The best thing about containers is you can put them anywhere (on steps, on a deck or balcony, around the pool), you can move them around if you get bored, and you can fill them with all sorts of different plants to give them a new fresh look.
Choosing The Right Container:
Planters come in all styles, textures, sizes, and colours. Choose containers that will harmonize with your planting and colour scheme. Also, think about getting some large enough to have some serious visual impact. Whether you decide on wood, clay (terra cotta), plastic, concrete, glazed ceramic, cast iron, or a moss-lined basket, all containers, even window boxes, need a drainage hole at the bottom. If excess water cannot drain, your plants will suffer from root rot. Saucers are also a good idea to prevent staining on the surface below.
What To Plant:
Window boxes along the railing are a great opportunity to use upright annuals like Heliotrope, Nicotiana, Impatiens, and Geraniums with lots of trailing plants in front. Choose from Licorice Vine, Trailing Lobelia, Bacopa, Blackie Potato Vine, and Trailing Verbena to name a few. If your exposure for these boxes is south or west be prepared to water twice a day during the hottest part of summer or plant more drought-tolerant annuals like Portulaca, Gazania, Dusty Miller, Lantana, and Swan River Daisy. Any annual can be used in a container as long as you keep its light preference in mind and its full size so it will remain in proportion with the size of the pot.
On sidewalls, you can install attractive brackets from which hanging baskets can be hung. Impatiens can handle full sun but need a lot of watering. Position your basket instead to receive morning sun only and you’ll have less burnt leaves. Ivy Geranium is better for the full blast of afternoon sun and heat. For partial shade try Fuchsia, Trailing Lobelia, or Shade Impatiens. Non-Stop Begonias and Fuschias are the best for heavy shade.
You can also plant up your own wire basket lined with moss that allows you to use a greater variety of annuals that are your personal favourites. The effect is much fuller and varied.
If you love fresh herbs, Basil, Chives, Parsley, Thyme, Oregano, and French Tarragon are easily grown in containers. Or buy a strawberry pot with several herb varieties already planted that you can plant up yourself in future years. Cherry tomatoes are also a delicious treat and easy to grow.
A large patio or spacious area affords the opportunity to work with larger containers or even have ones specially constructed. For instance, with a half whiskey barrel or two, you can plant some larger specimens that would look attractive 12 months of the year. Try small standard trees like Weeping Peashrub, Cranberry cotoneaster, Euonymus, or grafted evergreens, always keeping proportion and light in mind. Underplant your tree with a perennial or evergreen ground cover. If it’s sunny, establish Dwarf Japanese or Blue Chip Junipers to cascade over the sides. For shade, plant Bearberry Cotoneaster. You can also underplant with a variety of annuals or smaller scale perennials for colour all summer. A large container also makes it possible to grow vines with an obelisk, or stakes in the form of a tripod right in the pot. Now you have a vertical support for growing annual Morning Glory, Sweet Peas, Moon Vine, or Cup and Saucer Vine as well as perennial Clematis.
Since natural precipitation doesn’t collect enough to keep a rootball moist in any container, big or small, test the soil regularly or invest in a moisture meter. Be sure to drill holes in the bottom of a barrel, line it with 5 cm (2”) of gravel, and raise it off the floor by setting it on 3 or 4 bricks. This allows air circulation and drainage so the roots won’t rot.
Houseplants not only look beautiful but also benefit greatly from being outside for the summer. Position a Palm or Ficus Benjamina in a shaded corner and watch it grow. Tropical Hibiscus, in bush or tree form, loves the sun and blooms profusely. Initially, place the plant in shade and move it gradually from low light to high light over 10 days so the leaves won’t burn.
Anything you bring outside onto your balcony needs to be sprayed several times with an insecticidal soap before returning it inside and the soil needs to be treated as well with a powder for soil-dwelling insects.
Plan on a table, chairs, and a bench if you have the space so you can spend as much time outdoors as possible. An umbrella would be a good idea for hot afternoon sun. You can also think about a small fountain if you have an electrical outlet nearby. If your area is very small, a wall fountain takes up little space. Decorative plaques or wall planters also look great on a wall.
Make your area a special oasis of colour, fragrance, and foliage and enjoy all the benefits of gardening even in a limited space.