Spring has FINALLY sprung. It’s been a long time coming. After living under what seems to be eternal greyness over the last six months, glimpses of blue means that our attention turns to those unloved outside spaces that need some love.
At Unique, we don’t profess to be any sort of green fingered experts, but we know a few. So, let us introduce you to, Bea Rodger, a North London based landscape gardener, with tips and advice on what to do with those roof terraces and balconies.
Gardening without a garden.
Whilst we may all dream of a huge rambling garden to get lost in on sunny afternoons, many of us have to make do with a little balcony or windowsill to get our fix of the great outdoors at home. This doesn’t mean it can’t bring you a wealth of greenery and huge amount of joy!
In some ways a balcony or ledge is the ideal outside spot, you don’t have any soil to hoe, any weeds to pull and any mud to track in to your lovely house! You’ve got just enough space to get your face out in the sun and a spot to pop some pots. Not too much work, just enough to make it your own.
First off you need to establish the aspect of your space. Most of the time you’re getting full sun, or none at all. Either way it’s just a matter of choosing the plants that will work for your space, so no fear if you’re tucked away in the shadow, or sweltering in the harsh sun, we can find the plants for you.
Before you begin you will need to figure out your starting blocks. Safety first – are you above anyone? Could anything you hang or balance on the edge of your space fall and hurt anyone? Do you have a daredevil cat perhaps that could take a whole window box with them when scaling the roof tops? This will help to determine how you affix your pots etc to your new little garden.
Secondly how far will you need to be going with your watering can? A good rule of thumb is to never plant more than you can be bothered to water. There’s nothing worse than glancing out on to your only green space to see sad crispy plants!
Choosing your plants. First of all you need to figure out how much sun, if any at all, your space is getting. If you’re blessed with scorching sun then the hardy Geranium (Pelargonium) is your friend, there’s a reason why they’re so popular with our friends in the Med, they can withstand a lot of heat and even neglect (within reason!). They are a great start for a splash of colour, with both upright and trailing varieties being a star for a window box.
Your sunny spot is also a great place to cultivate your very own herb garden, no more spending out on over packaged bunches from the supermarket that slowly turn to mush in the bottom of your fridge, things like rosemary, basil, sage and lavender will love your warm aspect and be an endless supply of flavour for your kitchen.
If you’ve got a space in the shade, fear not, you’ll still be able to grown plenty of hardy beautiful plants. A shade garden means texture, you can have vast amounts of interest in beautiful leaves instead of flowers. Plants like ferns, hostas and even tropical’like specimens like fatsias will love a shady spot.
Once you’ve got your plants sorted you can concentrate on dressing your area! Think of it as an extension of your house, another room of sorts. You’ll be able to look out on it so utilise all the space you can. Playing with levels is great for this, pots can be tiered to give you more to look at, or grouped together, using different shapes, to add to your textures and colours.
If you’re able to safely hang things on your balcony edge or window ledge, you needent stick to a traditional window box, how about utilising some interesting pots?
If you’re working with window ledges, densely planted boxes and hanging baskets are a great way to show off your green fingers when you’ve no garden. As long as you keep up your watering you’ll have a great show all year round, with some seasonal updates to keep it interesting.
If you’ve no green fingers but love to see nature from your window then don’t despair, there are plenty of gardeners like myself who specialise in bespoke pots, window boxes or baskets who can lend a hand!
A springtime show in a Finsbury Park client’s front garden
Brightening up an otherwise dingy shady corner in Crouch End
Bringing some interest to a boring front step in Crouch End
About the author
Simon is a veteran of the property industry, with a career spanning some 25 years, all of which has been London based. Much of his agency life was focussed on the loft/warehouse boom of the late 90's, with 18 years spent in the district where it all started, Shoreditch. His client base is very extensive, arranging sales from artists to actors and everyone in between, his hands on, no nonsense approach earned him a formidable reputation.
On the rare occasion he's not working, he'll been seen wandering along the South Bank with his wife of 25 years and one of his three kids, and being a devoted foodie, he'll always finish at Borough Market.
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