Balcony Gardening

YOUR COMPLETE WINTER GARDENING GUIDE

“Winter is a season of recovery and preparation.” They’re the words of travel writer Paul Theroux, but any gardener will be able to relate to them. Now is the ideal time to take stock of your garden, prepare for spring and enjoy working outdoors while there’s still a refreshing chill in the air.

  Image via  Style Estate .

Image via Style Estate.

Even if your plants have become dormant this winter, there’s plenty you can be doing to make your outdoor area a more pleasant space to spend time in both the cooler and warmer months. When it comes to winter gardening, there are three ways to ensure you aren’t neglecting your outdoor space:

  1. Cosy up outdoor areas
  2. Give your space some TLC
  3. Prepare for spring and summer

Be inspired to get outside, even when it’s cold, with this guide.

Cosy up outdoor areas

  Use cushions, lighting and blankets to make an outdoor space more comfortable in winter. Image via  Blackbird .

Use cushions, lighting and blankets to make an outdoor space more comfortable in winter. Image via Blackbird.

If you haven’t spent a lot of time outdoors this winter, the top priority on your winter gardening list should be making your outdoor area cosier. There are a number of simple ways to warm up your outdoor space:

  • Add outdoor cushions and blankets to your furnishings
  • Move your seating to an area with more sunlight
  • Create warmth with the addition of a fire-pit, free-standing electric heater or built-in fireplace
  • Use extra lighting to create ambience and a feeling of warmth – consider string lights, lanterns and candles
  • Install shelter structures that will protect your space from wind (vergolas are a great solution, as they allow sun in during winter and provide shade in summer)

When creating an outdoor space, many people do most of the planning with just summer in mind. However, we recommend thinking about ways to season-proof your garden so you can enjoy it year-round.

Ways to do this include using retractable structures and deciduous shade covers that will keep you cool in summer and let sunlight through in winter, and putting heavy planters on wheels so you can easily move them as the seasons change.

Give your space some TLC

  When planning a built-in fireplace, think about where you will store your firewood too. Image via  Gardenista .

When planning a built-in fireplace, think about where you will store your firewood too. Image via Gardenista.

Nothing is more satisfying than spending a day getting outdoor jobs done – and winter is the perfect season for this, as it’s far more pleasant to get on top of those physically taxing jobs when the weather is cooler.

Things to get done in winter include:

  • Repot container plants
  • Transplant established plants and shrubs while they are dormant
  • Mulch your plants (this helps them retain warmth in winter)
  • Prune roses, frangipani, summer-flowering shrubs and tropical plants
  • Tackle larger landscaping jobs like paving, painting, general repairs, decking maintenance, installing outdoor art, fireplaces and water features, etc.

When it comes to planting, the warm climate in South-east Queensland means there is still a lot you can grow during the cool months. Edibles including silverbeet, cabbage, kale, carrots, lettuce, radish, peas and most herbs will continue to grow.

You can also get ready for the warmer months by planting spring vegetable seeds in pots and placing them in a warm protected area. Tomato, eggplant and capsicums are good plants to get started now.

If you want colour in your outdoor area, try camellias and azaleas for flowering at the start of winter. Gardenia, bottlebrush, may bush and jasmine will begin to flower in late winter and throughout spring.

Prepare for spring and summer

  Dreaming of summer already? Get ready for the warm months by designing your summer oasis in winter. Image via  HGTV .

Dreaming of summer already? Get ready for the warm months by designing your summer oasis in winter. Image via HGTV.

Spring/summer is prime time for relaxing outside, so it makes sense to do larger landscaping projects before the weather starts to warm up.

When planning design and landscaping for your space, we recommend starting with Pinterest as a source of inspiration. You should also consult with your local nursery on plants that will grow well in your area. If you require professional assistance with your landscaping, now is also the time to book this in before the spring/summer rush begins.

For design ideas, see these seven gardens that showcase why landscaping shouldn’t be an afterthought.

Winter reading: Small Spaces, Big Ideas – our complete guide to garden design. Download your free ebook now!

YOUR TOP QUESTIONS ANSWERED: BALCONIES

Have you ever wondered if you could be doing more with your balcony or if it has the right furnishings? Recently we have noticed that homeowners have the same questions on their mind, so we have launched a new blog series where we share answers to the questions we are most commonly asked. To get you inspired to embrace your outdoor space, we are starting with balconies.

 Image + design  Terrasses Des Oliviers

Image + design Terrasses Des Oliviers

1. Help … what should I do with my balcony?

Let’s start this one with what you shouldn’t do with your balcony, and that is to use it only as a place for hanging laundry! Your balcony should enhance your lifestyle and ways to use it include lounging and entertaining, or as a balcony garden. There are a few things to consider with this question, so we have broken the answer down into individual tips.

