Many residents of Oriental Bay have limited (and frequently windy) spaces to grow plants in — often balconies, decks or small patios. Green fingers can grow most things in most places, but for the rest of us, David from California Home and Garden gives some helpful tips.
Most apartment balconies have strong concrete floors, so weight is not a problem. Timber balconies however won't cope with the weight of big cement tubs so lightweight containers are preferable. Rectangular troughs along the edges of a balcony are good space-savers, or half-circle containers that sit flush to the wall. One plant doesn't necessarily need its own pot. Sizeable containers can accommodate more — a camellia might share a pot with an impatiens or a miniature rose with forget-me-nots.
Containers need more watering than plants grown in open ground, especially if awnings, guttering or another balcony overhead restricts the full benefit of rain. Small pots dry out quickly and don't have enough soil for good plant growth. So it's better to have fewer large containers instead of lots of small pots. A layer of mulch or pebbles will protect roots and keep soil cool.
Lettuce, strawberries, herbs and dwarf tomatoes are all suitable for container gardening and don't grow tall enough to be affected by wind. Sometimes attaching cucumbers, beans and other vine plants to a trellis against a balcony wall can extend your vegetable/fruit range.
Some plants need less water: agave attenuata and the succulents, like yuccas, flaxes (phormium), aspidistra or grass-like liriopes. On a sunny balcony dwarf bougainvillea, nandina domestica, gazania, amaranthus, annuals like petunia and lobelia, geraniums, dianthus and cactus can flourish.
For south-facing or shaded balconies, try camellia, impatiens, philodendrons, ivy, alyssum, aspidistra, arum lilies, some of the liriopes, the flax family especially purple Maori magic, ferns and hydrangeas. David's choices for the windiest balconies include lavender, rosemary, ivy, variegated euonymous and coprosma. These tough plants also tolerate salt spray.
Next issue we will list David's tips for window box gardening.
Bay View newsletter 64, November 2014