Me and My Balcony

by Liz E., 4th floor west-facing balcony

Two years ago when I thought, "What am I going to do with my balcony?", I did not know that Toronto Balconies Bloom existed. I had just bought a condo on the 4th floor of a high-rise and a 12' by 4 1/2' west-facing balcony came with it. My gardening expertise was (and pretty much still is, I admit) next to nil. Where do you start? I guess it very much depends on your personality and resources. The first summer I fell back on what I knew. I bought some annuals, pots and earth and that was it. Cost? About $200. Success? The pansies lasted a month. The geranium was the sturdiest and weathered sun and wind very well. Overall though, I wasn't satisfied with the results or the prospect of spending $200 every year.

Luckily for me, Marjorie Harris wrote an article about high-rise gardening which appeared in the Globe and Mail June 14, 2008. It was very inspiring. She suggested a number of perennials that were well suited to balcony gardening and gave a variety of decorating ideas. She included the name of a company that specializes in landscaping roofs and balconies. I contacted them but a small job like mine is not what they do. Again, since that time, I have learned about other businesses in Toronto that will landscape even the smallest of areas, and some people might want to go that route.

I decided last summer to go it on my own and experiment. I hotfooted it over to Fiesta Farms (on Christie Street) and purchased a perennial geranium, a lily, lavender, ivy and some native grass plants. The manager at Fiesta Farms advised putting my plants and grasses into containers lined with styrofoam to protect them during the winter. Off I went to Honest Ed's where I bought two styrofoam coolers for $4 each. I lined my containers with chunks of styrofoam, added my plants, more soil and some fertilizer. Over the summer, I added a few more perennials I found on sale as well as some plastic furniture from Canadian Tire.

Cost? Results? Everything grew well but needed to be watered a lot because the balcony gets sun most of the day and it is very strong in the afternoon. I spent about $200 overall. Two of the native grasses produced fronds in the fall and turned a lovely tan colour. They were beautiful to look at through the patio doors in the living room this winter.

It's almost a year later. The lily has come back and I'm anxious to see if anything else does. If not, I'll be back to experimenting. However, now that I've discovered Toronto Balconies Bloom I have ready access to a wealth of useful information and direction as I get back to gardening my balcony this spring and summer.