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Creating a colourful, fragrant balcony/yard

(21 Posts)
PhoenixJasmine Sun 29-May-16 08:02:13

Hello gardeners! Newbie here hoping for some encouragement and ideas - I move to a new flat in a few weeks time. It's a 30's maisonette above a row of shops. Outdoor space is minimal but I've already put my name on the waiting list for nearby allotments (fingers crossed) and there is a huge park over the road. What I do have is a small back yard, concrete with brick walls, shared with the shop below but as long as they can access bins and their storage sheds etc then I can have pots/troughs/trellises as I like, the stairs to the front door are a straight metal fire escape plonked in the middle of the yard, and then a teensy balcony space outside the front door.

I won't be able to make it amazing, but just want a little colour and fragrance to greet me on my way home, outside my front door, and maybe a space to sit somewhere. I will need to make a patch of gravel in the yard, probably under the stairs, for my dog to toilet (not an ideal property for a dog - but it's what I can get- there's a huge park opposite and she comes to work with me and has a walk in the woods every day).

Anyway, does anyone with a green/design oriented mind have any ideas or suggestions from that description? I'll post photos in a few weeks but I'm in inspiration/research mode at the moment!

Some ideas I've had so far:
- screening the bins somehow (they are bright red and yellow, not exactly subtle or nice to look at!)
- planters along the wall with trellis above
- perhaps planter(s) at the base of the stairs and something could grow up the railings?
- railing planters on the balcony - I went a bit mad last night and ordered 2 of these
- I also really like the look of this for the end of the balcony to create a barrier between mine and the next door one, which had a little rubbish etc on it. There's a folding wall table in the same range that might be able to go on the wall next to it as well and then another folding chair/stool and there's a little seating area smile... just not sure if there's enough space from memory!

What plants would go well in this environment? I'm in the South East of England, the yard is fairly sunny I think. I'd like some edible things (herbs or climbing veggies that are pretty as well!), lots of colour, and hopefully some fragrance. Won't really be able to get planting until the end of June/into July, however.

I like lavender, jasmine, fuschias, roses. I like some bulbs in spring (tulips, daffs). I def will put some lemon geranium by the front door, the scent is nostalgic for me grin

traviata Sun 29-May-16 08:29:48

I think that a few big planters have more to offer than lots of little pots, and they are much easier to keep watered.

I would try to have a small tree in a very large pot, underplanted with nice scented things.

some ideas and here

ideas for climbers; star jasmine, plus clematis, ivy for shadier sides,

traviata Sun 29-May-16 08:33:05

How about growing cherry tomatoes in one of your balcony pots?

Runner beans grow fast and have nice (small) flowers.

traviata Sun 29-May-16 08:36:15

ooh, and add a tiny pond/ water feature in some way for the wildlife. Even a small bird bath is good, or better still a basin pond

cosmicglittergirl Sun 29-May-16 08:42:40

I like your plant suggestions and the previous posters idea of one large planter. Could you have a herb garden mixed in with flowers? So Rosemary, thyme, mustard, lavender, mint with some other plants? Then it'd be scented, colourful and useful for cooking.

There are some amazing wall mounted planters you can get now. Pinterest have some good ideas.

cosmicglittergirl Sun 29-May-16 08:46:15

I like that IKEA thing too, you could paint it.
A strawberry wall planter? Vertical planters are great.

gingeroots Sun 29-May-16 17:21:44

Oh I do like that IKEA thing ,I didn't know they did outdoor stuff .

Lots of lovely ideas ,I'm excited for you !

I'm watching keenly for suggestions to hide refuse bins .My mind just freezes when I try and address this problem ( which it often does ) because you need to keep the top free so they can opened and the front or back free to wheel them out ....
All I can think of is some kind of purpose built screen and maybe Russian Vine ,if it would grow in a planter ???

What's your dog like ?

PhoenixJasmine Sun 29-May-16 23:44:10

Thanks for lovely replies! I'm disproportionately excited about it all grin

My dog is a rescue staffy- not got two brain cells to rub together bless her but she's always happy, all she wants is to hang out wherever I am really.

Thanks for the vertical veg links - so many useful ideas and articles on there. Have been online window-shopping, the most cost effective planters (wooden troughs) that I can find so far are on Amazon. Am getting more and more aware how much I could spend on all this, and we need a new bed and sofa suite too. At this rate the outside space will be a veritable urban jungle whilst we're sitting on upturned boxes inside!

Wall planters is a brill idea, I've found loads this evening that are all different types of pockets and things.

I did find some purpose build bin screens but none are exactly cheap. I'm thinking may be worth the investment though, they're an eyesore otherwise.

traviata Sun 29-May-16 23:55:10

Wilkos sell gro-bag planters that are basically strong shaped plastic bags with drainage holes, which could get you started. these

then you could replant into nicer containers as you go along.

I'd try freecycle for bed & sofa, & spend money on the garden, that's where my priorities lie!

traviata Sun 29-May-16 23:56:34

whoops try link again here

traviata Sun 29-May-16 23:58:07

[[ here goddammit]]

Sunbeam18 Mon 30-May-16 00:13:13

Following with interest! I need inspiration for a similar project and am clueless!

PhoenixJasmine Mon 30-May-16 00:19:29

Oh those wilko bags look alright actually don't they! Am a bit wary though if I'm planting something that's going to train up a trellis/railings it'd be difficult to repot later?

Might get some of those bags to grow veg this summer though, the boot sales last week had lots of small veg plants for £1 or so, hopefully they'll still be there in a few weeks so I can catch up.

