4 x 15 full sun balcony... what to do?

violetta1976(8 Portland OR)July 22, 2007

Hi everyone! You have no idea how excited I am to have found this forum. I just moved into my condo a month ago and am struggling with my balcony. I am ridiculously pumped to be able to plant outdoors (I've had so many houseplants for so long that my apartments are referred to by friends as "The Greenhouse"). Problem is, I've never done it before, and I think I'm already making a lot of mistakes.

I have a few things going that I bought on the advice of the nice folks at the nursery near me. There's petunias, brachycome, boxwood, and anagallis going in 4 ugly plastic flower boxes (although I think one of the anagallis is half fried from the sun), and clematis in 3 large ceramic pots.

Stupid question #1: What does mulch do? I read that clematis like their roots to be shaded. Is that what mulch would help with?

Stupid question #2: Am I stuck with these ugly flower boxes or do people usually buy the ugly ones and put them inside something pretty, like I do with my cheap plastic houseplant pots?

Some pics, just for the hell of it, even though they're embarrassing compared to the others I've seen on this forum already:

My window boxes when I first planted them:



My window boxes now. My petunias aren't blooming... anyone have any idea why?


My poor, sad, fried clematis:

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violetta1976(8 Portland OR)

Oh! I had another question that I forgot to ask!

The balcony faces SW. I think more south than west, but no matter. It's a LOT of sun. Which means a lot of sun inside. Which, as a result, limits my ability to keep my many african violets in a really neat corner of my living room.

Any advice for a tree or a vine or something that would cover the window (it doesn't open; it's frosted glass and is just decorative) to provide a little shade for my plants inside? Not too much shade, but just enough so they don't get a sunburn? I'd REALLY like to grow a cherry tree since I love the blossoms so much... is that a ridiculous thing to attempt?

Sorry to have so many questions! I'm sure I'll think of more... I just have to reiterate, I am so excited to have found this forum!

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 2:18AM
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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

Hi Violetta and welcome! There's definitely no "stupid questions" . As they say - the only stupid question is the one not asked!! LOL

To try to answer some from my experience:

1.) Mulch is usually used as a soil cover to do a number of things including to help the soil retain moisture, and in cases of organic mulch, to eventually break down and add to the soil. Some mulches like gravel can often add minerals to the soil. For containers, I have found that it helps tf the clematis. Some will even plant a ground-cover type plant around a clematis base to do the same. Basically, the clematis likes moist roots (but not soggy as that may rot it out) when it is in the sun.

2.) o keep the soil surface from drying out so fast. And yes, it will help "shade" the roots of the clematis. Some will even plant a ground-cover type plant around a clematis base to do the same. Basically, the clematis likes moist roots (but not soggy as that may rot it out) when it is in the sun and they definitely prefer sun to get alot of bloom.

2.) Regarding containers appearance - I expect it is more "in the eye of the beholder". I don't consider my plain plastic containers as "ugly" (unless they are really stained or scratched up or split). The containers are just that - containers that hopefully have a beautiful plant in them. There are many who really like beautiful terracotta or ceramic containers but for me - these are often heavy and can crack after awhile due to expansion and contraction during winter weather. So as you surmise, a plastic pot with the plant can be placed inside the decorative pot to get the best of both worlds.

3.) With respect to petunias and bloom - sometimes they will pf the clematis. Some will even plant a ground-cover type plant around a clematis base to do the same. Basically, the clematis likes moist roots (but not soggy as that may rot it out) when it is in the sun.

2.) ause while going through a vegetative cycle before blooming again. You could consider pinching off the growing tips to encourage side-branches that will eventually give you double the blooms. Giving them a high-phosphorous fertilizer boost may also help.

4.) There is nothing stopping you from growing a cherry tree - just make sure that you put it in as large a container as you can drag out there 20" or greater and look for one that is on dwarf stock (then you can summer prune to keep it smaller). There are some vines like moonflower (Ipomoea alba) that would love your S-SW exposure and would cover your window in no time (plus would give you large white blooms in the evenings). The moonflower vine's cousins - morning glories - are also another that you could try. Some climbing roses (in a large container) could be positioned against the window and would also handle that exposure and can diffuse the sun coming through the window. Honeysuckles are a nice viney/shrub that could fit the bill too. Additionally, once your little clematis has grown up, that could be trained to grow on a trellis in front of the window as could vines like passifloras, which are fast growers.

Your container plantings are really pretty, so don't bemoan them!!! It has taken many of us years to get where we can't even barely walk out on our balconies anymore (LOL) so don't be afraid to take your time and get hooked on container gardening!

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 8:27AM
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violetta1976(8 Portland OR)

Thank you Jenny!

I'm off to go shopping... :0P

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 2:30PM
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violetta1976(8 Portland OR)

Because I'm bored...

Doesn't look like much yet, but there are 4 huge pots with clematis in them. At some point - maybe not this year, but next - I'm hoping the vines will cover the rails and the trellis in front of the window on the right. It'll be pretty, and it will provide shade and privacy on the balcony. Not to mention a little shade inside where that window is!


Another view.

I just bought this today. I don't know what it is, but I love it.

One of the clematis plants. Note the baby leaves.

The inside of the window where the clematis will show. :0) The pot that looks empty has baby plants rooting in it.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 9:20PM
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rixblonde

Try roses! Belinda's dream is great I have mine in a pot Terracotta and grows wonderfully but I wouldn't pot it up until fall when it starts getting a little bit cooler.Also right now you can get plumeria's everywhere thay love the sun and remember to plant in cactus soil though.Honeysuckle, lavender,hibiscus and a dwark citrus tree(meyers lemon) would do very nice aswell in full sun.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2007 at 2:05PM
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violetta1976(8 Portland OR)

Thank you rixblonde! I'm excited to have a full jungle out there like so many of the people on this site have. ;0)

    Bookmark   August 12, 2007 at 3:59PM
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paulallen(6b)

Suggestion, you can grow decorative food with that exposure: Redbor kale, Charlotte or Rhubarb swiss chard, cherry tomatoes. Rudbeckia Goldsturm, Coreopsis Moonbeam also do well in containers with that exposure. For Spring color you can grow asiatic lilies with the rudbeckia and coreopsis. If you can shade them from the west sun, platycodon should do well too. A soil mix of compost/manure with 25% peat (to lighten the weight), and two cups of perlite per container should work well. Good luck. Enjoy.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2007 at 4:05AM
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amyben

Hi,
You might want to check out the Container Gardening forum for container soil mixes. I, for one, have learned so much there. Thanks to Al's mix, I now have a tomato "tree". Many experts there. Oh, and do you know about "pinching" your petunias? When the bloom dies, get rid of it down to its stem. They like to be pruned, too, when they get "leggy"

    Bookmark   August 13, 2007 at 10:36AM
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