Edinburgh balconies come in many shapes and sizes: fronting Georgian town houses, catching sea views in Leith and city new builds where it’s not just the penthouse with a view over the city.
As a general starting point, containerised gardening is the way to go in these spaces and use as large a container as you can fit on to the balcony. These make the finished garden as easy to look after as possible – a large container retains moisture much more efficiently than a hundred tiny pots. On a balcony this is especially important due to the drying effects of the wind on these exposed spaces. For the same reason, if possible, choose wood or glazed terracotta containers.
The beauty of container gardens is you can grow almost any plant type you want as you can choose the soil conditions, but almost all will require well drained soil so make sure all containers have drainage holes and a layer of gravel before you put in the compost. Decide on the type of plants you would like to grow before you fill the container with soil as some plants such as Azaleas, some Hydrangeas, Camellias, pieris and heather require an acid soil, so use ericaceous compost. Again, some plants require no soil at all: a mini water garden would be a fun and unexpected addition to a balcony. A half whisky barrel is ideal for this and plants such as Typha minima, which is a mini bulrush, or Astillbe and Iris can make up a lovely arrangement.
Make the more exposed situation of balconies an advantage by using grasses and other plants with tall thin stems as this emphasises the movement of the wind and provides a quiet background noise to help drown out other less attractive noises – always useful in a city.
Small spaces can look crowded with too many plants so often block planting of annuals or a statement shrub or dwarf tree is the answer to smaller balconies and window boxes.
• Jackie Macdonald is a partner in Small Green Spaces which specialises in gardening for small urban spaces using locally and ethically sourced materials. www. smallgreenspaces.co.uk