High Rise Gardening

Post image for DIY Squad: Child Proofing A Small-Space Container Garden

When I was just under two years old, I fell off my parent’s second story balcony. I was playing out there when I saw our cat Yaz in a nearby tree. I reached for the cat and fell through the railings. Luckily I landed on grass and while I fractured my skull, the fracture was along one of the sutures and I didn’t suffer any brain damage. I always thought it was funny that I fell off the balcony, but my mom, who was the one who found me, never could laugh about it. Now as a mom myself, I can empathize with how it must have felt to see your baby lying on the ground beneath your balcony.

So, as you can imagine, I’ve been worrying and researching about balcony garden safety from pretty much the moment I found out I was pregnant. Obviously you should never leave a baby or small child on a balcony or raised deck by themselves. And even if you have a patio securely planted on terra firma, you should still take a few minutes to make it child-friendly, and always keep an eye on your infant. Here are my suggestions for making your container garden a safe place for you to enjoy a bit of sunshine with your child.

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Two things many balcony gardeners must deal with are wind and shade. In my last apartment and my current one, I’ve noticed that the close proximity of nearby buildings often creates a shady wind tunnel. These are some plants that will flourish in such conditions.

Lady’s Mantle: Hardy to zone 3, the billowy flowers of Lady’s Mantle belie it’s toughness. It forms 12-18 inch mounds, and looks great as the only plant in the pot or in combination with other plants. In the summer, it will be covered in billowy yellow flower heads. Even when Lady’s Mantle is not flowering, its soft, light green, fuzzy leaves that hold droplets of dew will not disappoint. It will be happy in full sun or light shade.

Look for ‘Thriller,’ which is easy to grow from seed.

Photo by Kingsbrae Garden

Rose ‘Marie Bugnet:’ Another plant hardy to zone 3. This rose has the whitest, white flowers, bar none. It also has a great scent, that will be easy to appreciate on a balcony garden. Marie Bugnet keeps a compact shape, only getting 3 feet tall and wide, which is perfect for small spaces and container gardening. It would look great with Lobelia ‘Cascade of Color’ growing beneath it.

Photo by Arnold Pittao

Gaillardia: Is a total show off. It produces large flowers with orange-red centers ringed with gold. Several varieties are more compact and well suited for container growing. The varieties I have in mind are also hardy to zone 3. While technically a full-sun plant, I have been able to get them to bloom (although less profusely) with bright shade/part-sun. Gaillardia are heat and drought tolerant, the later of which makes them great for windy balconies where soil tends to dry out more quickly.

Look for ‘Fanfare’ (the varitety shown at left) and ‘Arizona Sun,’ which will only grow to be 10 inches tall and wide.

Photo by Phillip Bouchard

Catmint (Nepeta): Catmint looks a bit like Russian Sage, but will tolerate less sunshine than its doppelganger. It is very easy to grow, with few pests or problems. The foliage is topped with billowy spikes of flowers that bloom repeatedly all throughout the summer. It’s a traditional companion to roses. Catmint is hardy to zone 4 and likes sun to partial shade. As the photo indicates, some of the varieties are very attractive to cats. So if you have a feline friend, you could make him or her a little bouquet.

Some varieties of catmint can be quite large, inappropriate for a container garden, especially a windy one. Look for ‘Felix,’ which will stay around 12 inches tall.

Photo by jessiecat_techie

Columbine: Columbines prefer partial-sun, preferably morning sun and afternoon shade. Hardy to zone 4, columbines like rich, moist soil, amended with lots of compost.  In late spring or early summer, you should see their unusual blooms opening up. Be sure to chose a dwarf variety as some of the larger sized plants can be unmanageable in a container garden.

Look for ‘Red Hobbit’ (White and Red) or ‘Little Treasure’ (yellow)

Photo by Shotaku

Pine ‘Cesarini Blue:’ If you’re looking for a tree and are going for a woodland look, check out this tree. It has beautiful blue-grey needles. After 10 years, it will only be 6-8 feet tall, and will be perfectly happy in a large container. It’s a pine tree, so it’s not surprising that it’s hardy to zone 3. Cesarini Blue doesn’t need great quality soil or even that much water. While tall plants are often at risk for tipping over on a windy balcony, this tree and its pot and soil should be heavy enough to stand up to most winds.

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Rose Container Ideas for Windy Balcony Gardens

February 4, 2009

This week I have been racking my brain and furiously researching container gardening ideas for windy balconies. Specifically, high-rise, part-sun, cold-winter balconies. Below are some specific ideas for growing roses on such balconies. I hope you like them! Super Simple Rose Container Idea Plant white or cream colored rose in center of a pot that […]

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Strategies for Dealing With Wind in a High Rise Balcony Garden

February 3, 2009

This week we’re talking about gardening on high rise balconies, thanks to Shawn, who brought the topic to my attention and graciously agreed to be “exhibit A.” While high rise balconies and rooftop gardens often offer beautiful city views, they also have challenges unique to their location, such as exposure to harsh winds. Wind can […]

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What to Do With a Cold, Windy Balcony? On the 17th Floor No Less!

February 2, 2009

Two weeks ago, Shawn contacted me about his balcony way up on the 17th floor, in Montreal, Quebec. As he describes it, “I suspect it will get very windy out there at times. Being that I face due east and with the exposure and wind, it probably won’t get too warm for too long up […]

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