Chances are, when you were searching for your current home, the view from the patio or balcony played an important role in your decision making process. Perhaps it was the city skyline that drew you in, or the twists and turns of the river flowing by, or maybe it was the wall of green trees that reminded you of a vacation getaway.
And now that you’ve had a chance to settle in, you’ve no doubt spent a good deal of time on these balconies or patios, and you’re ready to add some sights and sounds a bit closer to home. With that idea in mind, we thought we’d share some of our favorite ideas for container gardens, fountains and hanging baskets.
Before you begin, check the rules for your building. For example, some buildings don’t allow containers containing vegetables as they may attract birds or pests.
Once you are ready to go, the first thing to consider are the containers you plan to use. If you are thinking on the larger side, terra cotta and ceramic pots might be too heavy for a balcony and difficult to move. You might want to consider plastic, fiberglass or bamboo containers.
For example, Tom Boehmer, owner of Renaissance Garden Accents, tells us a large cast stone pot may weigh 150 pounds or more empty, a fiberglass pot that size might weigh 15 pounds, and a fiberstone version would weigh 40 or 50 pounds.
“The benefit of a fiberstone pot is that it is more substantial and can handle a large plant—such as a tree,” Boehmer says. “It looks like real stone but with a fraction of the weight.”
Make sure you get a pot that’s the right size for the job. “You want a container that is large enough to support the root system of your plants and one with excellent drainage holes,” says Ron Wilson with Natorp’s. “Do not add gravel to assist in drainage. It will only add weight.”
Next, use a top-grade potting mix. Wilson adds, “These mixes are what the professionals use and typically include sphagnum peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite, with occasionally blending in a small percentage of coir or very fine pine bark.”
Throughout the growing season, experts recommend using a combination of a slow-release fertilizer, along with a liquid fertilizer. Talk with your local garden center about which brand and combination is right for the plants you are working with.
Don’t waste money buying plants that aren’t right for your location—no matter how much you love them. The amount of sun your space gets is critical. Keep in mind that sun-loving plants need 6 to 8 hours of sun each day to grow well.
There’s hardly an easier way to dress up a balcony or patio than hanging a basket full of flowers. But it’s important to remember that hanging baskets tend to dry quickly—especially in the heat of summer. And as roots grow, they leave less space for water. You may have to water only every two or three days in the spring, but as plants grow and temperatures rise, you might need to shift to watering every day.
Also, you may want to consider adding water-storing polymers, like Soil Moist, to your potting mix. When you water the soil, these granules absorb water which is released back into the soil when it becomes dry.
THRILL, FILL AND SPILL
An easy-to-remember (and rhyming) tip when creating a potted flower combination:
THRILL. Select a tall, eye-catching plant. Dracaena shown
FILL. Select a plant to fill in between the thrill and the spill selections. Petunias shown
SPILL. Add in a plant that hangs over the sides of the container. Creeping Jenny shown
Adding a fountain is a wonderful touch and adds yet another reason to lure family and guests outside. Even if space is at a premium, you can consider installing a wall fountain or placing a small fountain on your tabletop. Its trickling sound is mesmerizing.
Outdoor fountains can also lessen the intensity of loud, unpleasant noises such as traffic or loud music. And, if you’re up for a bit of company —of the feathered variety—fountains are a draw for happy birds ready to take a drink or a bath at your place.
“A great option is a custom-made bubbler fountain,” says Boehmer. A glazed pot acts as a reservoir and a copper pipe is the spout. It adds a spark of color and provides a different shape that is available in cast stone.
Keep in mind, there are seasonal and year-round fountains. Seasonal ones need to be taken inside during the winter to avoid damage. Year round versions have built-in heating systems—either electrical or solar—that can be used to protect your fountain from a freeze.
Some local nurseries offer a service where they will build and deliver seasonal containers for year-round color.
Aquatic & Garden Décor | Natorp’s | Renaissance Garden Accents | The Site Group
anamese.com; campaniainternational.com; potterypots.com
Article By Karen Bradner
Article originally appeared in May 2022