Balcony garden ideas to transform a tiny space into a mini horticultural haven

Whatever the size, there are plenty of uses for your balcony garden
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  • It’s well documented that gardening and spending time outdoors is good for your wellbeing. Not everybody is lucky enough to have a garden, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reap the benefits, too. In fact, balcony gardening is definitely trending, and with the right balcony garden ideas you can create a mood-boosting space to enjoy outdoors.

    It was recently revealed that only 1 in 8 British households have access to a private garden space or patio. With lockdown forcing us to spend more time at home than ever before, and the proven health benefits of being around plants and in nature, balcony gardening and ‘gardenless’ gardening is a great way to get involved.

    With a bit of careful planning you can instantly transform your small elevated space into a marvellous micro-garden full of colour, aroma and atmosphere.

    There are lots of inspiring ideas that can turn your small garden space into a balcony garden that will enhance the living experience of your home: enjoy views, sit, relax and grow your own little bit of green wherever you live.

    Want more garden decorating ideas? Browse our garden ideas channel to make the most of any space

    patio ideas

    Image credit: David Giles

    Balcony garden ideas

    Firstly, think about the position and the amount of light your balcony receives as this will determine what type of plants will be happy in your garden balcony. Shady enclosed areas can be filled with lush green plants, such as ferns and hostas. Warmer spots in direct sunlight will suit a collection of Mediterranean sun-loving plants full of vivid colour.

    Whatever the size, there are plenty of uses for your balcony garden. If there is room for an outdoor table and chairs you can use it as an outside dining room or maybe as a spill out area for when you are entertaining.

    Teak and all-weather stainless-steel furniture in modular shapes suits modern apartment style or decorative ornate iron designs are timeless and elegant. Or, perhaps you fancy your own place in the sun in which case a sun lounger with a couple of well placed potted grasses will look super chic.

    Food lovers need not miss out as sheltered balcony gardens can make perfect salad and vegetables growing spots, so why not become an urban farmer with your very own balcony vegetable garden?

    Finally, don’t forget about designing your balcony for long evenings as well as sunny days. We have lots of garden lighting ideas to inspire you.

    Take a look at our garden balcony ideas and turn a micro-space into your own small but perfectly formed oasis.

    1. Take the inside out

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    The experts at Love The Garden have transformed this once plain terrace into an outdoor living room. Using wood to create striking visual features that also enhance the functionality of the space. Importantly the design complements the natural feel and look of the wood with other natural materials and of course, plenty of greenery.

    The welcome addition of outdoor rugs, a coffee table and a sofa and armchair set help to style the outdoor area as an authentic extension of the indoor living space.

    Which plants to use: Rosemary, thyme, sage, lovage, viburnum tinus, polystichum setiferum (soft shield fern).

    2. Keep it simple

    balcony garden idea with bistro table and chairs and potted olive tree

    Image credit: Emma Lewis

    Don’t over complicate the decor, to avoid making the already small space feel even more restrictive. This balcony garden has just enough space for all the right ingredients to make it an extra living space for all seasons. A table and chairs provides a place to dine and relax and just a few potted plants adds enough greenery to call it an urban garden space.

    The whitewashed walls and potted olive tree helps welcome Mediterranean vibes to this small city-dwelling terrace.

    3. Light up the deck

    balcony garden with climbing ivy and bistro table

    Image credit: Brett Symes

    Make your balcony garden even more useable by ensuring you have a light source, to enjoy the extended living space after dark. Solar powered lighting is a great choice, meaning you don’t have to run an outdoor power supply. Outdoor lighting will allow you to use your balcony garden throughout all times of the day, and all seasons.

    4. Install a wall for privacy

    Balcony garden ideas

    Image credit: Mel Yates

    Conceal your space with a border trellis. Balconies can unfortunately sometimes lack privacy so a stylish trellis that can double as a plant climber makes an attractive solution. They’re easy to install and a grid of slats will still let through plenty of light. Matching planters filled with vibrant hydrangeas or geraniums will blend any hard edges and add a welcoming burst of colour.

    5. Take inspiration from travels

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    Whether meditation is your thing, you simply want to evoke past memories of far-flung travel, or dream of your next adventure, you can re-imagine your balcony garden to be anywhere in the world.

    With a few simple design elements, the right accessories and of course the right plants you could be in Southeast Asia, South America, India, or wherever your imagination takes you. This eclectic colourful space is inspired by global travel and evokes the warmth and colour of a real-life tropical retreat.

    How to get the look: Key for this look and to create this gardenless garden is to use colour – and lots of it. Think terracotta pots, bright pops of colour on your soft furnishings (the more the better), and white lanterns. Opt for these key features but always make it your own eclectic mix, with some colourful plants too.

    7. Invest in structural trees and plants

    balcony garden with iron railings

    Image credit: Holly Joliffe

    Small narrow spaces suit long tall plants. Therefore, trees fit the bill perfectly and can look structurally elegant especially when grouped in varying heights. Certain tree species will be very happy potted in planters and, by keeping their roots in a confined space, will control their growth.

    Slow-growing olive trees are very suitable and bay lollipop standards are modern and popular. Here, two trees look simple yet sophisticated behind refined grey railings and the ornately hung watering can adds an artistic finish.

