won’t be news to you that today’s kids don’t spend enough time outdoors. Despite our frequent encouragement (or should we say please) the lure of phones, iPads and the TV, prove too strong a match for the prospect of fresh air and sunshine.

Throw in our own busy lifestyles and it’s a tough ask to meet the activity levels recommended for health and wellbeing. If you think you’ve used every trick in the book to get your kids off the couch, think again.

Gardening might just be your new best friend.

It turns out a bit of green thumb activity is the perfect fit for the creativity and boundless energy of children. If you don’t know the difference between a spade and a shovel (hint: they’re actually the same thing), these tips will come in handy when convincing your kids to get into the garden.

Motor skills and intellectual stimulation

Most children love being outdoors, creating things, digging in the soil, getting dirty and watching plants grow. By channelling that passion into gardening, your kids will learn new skills and develop self-confidence while they get to play and have fun. And there’s nothing more satisfying than tending to plants and growing food you then get to eat.

There’s no room for boredom

There are so many different skills needed in the garden, from weeding to pruning, planting seedlings to harvesting vegetables. That makes it perfect for restless, energetic little ones. Set up a circuit of different stations in your backyard so your whole army of budding gardeners remain engaged for hours at a time.

Muddy hands and face, oh yeah!

Do your kids love mess as much as you despise it? The garden is one place where it’s recommended to get your hands dirty, which your little ones are sure to love.

Gardening lets them get as filthy as they like, meaning they’ll get all that wild banshee energy out of their system – and at a safe distance from your beautiful linen sofa.

Keep it simple

As we all know, kids are inquisitive (read: easily distracted), so start them off with plants that are child-friendly: those that grow quickly, are hardy or have interesting textures or colours. Give your kids their own garden space and start small. Think a few pots, a large container or a 1 metre x 1 metre patch in the garden. Soon they’ll feel like this activity is really their own.

Use colours and shapes to stimulate them

Kids like large, brightly coloured flowers and vegetables. Sunflowers, corn, pumpkins, tomatoes and strawberries are all great choices for visually interesting plants.

Strawberries in particular are an easy (and rewarding) plant for your kids to grow, thanks to the added fun of picking and eating your very own berries.

Fruit trees are another great choice. Go for a lemon or orange tree – hello freshly squeezed OJ and lemonade – and make sure you buy an established tree, otherwise you (and your kids) will be waiting years for any fruit!

Stimulation overload – mission impossible in the garden

Create a sensory garden by adding some plants that reward touching, tasting and smelling, alongside those with bright colours and interesting textures. Find some varieties that make noise when the wind blows through them. By stimulating every one of their senses, the garden will quickly capture their attention.

Start a project

Make a mini greenhouse, set up a worm farm and plant flowers that attract butterflies, ladybirds and other interesting insects or birds. Show your kids where flowers, fruit and vegetables come from by planting seeds together. You can let them decide what they would like to grow, and they can see the growing process from start to finish. A great little experiment is to grow an avocado from seed. As well as enjoying a bounty of free avocados, you and your kids also get to see the huge seed turn into a plant. Another great way to bring the kids outside is by building a bean or vine teepee. By planting a vertical garden, this will create a fun hideout for the kids and you’ll be having to tell them to come inside for once.

This one is for the parents

Garden organically wherever possible and make sure you only give children garden tools that are safe and that they’re ready to handle. There are heaps of garden tools available now that are made just for kids.