Ideas for winter balcony

mitchuaNovember 5, 2006

I have an approx. 6' x 5' balcony in my 6th floor condo in Toronto, Ontario. There's a thin railing around 3 sides of the balcony, so it is fairly windy at times. There's another building across the street, so I'd love to add some greenery to my balcony for me to look out at, especially during the winter months.

If I got some potted evergreens, would they survive the winter? Any ideas what might work well?

I'm totally a n00b so I don't know what zone I'm in or anything, but I'd appreciate any pointers you could give me.



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You are zone 6a in Toronto.

What type of evergreens do you have? Emerald cedars tend to do well.

Do you get a lot of harsh sun where you are? SoOmetimes evergreens can burn from the sun reflecting off of snow and walls.

I am originally from Toronto and working on a design for someone who has a large tarrece with the same problem. I actually found a site of an aparment building who has a huge garden on the roof.

I spoke with the lady and she said if you do any perennial pots in Toronto because of the lake effect that you need to let the pot dry out and then tip it over to keep it from getting damp because of the freeze thaw cycles that are constant in Toronto.

With evergreens it is harder because they need that damp right up to when the ground freezes. You could bring it right against your wall (if it doesn't get too much harsh winter sun) so it would have the warmth of the building or try to protect the pot like the other threads said by using bubble wrap or old towels around the outside the pot. You could even wrap the plant in burlap once we have no more warm weather because it will act like an oven on hot days and will actually cook your plant.

That place in Toronto has all their trees in insulated pots that are 4'-6' in diametre and that won't work for you because of the area you have, but try the other ways though there is no guarentee. Just because of Toronto's weird winter weather, though it is possible and the person that I an designing is going to try it too.

Oh and that place in Toronto does tours, though it is mostly in the summer and it is by the lady who knows a lot of what is done and how they do everything so that would be good to do to talk with her about what she does and that for information.

Here is a link that might be useful: 401 Richmond

    Bookmark   November 7, 2006 at 10:32AM
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The zone I have you is the Canadian one so the american one would be one number lower

    Bookmark   November 7, 2006 at 10:36AM
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Hi canadiancat,

Thanks for replying. I don't currently have any evergreens, but they are something I would like to have over the winter to give a bit of green to my city-view.

My southern exposure means I get a lot of sun throughout the day, but the sun tucks around the side of my building when it's going down so I don't get that.

I'll check out Emerald cedars. Thanks for the tip and the link!


    Bookmark   November 11, 2006 at 2:57PM
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mitchua, something else you can do if you want that green view. I have vines growing in pots. I allow them to attach themselves to the window screen, giving a trellis effect. This works well with passionflower, stephanotis, snail vine, and others. You could use an actual trellis, too, moving the pot and trellis outdoors in the summer, if you like.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2006 at 2:32PM
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Crafty Gardener(ON 5b)

Why not fill some large pots with greenery from various everygreen trees. You can either purchase the greenery from florists or perhaps you have a friend that has some trees and shrubs on their property that you can trim a few branches from. I live in Canada, zone 5b and these arrangements last all winter long.

Here is a link that might be useful: Country Roads Gardens & Crafts - winter greenery

    Bookmark   November 19, 2006 at 4:24PM
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Patches(Southern Ontario-7)

I do as "craftygarderner" suggested ... the evergreen will last through spring and certainly brightens my outlook to the balcony view. A few of the red berry branches - couldn't find any real ones but they complimented the greenery - looked fabulous. I just put them in the pots for my ferns, etc. that I have cut back for the winter and voila: a beautiful display.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2006 at 7:12PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

I've done Alberta spruces in pots on the windy side of my house, and they've done very well. They're hardy down to zone 4 at least so should be OK in pots. You can spray with Wiltpruf for extra insurance (be sure to follow instructions on the label). There are also some dwarf evergreens, sold for alpine gardens, that have done well for me in pots on my deck.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2006 at 8:49PM
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I'm on an 8th floor southwest facing balcony in Mississauga. This is my first winter with plants on the balcony so its an experiment. I've got a a boxwood and a mugo pine. Most people told me that winter would kill my little trees. The boxwood should be fine from all I've read but the Mugo Pine might succumb to the pollution from the mainstreet below but should otherwise be hard enough to survive the winter.

To protect them from the winter winds, I've put them in larger containers surrounded by top soil. If we actually get a winter, I'm fairly confident that this will protect their roots.

Don't forgot to water plants when temps go above freezing.

Determined not to have to look at my grey concrete balcony in winter, I've done quite a bit of reading in preparation for adding to my collection tree/shrub collection next year. So I'm planning to add a dwarf Alberta Spruce which is quite hardy and easily picked up in the spring from Home Depot, etc. And you might want to try a cedar and see how it manages. The wind may be a problem.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 7:30PM
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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

Seacat - once winter really sets in, you may want to get a burlap cage to surround the boxwood to try to minimize any winter wind damage.

A good one that you might want to try next year is a redtwig dogwood. I have 2 (different varieties) and they are hardy to Zone 2 which should be fine for you as well. They turn crimson red in winter and when buried in show, look great. Also nice foliage through the year and spring blooms, so overall, a good 4-season shrub.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2007 at 1:04PM
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Your biggest issue is the wind. We have a similar situation. I would recommend buying the tree tops from your local nursery and spraying them with Wilt-Pruf. We did something similar to this - they went in the weekend of thanskgiving and lasted till this past weekend. Very few needles dropped. Make sure to put your pots closest to the window from protection from the wind.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 12:17PM
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