    8. Maximise space with a wall mirror

    Balcony gardens

    Image credit: Mark Bolton

    Add the illusion of space to your balcony by mounting a sheet of mirror on a wall. It will maximise the small space, bounce light to brighten any dark corners and double the colour by reflecting vivid plants and foliage. Here, the cool urban look is finished with a central display of beautiful hot pink and red tulips potted in a industrial-style cement planter.

    9. Extend the kitchen by growing your own

    balcony garden from kitchen

    Image credit: Simon Scarboro

    Food lovers need not miss out as sheltered balcony gardens can make perfect salad and vegetables growing spots, so why not become an urban farmer with your very own balcony vegetable garden?

    You don’t need a huge garden to grow your own vegetables and herbs. Garden balconies make great mini allotments as they can be sheltered from wind and are often spots. Walls make great places to hang herbs and there are lots of small-container vegetable stations available that will fit your space. Being up high your produce is less likely to be damaged by pests and, of course, you have easy access back to your kitchen.

    10. Cater for compact cooking

    balcony garden BBQ on the railings

    Image credit: Morso

    With small space living becoming more topical designers are always looking for new ways to cater for our needs. This fabulous balcony-friendly BBQ is ideal for those with small outdoor spaces, to ensure  those living in multi-storey flats or with limited space no longer have to miss out on the joy of entertaining alfresco.

    The compact design simply locks onto the railings of a balcony, meaning it doesn’t take up any unnecessary space – when space is at a premium. It can also double up as an outdoor heater.

    Buy now: Balcone Electric Barbecue, £349, Morso

    11. Bring the balcony alive with a wildlife attraction

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    The best gardens are those teaming with plant and animal life. And guess what? It is possible to recreate this wildlife oasis high up overlooking skyscrapers and cityscapes. Here we’ve got a range of green and lush leaves and a selection of flowering plants mixed in with the greenery to act as an oasis for bees, butterflies and birds.

    To create a wildlife oasis at home, you’ll need lots of plants. Make sure you have a good mix of flowering plants as well as shrubs and trees to provide cover. This should feel less styled than some of the other designs. The centre stage must be reserved for the plants and foliage.

    Which plants to use: Jasmine, lavender, foxglove, honeysuckle, musk mallow, bay tree, hydrangea, salvia.

    12. Create a cosy corner

    Balcony gardens

    Image credit: Mark Bolton

    Make your garden balcony an outdoor living room for relaxing with a large corner sofa filled with plenty of cushions for comfort. Many come with hidden storage to protect the seating pads in damp and wet weather. A low-level matching coffee table continues the casual vibe while an array of pretty structural pots filled with African daisies and lavender soften the look. Attractive storm lanterns will keep you alfresco into the night.

    13. Make the most of a trellis

    DIY plant pots

    Image credit: Lizzie Orme

    Make your balcony garden an inviting space for the evenings by adding a few crafty touches. Everyday items can be painted, upcycled and decorated to create a charming and secluded spot.

    Fill a trellis with easy-to-make tealight holders and planters. Spray clean cans with two coats of paint and, once dry, thread wire through pierced holes and loop to form a hanger. Pierce drainage holes for the planters and punch patterns for the tealight holders. Use citronella candles in the tin holder to deter the midges.

    Looking for more DIY ideas? Read: Brilliant budget garden ideas that will boost your outdoor space without breaking the bank

    14. Factor in functional furniture

    balcony garden idea with small table and chairs set

    Image credit: James Merrell

    If you are short on space look for quaint bistro-style furniture that can be folded away when not in use. Whatever the size, there are plenty of uses for your balcony garden. If there is room for an outdoor table and chairs you can use it as an outside dining room or maybe as a spill out area for when you are entertaining.

    15. Plant a living wall

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    Everyone’s heard of creating a statement wall in their home. But while this usually involves some brightly coloured paint or quirky wallpaper, consider taking the same approach on your balcony – but with plants. You can see here what’s possible with the right choice of greenery – and a living wall is a huge trend for 2021.

    To get this look and ensure your living wall really stands out, it should be made the centrepiece of the space. It must immediately draw the eye, with the rest of the area designed with simplicity to enable the feature to sing. And remember, just opt for one striking wall to really make a statement.

    Which plants to use: Adiantum (maidenhair fern), care oshimensis ‘evergold’ (sedge), fragaria ‘mara des bois’ (strawberry), galanthus (snowdrop), heuchera ‘purple petticoats’, liriope muscari (lilyturf), pachysandra terminalis (Japanese spurge), pelargonium peltatum (ivy-leaved geranium), Saxifraga x urbium (London pride), tiarella cordifolia (foam flower), vinca minor (lesser periwinkle).

    What plants are good for a balcony garden?

    Plant which are good for balcony gardens tend to be those that fair well in shade. Shady enclosed areas can be filled with lush green plants that thrive in the environment, such as ferns and hostas. Warmer spots in direct sunlight will suit a collection of Mediterranean sun-loving plants full of vivid colour, such as Olive trees.

    Marcus Eyles, Horticultural Director, Dobbies Garden Centres recommends Hardy ferns for shadier gardens. Saying, ‘Perfect for shady gardens, lush leafy ferns paired with Camellias will create an oriental garden feel for your very own space of calm and zen. Choose Painted Ferns for a more colourful variety, these have a grey tinge that looks painted with flashes of silver and purple.’ They thrive in moist soil so make sure you are watering regularly, and ensure your pots have suitable drainage.

    Additional words by Ruth Doherty

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