Shift your mindset

The best way to see the potential of your balcony is to reframe your thinking. We often meet people who can only see what they can’t do with their balcony rather than what’s possible. In most situations, however, you can achieve your goals, just on a smaller scale. For example, if you want to grow your own produce, it may not be possible to have a veggie patch, but you can have a raised herb garden and even some potted citrus trees. Start small, focus on the opportunities and you will feel less overwhelmed.

Ask the right questions

The question to ask yourself is this: ‘What do I actually want to use my outdoor space for?’ It is important to think about this carefully – unlike other outdoor areas, it is more than likely that your balcony will only be able to serve a single purpose.

It often happens that people put a barbecue outside because that’s what they think they are supposed to use their balcony for. But if you only use that barbecue a couple of times each summer, you will probably find you will get far more use out of your balcony if you were to put an outdoor sofa there instead and use it as a space for relaxing.

As you are defining the purpose of the balcony, sketch the shape of your space on a notepad and work out how each part of the space will be used – this will help you to understand what’s achievable.

Get the planning right

Another reason that homeowners neglect their balconies is that they are put off by a lack of shelter, shade or privacy. Look at the size and aspect of your space and start to consider how you can address these issues (with respect to any body corporate regulations that may apply to your building). Thinking about these issues will make the space more liveable year round.

If you want to cultivate your own garden, you will need to be mindful that balconies are often exposed to more elements, such as wind and heat. Understanding which plants will tolerate these conditions will ensure the success of your balcony garden. When space is limited, you can integrate greenery by using hanging planters or installing a vertical garden. Not sure what to plant? Our list of top balcony plants features hardy plants that like being potted and don’t mind the heat and wind.

Less is more

Showing restraint is the key to creating a functional space. Cluttering a balcony will make it feel smaller and could inhibit the flow of movement between indoor and outdoor areas. This comes down to the furniture you choose – look for slimline pieces that will fit comfortably in the space.

When considering the decor, consider taking cues from your interiors to ensure there is continuity between the spaces. A sense of cohesiveness is an important part of feeling comfortable when you move between your indoor and outdoor spaces.

2. Will spending money on my outdoor space add value to my home?

In a nutshell – yes. But investing in your outdoor area won’t just add value to your property, it will also improve your health and lifestyle.

When you purchase a property, you are paying for every square metre, so it makes sense to utilise the balcony space you have. Doing so creates an outdoor room that maximises the liveability of your home, in turn elevating your lifestyle.

There is a growing body of research showing the positive connections between plants and people. When we have more contact with plants and the outdoors, stress lowers and this has a positive impact on both physical and mental health. So by investing in your outdoor space, you are making a commitment to improving your lifestyle as a whole. 

 Image Design + Image  Anthony Wyer  

Image Design + Image Anthony Wyer 

3. Should I invest in new outdoor furniture?

Whether to purchase new furniture or use what you have depends upon a number of factors. We understand that investing in furniture can be a significant expense, but if your furniture is too large for the space, it can be one of the reasons why you may not use your balcony as often as you would like.

This is generally the case for people who are downsizing from a larger home into an apartment. In these situations, it is often best to start again and invest in the best quality outdoor furniture that your budget will allow. Look for lightweight pieces, UV-resistant outdoor fabrics and furnishings that suit the scale of the space you have.

This is a good opportunity to rethink how you use your balcony. If you don’t have space for a full dining setting, for example, you may choose to purchase bar seating or a small outdoor lounge instead. Or you may even decide to build-in furnishings such as bench seating with storage, as this is a great way to maximise space.

When it comes to pots, once again quality is important. Heavy are generally not suitable on a balcony, as they retain more heat. Look for lightweight pots and use good quality soil and agents like Wettasoil so your plants don’t go thirsty. If you have large plants, put them on wheels so you can move them around to suit seasonal conditions.

 Image + design  The Small Garden

Image + design The Small Garden

Have a question for us?

Over the coming months we will be sharing more advice on courtyards, rooftops and plant selection – so if there’s something you would like to ask us, we’d love to hear from you! Email info@thesmallgarden.com.au or tag us on Instagram

We believe in giving credit where credit is due, so if at any time you see work that is improperly recognised, please send us a quick note & we’ll gladly update the information. Thanks for inspiring us!

DESIGN IDEAS FOR BALCONY BLISS

Are you struggling to find design inspiration for your balcony? Whether your space is tiny, over exposed to the elements or lacking privacy, there is always a design solution. These ideas show you what’s possible.

