Franchesca Watson’s savvy balcony garden tips
Landscape designer Franchesca Watson offers solutions for the most common challenges
This is often the first issue to overcome. You may need space-saving solutions, such as wooden or metal screens. If you have the room, growing hedges in a line of simple trough containers that are deep enough can give you great greening and screening at the sides – choose evergreen clippable plants that will take a bit of a breeze, such as Searsia or euclea species, and keep them neat so as not to take up too much space.
For privacy from overhead, pergolas and awnings work well, but if these aren’t feasible put one large container somewhere central in which you can grow a small tree. The container needs to be of a size that will allow the tree to develop some substance; square ones are good as they’re easier to walk around. If you train the tree to spread out, you’ll be able to sit beneath it without feeling overlooked from above. Again, trees that will take a breeze are usually necessary – consider thorn trees, bottlebrushes, olives or large shrubs such as Buddleja and Brachylaenas that can be trained into small trees.
Extending the space
If you have a strong balcony railing, attach window boxes all the way around – I like to hook them to the outside of the railing, then you are not encroaching on your space and drips don’t become a problem. Get boxes in a decent size so you can grow a variety of things if the wind is not too strong. If all else fails, try trailing succulents – there is a huge selection available.
Furniture & Lighting
Avoid having air-conditioner units or permanent washing lines hog all the space. If you have to use the space for storage, it’s worth investing in clever solutions that can double up as seats or day beds. Choose tables and chairs that are compact and neat (without legs that splay and unnecessary armrests) and make sure they’re finished in a material that is easy to keep clean. Artificial grass underfoot will soften the whole feel and make it seem more like a garden, and is really practical, too. Keep the lighting muted. If there is a fixture delivering too much light, put a plant in front of it or a screen over it.
In a small area every plant is noticed, so they need to be thoughtfully chosen and easy to maintain, without too much downtime in the off season. Size and habit are especially important, so understand what the plant will do, especially if it’s going to be restricted by a container. Also keep in mind plants that can be trained or clipped, as these are especially useful in tight spaces.
And try not to have millions of small pots even if that’s your usual style – invest in some large containers too, and do effective combinations of plants in them. Franchesca Watson % 082 808 1287 n 8 franchescawatson.com
EVERGREEN clippable plants ARE GREAT for GREENING and SCREENING a Balcony