Create a balcony retreat
Whether you have a petite townhouse terrace or a teensy-tiny 18th floor balcony, you, too, can enjoy greening up your exterior space this summer.
Even in a small space, careful planning will allow you to fit in all the essentials (with élan!):
- Container garden
- Water feature (optional)
Here's how to do it.
There are two main types of outdoor seating: dining and lounging.
If you plan to eat al fresco a lot during the warm weather, opt for a dining set. A two-seat bistro table works for extremely small spaces, but a four-seat dining table is more versatile. (Stacking chairs takes up less space when not in use.) If you entertain frequently, a six- or eight-seat would be nice, but in most cases will be too large for the average balcony.
If your idea of quality deck time is relaxing with a book – or cocktails and conversation – opt for a lounge or "conversation set." This consists of lower-height, comfy, deep-seat chairs or loveseats, plus an indoor-inspired coffee table and/or side tables.
Whatever you opt for, look for long-lasting, weather-resistant construction materials (ie. resin wicker, plantation teak, aluminum or powder-coated steel), and all-season, washable fabric covers on cushions and seat pads.
Safety tip: If you're allowed to operate an outdoor grill on your deck (many, if not most, condos restrict them to an outdoor common area), place it at least six feet away from seating.
Container gardening is as practical as it is trendy. Container gardening consists of planting greenery and flowers in window or balcony boxes, planters, urns and troughs. Although some plants do better than others, depending on the size of your containers and the lighting conditions on your balcony, you can plant anything from succulents, greenery and flowers, to herbs and vegetables and even shrubs and small trees if you’ve got the space and inclination.
Depending on where you live and the exposure of your balcony, suggested plant life will vary, but if you choose plants native to your region, and those labeled as attracting butterflies (for example, bee balm, Echinacea, pin cushion flower or scabiosa, butterfly bush, to name a few), you'll be able to help nature by providing a source of nectar for the much-beleaguered bee and butterfly population.
Native plants also tend to be more drought-tolerant, an added bonus for container gardening.
When creating a container garden, remember that potted plants dry out much, much faster than conventional garden beds are therefore need to be monitored daily in summer.
Also, invest in trays and saucers to go under pots to catch runoff – so your neighbour downstairs doesn’t get mad at you!
People love water features for their calming, noise-pollution-canceling aspect. There's also something incredibly relaxing about gazing at water, whether it's bubbling in a fountain or simply sitting in a pool, beautifully reflecting glints of sunlight.
Consider adding a water feature to your deck. A freestanding fountain simply needs to be plugged into a grounded wall outlet for power.
The simplest solution? A wide, shallow, water-filled ceramic or copper bowl placed on a stand or set within a planter, flanked by plants. Change water daily.
For safety and ambience, every balcony retreat needs its own dedicated exterior lighting (in addition to whatever might spill out from the indoors).
Options to consider:
- For a resort-style retreat: A set of lanterns hanging from individual wrought-iron style freestanding poles
- For a boho-chic mood: A strand or two of twinkly white Christmas lights, plus votives
- For convenience: Tabletop, battery-powered or solar-powered lanterns (set one on the table, extras on the edges of planters)
Safety tip: Remember to keep candles attended to at all times. An easy alternative? Substitute flameless LED "candles" that flicker like the real thing but pose no fire danger at all.