Balconies are precious real estate. When designing and styling your balcony, allow the space to evolve in response to your lifestyle and the setting. By making practical considerations first and then being adventurous with your planting and styling, you can create a truly individual outdoor space.

Understanding the balcony design mindset

 Image via Home Design Etc

Image via Home Design Etc

An easy way to get into the right headspace for balcony design is to think of the area as an outdoor room. Just as a room in your home will serve a single purpose, so too should your balcony. Trying to do too much in a small balcony will make it cluttered and impractical.

The above space has a number of carefully considered elements, including shade, stylish furnishings, screening for privacy, an outdoor rug and hedging for softness. When it comes to balcony design and styling, pay as much attention to detail as you would in a key indoor room of your home.

Creating indoor/outdoor living

 Image via  My Paradissi

Image via My Paradissi

This balcony is a perfect example of integrated indoor/outdoor living. The interior of the home opens out to a balcony that is designed to complement the indoor styling as well as the stunning view. This balcony may be small, but the use of built-in seating ensures every inch of space is put to good use. Additionally, the overhead shade structure makes the area comfortable all year round.

Related reading: Give your balcony a makeover with these styling tips

Utilising small spaces

 Images via  SF Girl by the Bay  and  Pinterest

You really don’t need a lot of space to enjoy being outside. In spite of their size, these revamped balconies beckon you to spend more time outdoors. Hanging chairs and high bars provide seating without occupying too much space. Add in a few potted plants and you’ll have created an inviting space to unwind in. In small balconies such as these, the use of slimline furnishings ensures the space doesn’t feel cluttered.

Related reading: Realising the value of your outdoor space

Enhancing your privacy

 Images via  Atelier Vierkant  and  WooHome

Images via Atelier Vierkant and WooHome

Privacy is a key reason why many balconies are underutilised. If you live in a built-up area, there are a number of ways to make your balcony feel more secluded. When using timber as a screen (as above), ensure it is slatted so that breeze and light can still pass through.

Alternatively, you can consider decorative laser-cut screening, or create a barrier using plants such as tall grasses and hedges. If you are in a windy position, screens can also double as a barrier from the elements. When planning your privacy options, consider any body corporate restrictions and whether screening will detract from any views you have.

Adding interest with plants

 Images via  Crate & Barrel  and  Design Chaser

While you may not have space for a garden bed, there is so much you can do when introducing plants to balconies. By using planters such as the one above, you can add a sculptural element to the space without needing to drill holes into the wall (which is a common body corporate issue).

When using pot plants, cluster pots of different sizes together to create interest or, alternatively, opt for a single statement plant. In larger spaces, use planter boxes to divide dining and lounge areas. Artificial grass tiles and vertical gardens are other effective ways to introduce greenery into your balcony without consuming precious space.

Related reading: The top ten balcony plants

Finishing a look with styling

 Image via  Daily Dream Decor

Don’t be afraid to be adventurous when styling an outdoor space. This balcony has embraced a boho theme to bring it to life and reflect the owner’s style. Through contrasting textures, use of fabrics and cushions, the space is incredibly inviting. Here, the trans-seasonal neutral palette makes the balcony feel spacious, while the added patterns can be changed to suit the season. 

When choosing furnishings and materials, invest in pieces that will withstand the elements. Additionally, it is a good idea to store cushions away when they aren’t in use. Place a storage box in your balcony or design built-in seating to double as stow-away space.

Related reading: Get your outdoor area ready for spring

Want more balcony garden inspiration? Download our complete guide to small space gardening!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE TOP 10 BALCONY PLANTS

With the right plants, you can transform your balcony into an inviting space that thrives year round.

Balconies are one of the most challenging spaces to grow plants, and that’s why the secret to a successful balcony garden is to choose the right plants for the conditions. Whether your balcony is shaded or drenched in sun all day, you’ll find the right plants for your space below.

Most of these plants only require minimal watering and little or no fertilising. If you have failed at balcony gardening in the past, chances are it’s because you chose the wrong plants. So if you are ready to bring some nature into your life and your balcony, try these hardy, low-maintenance plants.

Honourable mentions also go to succulents to cactus, which are hardy, gorgeous and easy to keep in pots. 


OUR GIFT TO YOU >

Download your FREE A3 printable guide here!

Related reading: A guide to container gardening

Want more planting inspiration? Download our complete guide to small space gardening!

GIVE YOUR BALCONY A MAKEOVER WITH THESE STYLING TIPS

Styling a balcony isn’t just about making it beautiful – it’s about making the space livable. In built-up areas, balconies are a rare connection to the outdoors and a chance for you to expand your living area. With these styling how-tos, you can overcome the limitations of size and create an inspiring space to spend time in. 

