Know your balcony flowers
Add some summer dazzle to a sunny balcony with these pot-loving beauties.
Words: Linda Ross
Encourage bushier, stronger plants by tip pruning them as they grow. Tip pruning simply means pinching out the soft tip growth with your fingers or secateurs to encourage the pair of shoots below the tip to branch out.
Water regularly and add a liquid plant food to the watering can every two weeks.
Remove spent flowers to keep plants compact and encourage more blooms.
Summer annuals tend to die back towards the end of autumn. Remove them to make room for winter plantings. Perennial forms can be cut back at this time and may regrow and re-flower in spring.
Pick up pretty portulaca in punnets for loads of gelato-toned flowers colour for a small price. The rose-bud shaped flowers are long-lasting and the succulent leaves mean they have lower water demands than many other annuals. Plant in well-drained potting mix in full sun for flowers on low, spreading plants until the cold weather arrives.
The traditional orange is a favourite, but you can spice it up with unusual colours from your favourite seed suppliers. We like the lemon-centred pure white ‘Yeti’ and ‘Alaska’, with splotchy leaves. Nasturtiums like a hot and sunny position and something to spill over or clamber up - we like a bamboo wigwam. Young leaves and flowers are edible.
The ivy leaf group of geraniums (which are actually pelargoniums but who’s counting!) are the geranium of choice for pots. They're happiest in full sun in terracotta rather than black plastic pots, which can overheat and cook the roots. There are plenty of varieties to choose from, in a range of colours and single or double blooms. We like ‘Gay Baby’, pictured, with clusters of burgundy-splashed white flowers on a dwarf, densely-leaved bush to 30cm.
Dianthus is treasured for its blue-green foliage and abundant starry flowers, which often smell like cloves. Flowers appear in spring or summer and in tones from white through pink and rosy reds to lavender, depending on the type. Plants range from tiny, creeping groundcovers to the taller shrubs favoured by florists. They are commonly called ‘pinks’ which has a double-meaning: flowers are often pink in colour; and look as if someone trimmed the petals with pinking shears.
Petunias can be grown in the garden or in containers, including hanging baskets. They need a position with at least six hours of sun a day and grow best with regular water and the addition of a liquid plant food every two to three weeks. Buy them as seed, seedlings, small flowering pot plants (called bloomers) or as flowering hanging baskets. Colours now come as singles, or with stripes, dots and splashes of contrast. For added fragrance, choose the deep dark purple ones.
Begonia Dragon Wings
‘Dragon Wings’ begonias won an RHS Award of Garden Merit and we can see why. They are tolerant of hot and humid weather and their angel wing-like foliage and clusters of dangling wing- shaped flowers look great all through the warm weather. Morning sun is preferred and shade is tolerated. Choose between red and pink and grow them in the garden or in pots or hanging baskets.