Balcony garden design ideas
Follow a few simple guidelines, and your garden should flourish. Photograph: Harpur Garden Library/Corbis
How to design and plant a tiny balcony or rooftop garden, plus a simple herb project to get you started
Essentials before you begin Before designing and planting a balcony or rooftop garden, think about the style you'd prefer, how often you'll entertain there, and whether you want to grow vegetables or herbs. Most importantly, consider how much time you will be able to give to maintaining your urban oasis.
First, it's essential to ask a qualified architect or structural engineer how much weight your roof can take, and whether you need planning permission. You'll also have to ascertain whether your balcony or roof garden is waterproof. This may sound strict, but it's worth following the correct regulations initially to avoid paying for any damage if, say, you flood your home or the roof or balcony collapses under the weight of heavy containers. Ideally, position containers on the perimeter of a balcony or roof garden, near load-bearing walls or over a load-bearing beam or joist.
Then you can give some thought to the plants that will thrive there, as well as how you want to use your new outdoor space. Follow a few simple guidelines, and your garden should flourish.
Be selective Choose containers that create focal points and spend money on a couple of larger containers rather than on lots of smaller ones – too many plants or ornaments make a small space look overcrowded.
Think about light When container gardening, tailor your planting to the available light. If you have low levels of sunlight, use shade-tolerant plants such as hostas, heucheras, ivy and grasses.
Create a backdrop Start with evergreen plants such as box and sweet bay. Lavender also provides a year-round green base, but it won't flower all the time. Then add your favourite colours with flowering perennials such as agapanthus, bleeding heart, campanula and clematis that have a long blooming period and will come back next year.
Use odd numbers Planting in odd numbers gives the most aesthetically pleasing results, so plant one, three or five plants in a container.
Restrict the colour palette Don't overdo the number of colours in your planting scheme – otherwise, it will look too busy and make your garden seem smaller.
Care and maintenance Whether you are growing ornamental or edible plants (or both), follow regular watering and feeding routines to get the best results.