Potato bags look good too but think im a bit late for that this year?

shovetheholly Mon 30-May-16 07:46:40

How do the bins work - how are they emptied? Is there side access for a truck?

Clearly, if the business uses them, they need to be very accessible. I wonder if there is a chance that you could fence around them but with a wide access point that would let people move them easily in and out? You'll also need a wide path if they have to be rolled to the street. The advantage would be that you could then paint the fence and you could grow things up it. Check out this Pinterest page: - the large white structure might work for big bins?

It's amazing what you can do with pots and climbers for the rest of the space! It might be worth waiting until you are there to make decisions about planting, because small spaces that are quite surrounded by other buildings can have quite odd light effects at different times of day, e.g. sun in the morning but deep shade in the afternoon. Once you've really seen how the light works, it'll be so much easier to make decisions!

You can definitely get a container pond - I bought this one for my grandmother:

Personally, I would look to whether I could put in beds around the edges - not necessarily large ones, but enough of a space to allow a climber to get roots down (raised beds with an open bottom on the soil might be another plan). Then you can fill the walls with loads of stuff that will flower throughout the year - literally a climber for every month (evergreen foliage is really useful).

Check out courtyard gardens on Pinterest!

HidingFromDD Tue 31-May-16 21:16:09

I've just converted an old pallet into vertical planter. Painted it blue (cuprinol shades that I had in the garage) and lined (double) with weed membrane. then stuck in a mix of petunias & lobelia (5 trays for £10 from B&Q). Don't expect it'll last more than a couple of seasons but looks lovely and the plants have only started to come out.

Biggest cost was the compost (took 4 bags!)

PhoenixJasmine Wed 01-Jun-16 08:18:02

Thanks for all the continuing replies I really appreciate different thoughts.

The bins are 2x wheelie bins and 1 larger commercial bin. There are double gates at the end of the yard to get them out into the alleyway behind, I believe the commercial waste collectors enter the yard to take them out so I'd need to check that whatever I do is ok with them. I'd like to place them against the walls as close to the gate as possible- basically just enough room so the gate opens easily- and then use some kind of fence panel/willow/rush screen surround, that can either be easily opened for access top and front, or just rolled off to expose the bins. Not sure really. Need to see exactly how they get emptied really. That Pinterest looks great though. Longer term project!

Quite excited about the idea of a container pond- I like the ready-made planting schemes on that site! I'd like it to be in something a bit quirky- going to keep an eye out at boot sales and see if I can pick something up. Are there any materials not suitable? Plastic, enamel/ceramic seem ok, what about metal/tin if I can find an old washtub?

Sadly no possibility of beds- it's all concreted. Will have to hold out on the allotment waiting list to grow anything needing space!

Pallet planter sounds great - I found this upcycling guide how to create one. Have started looking at pallets at work etc but none of them so far have nice evenly spaced gaps. Like the idea of staining it lilac now I have purple railing planters and lavender wall pockets in order! Your blue one sounds really pretty, what are your thoughts for it once the summer annuals are over? Also wondering whether it could be fixed to a brick wall a bit higher up rather than just stood on the ground maybe.

Thinking about growing things is nicely distracting me from the stress of organising the whole move grin

shovetheholly Wed 01-Jun-16 10:18:24

I've seen people do ponds in wash tubs - I think provided the metal doesn't rust or leach into the water it will be OK? But not an expert on that. Hopefully someone who knows more will come along.

I think climbers are amazing in gardens with lots of unavoidable concrete - they really green it up. Also, colour helps - trugs (available for £3 when they're in the aisle of wonder at Lidl/Aldi) are great as really bright-coloured planters.

If you get really keen in future and are there long-term (and your neighbours are OK with it), you could always lift some of the concrete and landscape.

JapanNextYear Wed 01-Jun-16 12:15:25

I did a pond in a old Butlers sink - it's working quite well.

I've got a completely paved back yard and made a couple of big raised beds to go onto the hard surface. It's quite expensive to fill them with compost but the plants are doing really well. I'd also think about putting a seep hose or watering system in to water pots and containers in the summer. Easier to do when at the planning stage. Climbers grow much better the larger the container they are in. My raised bed is 2foot by about 12 foot and I've got loads of climbers and 2 trees in it as well as established shrubs.

HidingFromDD Wed 01-Jun-16 13:21:14

For the pallet planter, I stapler weed membrane to the front as well as the back. Most instructions say to put it on back/sides only and then fill it flat but there's a lot of comments about the soil falling out when you do that. It's easy enough to cut holes in the membrane (a la hanging basket). One thing I would do with the next one is to get a layer of hardboard (or something) and nail it to the back. My pallet only has 3 or four planks on the bag and the membrane is bulging there.
I do like the look of the pallet pockets in the one you linked to, would reduce the weight and be easier to water but take much longer to do. Also, my pallet didn't have a full beam down the middle so not sure whether it would have held the weight.
FYI, the pallet was used to deliver some stuff to DP and has been lying in his garden for months, he didn't believe I could make it look nice :-)

I've put some ivy in it already and will put in some winter 'stuff' when the bedding plants have died off. I want another one now to put the herbs in. I've currently got some fairly shallow pots and they're not doing so well. I'll probably mix them with strawberries next year as well, the height should mean it's easier to keep the slugs off!

It does look lovely, if you want to PM me with an email address I'll send you a pic!

HidingFromDD Wed 01-Jun-16 13:22:23

Excuse the typos

weirdsister Wed 01-Jun-16 13:28:57

Aldi had loads of planters and pots in a few weeks ago - your local store may have some left. They were brilliant value.

Sweet peas are very fragrant and colourful and will climb. Can be grown in beds up a trellis or in pots with a frame to grow up.

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