Help! New balcony gardener!

sharon_canMarch 16, 2007

I have a new and very long and wide L shaped balcony, the short side of the L(14 ft) facing north and the long side (30 ft) facing west. There is a solid balcony wall a couple of feet hall and then a railing a foot above that. I am in Zone 6b. I would like suggestions re winter interest for the balcony and am on my way to buy large planters that can remain outside for our freeze-thaw cycle. The balcony is very windy as well as it faces the river 6 stories up.

I am thinking of a couple of red-twig dogwood and would alsolike evergreens. Any suggestions? What about a small tree? Do you think bamboo would survive? What about ferns?

The summer is easier but I would like suggestions there as well.

I am moving so there is a clean slate.


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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

Hi Sharon and welcome! You might want to check out this thread for some ideas from folks who may be from your same area.

I have a couple red twig dogwoods and they do quite well during winter and are a nice 4-season shrub. They do grow fast though, so at some point, be prepared to prune and/or pot up to a larger container.

There are many cold-hardy ferns that should do fine and you could check on the Bamboo forum for some recommendations of bamboo.

Feel free to scan through previous posts on the forum to get some ideas of plants that you can try!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 8:14AM
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Hi Sharon,

I'm struggling with the same sorts of questions you are. The winter freeze-thaw cycle is the biggest problem for balconies. I'm west facing and fairly protected balcony but my mugo pine didn't make it through this winter. Many have tried to discourage my hunt for hardy shrubs/small trees and suggested I just stick to annuals.

However, others more knowledgable than me have agreed that dogwood might survive winter. I also experimented with a boxwood this past winter and he appears to be alive & well. This year I'm going to try an Alberta Spruce, and probably a hardy juniper.

They say that when selecting shrubs for balconies, choose ones that are rated for at least 2 zones colder than the one you're in. And basically the containers have to be as big as you can possibly make them.

As for small trees, Lilacs are very hardy and the fragrance is a plus. Again, you'd have to have a pretty large container for it. That generates issues of weight and presumably having to move it one day without needing to hire a crane operator!

I'm not sure whether you're in southern Ontario but Vineland Nurseries, down towards Niagara, specialize in dwarf shrubs and trees, you might want to check them out. I believe they have a website and could ship plants to you.

'Hope that helps. Let me know how it goes,

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 3:16PM
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