Oasis in the Sky

With careful planning, you can create a green haven on your balcony that’s full of scent and colour.

First, it’s important to check how much weight your balcony can take, whether it’s waterproof and if it has drainage.  It’s also worth considering a mini drip irrigation system.  In terms of containers, terracotta pots are attractive but heavier, so if you want bigger planters, plastic and resin are lighter options.  You can also buy compost specially formulated to be lightweight.  Larger containers require less watering and don’t look as fussy as lots of little ones, but this is dependent on weight constrictions.

Aspect is all-important.  Balconies can be microclimates and the conditions extreme.  For hot balconies, drought- tolerant succulents, olive trees, lavender and other Mediterranean plants are ideal, as are tropical plants such as the dwarf palm Chamaerops humilis.  For cooler areas, choose shade-loving ivy, heucheras, ferns and hostas - less prone to slug damage on a balcony.  It’s also often windy on balconies, so take inspiration from plants that cope with blustery coastal conditions or create windbreaks.

If your balcony is just for looking out onto, strategically placed pots and window boxes will extend your interior space.  With the right supports, climbers, such as wisteria, frame doors and windows beautifully.  If you have room to sit out there, create privacy with screening plants like bamboo or trellis covered in evergreen ivy or scented star jasmine Trachelospermum jasminoides.

When designing your planting, it’s helpful to start with evergreens like Pittosporum ‘Golf Ball’ or rosemary to create structure.  Grasses such as Carex testacea add naturalism and small trees, such as dwarf Japanese maples, which like shade, provide height.  Inject colour with small flowering shrubs such as hebes, hydrangeas and mini shrub roses, as well as your favourite herbaceous plants.  Agapanthus and pelargoniums are good in containers and the pretty white daisy Erigeron karvinskianus looks good spilling from a pot.  Limiting colours will make your space look calmer and more spacious, but it’s all personal choice - the great thing is you can experiment, building up a collection of plants that thrive until you’ve created your own mini paradise on high.