In Design: The hanging garden

Small or spacious, you can create your very own garden, whatever the size of your balcony.

Hanging Garden 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Hanging Garden 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Most balconies are very rarely used. Some are used mainly for storage of bicycles and old furniture, others are just a place to send smokers to indulge in their vice. But turning the unused space into a small garden is not as difficult as one might think. There are plenty of low-cost ways for apartment dwellers to enjoy a bit of nature. It does take some effort and a little planning, but the reward is worth it. Before you start consider the following:
You don’t want to waste floor space, so in order to make your garden appear larger than it really is, use hanging plants. When designing a garden for a small balcony every centi meter counts, so use all available surfaces, including walls and railings. Think height and make maximum use of vertical space. Hanging baskets can be a burst of flowers, full of color and taste.
Before starting, check how much weight your balcony can bear. Containers filled with soil can be very heavy. To reduce weight in large containers, fill the bottom third with plastic or Styrofoam. Use light weight containers rather than heavy ceramic ones.
If your balcony is not very private, you might consider putting up some screening. There are many options available at your local garden or building center such as bamboo or wooden screens. They can give you much-needed privacy and complement your design ideas. Placing bamboo fencing against the existing walls can completely transform the look of the balcony, so you may want to use them to hide ugly walls.
Sun and wind
Balconies can suffer from extreme conditions. Being high off the ground, they are exposed both to the heat of summer and the wind and rain of winter. Understand your growing conditions and the requirements of the plants you have chosen so that you can choose the right plant for the right place. Plants in full sun can get more than eight hours of sunlight a day. During the summer months, plants in containers dry out very frequently and should be watched carefully.
Strong winds can knock over even heavy containers so select tough plants. For shelter from wind and neighbors, provide a windbreak such as tall plants which are securely fastened or screens.
Access and storage

Remember that gardening off the ground means bringing all the bags of soil, containers and plants up the steps or in the elevator and then carrying all the garden refuse down. Be sure the trees and shrubs you buy will fit into the elevator or can be carried up the steps. In your design, include a small cupboard or shed so that you will have somewhere to store tools, bags of soil, extra containers, fertilizers, cushions and
anything that cannot be left outdoors.
Garden furniture
Adding a few well-designed furniture pieces can make a balcony seem warm and inviting. It’s important to consider the size of the balcony before purchasing patio furniture. If the balcony is small, choose a couple of chairs and a small table. Add extra interest and color with patterned, weatherresistant cushions. For larger balconies a patio table and umbrella make for a wonderful place to relax. With comfortable seating, balconies can easily become a great place for entertaining guests. Thinlegged chairs and a table with clean open lines – perhaps wrought iron and glass – will look better than heavy ones.
Maxine Levita, born in South Africa, initiated together with Poriyah Frid the first-of-its-kind Flower and Garden Design Show, to be held April 21-23 at Ra’anana Park.