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Beautiful Balconies | plants for small spaces

Beautiful Balconies | plants for small spaces

The definition of a garden is ‘a piece of ground adjoining a house, used for growing flowers, fruit, or vegetables’.  Where in many cases this definition holds true, the rise in populations of cities has changed how we define gardens. Exciting urban allotments have created vibrant new community spaces that re-define the traditional garden idea-or rather, go back beyond that and return to an ancient form of growing for communities rather than individuals.

With the rise in community garden spaces there is however still a natural yearning in us to make our immediate surroundings more beautiful and more harmonious. Whether small urban back yards or tiny balconies there are many exciting ways to create personalised designs which bring a little bit of green into your spaces.

One way to take on the small patio or balcony garden is creating exciting containers. Easy to re-plant, move around and maintain, containers are a perfect go-to for urban spaces. The great thing about containers is that with the right soil and orientations you can grow almost everything in your small urban spaces. Small trees, evergreen structure, masses of bulbs in Spring and lost of Summer and Autumn colour are great ways to bring nature into your urban space.

A very handy little plant for the container is the neat little flowering Nemesia plant (main picture). This little gem is a native of South Africa and is actually related to the Snapdragon. When you study the lovely little flowers of the plant you can see the resemblance between the two, both having pretty blooms reminiscent in shape of the mouth of a dragon. In it’s native South Africa these plants often grow in disturbed ground and coastal, sandy soils making them easy little warriors which do well almost anywhere.

The really great thing about these half hardy or tender perennials is that they flower for a very long time and take virtually no maintenance to bloom for long stretches of time, making them just as handy for a busy city dweller with a balcony as for adding in to a country border as a sweet colourful filler. Some varieties are also delicately scented which is a real bonus for the balcony.

Deadheading the flowers is recommended and even chopping the stems down below where they flowered as this encourages new growth but this year I experimented with just leaving them be to see how long they will flower and whether they produce seed. After two months they are still going strong on my patio- though the stems are quite bare of blooms  and flowering only at the tops. This would look good in a border and shows that they are very low maintenance. I’ll be interested to see if they develop seeds as sowing this plant from seed is actually incredibly simple.

If you’re planning on adding some colour to your balcony next season it’s definitely one to consider. Seeds can be planted ahead indoors in late Spring and will germinate well on a warm windowsill. When the seedlings are large enough to handle you can plant them into individual containers. One thing to remember is that late frost will kill them off so make sure to harden them off gradually and bring them indoors when there is risk of frost. The Nemesia likes soil that is slightly acidic and moist but keep in mind that they don’t like waterlogged soil.

Containers Combinations for all seasons

Here are some handy combinations for year long colour and interest or containers


In Spring there is nothing better than a mix of only Tulips in a container as they make such a powerful statement. A mix of Tulip Triumph varieties such as ‘Royal Virgin’, ‘Negrita’, ‘Synaeda Amor’ and ‘Hemisphere’ gives a stunning mix of white, rich purple and delicate pinks. Planted in a modern concrete container these are really visual. For a little earlier accent in white add in a few Daffodils such as the Narcis ‘Triandus White’. Woodies have some great combinations of the above to choose from.


A great plant for a tall planter is the Verbena bonariensis. Rising in an elegant, structural manner with purple flower heads which appear to be floating, these are fabulous paired with fluffy compact grasses such as Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’-the fountain grass. The combination also works beautifully with some Echinacea added in such as the Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ which will provide lovely structural seedbeds all the way to the end of Autumn.


Autumn gardens always conjure up the rich reds and burnt browns of Japanese Maples and Cherry trees. The Fuji Cherry or Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ is one small specimen tree that does very well in containers and has a stunning Autumn colour. In Spring this tree has wonderful white flowers and even in Winter it has a strong shape which looks elegant and architectural on a balcony or patio.


There are many evergreen plants that do well in containers. Rosemary is one that is both beautiful and also useful for cooking and Bay trees can be grown clipped into shape much like the Box and are also edible. My favourite Winter flowers though are the Hellebores who’s shiny green foliage looks great all year and most produce stunning large flowers varieties of pink, purple, white, pale yellow and lime green in mid Winter. This year my Hellebores were still in flower in July which meant that they flowered for an incredible eight months non stop!

Plant source:




Airfield Estate Food Gardens, Dundrum
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Kitty Scully, the head gardener of the kitchen garden at Airfield estate in Dundrum. You will probably recognise this talented gardener from the RTÉ  programme ‘How to create a Garden’ but day to day Kitty manages the 3 acre new food garden which includes fur polytunnels, extensive collections of edible plants and has a keen focus on education and inspiring people to grow their own food. The food grown here also provides produce for the busy on-site Restaurant ‘Overends’ and the stunning gardens aim to be productive gardening without losing the beauty of planting. Kitty works alongside Colm O’Driscoll who is the head gardener of the ornamental garden and the pair work as an organic team, supporting each others roles in the gardens. Having heard Kitty tell her story at Ballymaloe garden festival recently I was blown away by her passionate approach and vision for the gardens. Speaking on enthusing children to think about food her approach is fun and playful, without ever losing the educational approach. To see what the garden team at airfield have created you can visit the estate in Dundrum all year round. For more go to


Leonie Loves 
Meadow inspired 

I absolutely adore the new collection by Jennifer Slattery. From her studio in Dublin the graphic designer who also studied embroidered textiles at NCAD creates beautiful and delicate collections of linens. From napkins to tablecloths and runners, the works are created on Irish Linen and are beautifully finished. The designer told me her new collection was inspired by her summer holidays on the river Shannon. Her father has a boat near lough Derg and the family spent lots of time down there during the summer months meandering the river and visiting remote places. Telling me about her inspiration she says ‘We would stop off along the way and go for long walks, the fields are full of flower and wildlife and the colours are just beautiful’. The new collection entitled  ‘Irish Wildflower collection’ features representations of these flowers and summery colours which brighten up any table. You can source these beautiful linens in Brown Thomas, Kilkenny stores and Arnotts as well as other stockists nationwide.

For more go to Jennifer’s lovely website:


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