1. Think like a designer

No matter what space they are in, a designer always starts the process with the question of lifestyle. Ask yourself how you want to use your outdoor living space.

Your options include:

·       Balcony/kitchen garden

·       Entertaining area

·       Lounging space

This is the part of the process where many people fall short, because they try to do too much in a small space. Choose one function and execute it well, and you’ll find yourself naturally spending more time on your balcony.

At this preliminary stage you should also look into body corporate regulations, as these may restrict what you can and can’t do. In most cases you won’t be able to paint, change the flooring or make significant alterations to the space, which makes styling considerations all the more important.

2. Pay attention to your indoor space

Rather than trying to create a design concept from scratch, think of your balcony as an extension of your indoor space. This gives you a scope to work within and also ensures that the two areas complement one another. Draw your styling inspiration from the colour palettes within your home and ask yourself how you can take them further. For example, choose flowers and foliage that complement the colours of your indoor cushions and throw rugs. These subtle touches create a sense of cohesion and style, and they can also be updated seasonally as your look evolves.

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   This balcony design carries on the neutral tones of the adjoining apartment, but the use of foliage gives it a distinguished feel of its own. 

Balcony concept & design - The Small Garden

This balcony design carries on the neutral tones of the adjoining apartment, but the use of foliage gives it a distinguished feel of its own. 

3. Hunt around for the right furniture and accessories

More designers are getting creative with outdoor furniture and we are now spoiled for choice when it comes to our options. Research outdoor furniture shops and designers in your area and you will be surprised what you can find.

On balconies, small table settings, benches and corner couches work particularly well. When choosing furniture, focus on low, slim and streamlined pieces, as these help maintain a sense of space. Bulkier pieces like couches and built-in benches can be positioned up against a wall to ensure they won’t disrupt your view out from the balcony. These types of furnishings often have in-built storage, which is great for putting away cushions, garden tools and other bits and pieces.

To ensure you get the scale right, measure the size of your balcony as well as the space you have for furnishings. Take these figures with you to the shops, in order to eliminate the guesswork.

Once you have chosen your furnishing, you can then start personalising with outdoor cushions, lighting accents and other pieces such as side tables. Soft pastels and bold shades of green, blue and yellow are popular colour palettes you can play with when accessorising your space.

Image: Jamie Durie x The Canvas Workshop Art Collaboration

Vibrant pieces of outdoor art are a simple way to add personality to a balcony. 

4. Choose low-maintenance plants

Not all plants like to be kept in pots, but most low-maintenance varieties will do well on a balcony.

Plants that are suited to balcony conditions include:

Edible

·       Herbs

·       Strawberries

·       Chillies

·       Small citrus trees

·       Cherry tomatoes

·       Leafy greens such as lettuce and rocket

Decorative

·       Succulents and cactus

·       Laurus Nobilis (Bay Tree)

·       Adenium (Desert Rose)

·       Rhipsalis Cassutha (Mistletoe Cactus)

·       Westringia (Zena)

·       Dichondra (Silver Falls)

·       Euphorbia (Tiny Tim)

·       Carpobrotus Rossii (Pig Face)

·       Rhaphiolepis Indica (Indian Hawthorn)

In small spaces, avoid clutter by choosing a large potted plant over a number of small plants, as this will enhance the sense of space. Large pots are difficult to move once they have been planted, so place them on wheels to make life easier. This will let you move the pot when you need to create space or reposition the plant as the seasons change.

When you do have space for several plants, choose varieties of differing heights and contrasting foliage. Position larger plants at the back of a cluster and smaller plants at the front. Also consider using hanging pots as an extra way to introduce plants within restricting your living space.

L to R: Eenig WonenWorthminer, Peter Fudge

Plants including succulents, herbs and dichondra silver falls will continue to thrive when confined to pots in a small space. 

5. Take advantage of walls and floors

While you probably can’t change your walls and floors, you can decorate them. Add life to a blank wall using a vertical garden, a piece of outdoor art or a climber such as ivy. On the floor, look for outdoor rugs that will withstand moisture and UV exposure. You can also install outdoor decking tiles that simply lock into place and sit atop your existing floor treatments.

L to R: Via ArchDaily: Prahran Hotel / Techne Architecture, photo Peter Clark, Via Names Agency: Elizabeth Bay Apartment, Jason Busch

Use vertical gardens and wall discs to introduce plants to a balcony without restricting usable space. 

Related reading: A guide to container gardening