Balcony Garden Update April 2015

Having been over-optimistic about the arrival of sunny weather, i have had to put many succulents back into their indoors homes in preparation for this week’s colder weather. Maybe they will re-appear on the balcony later in the summer, but for now it is too risky to leave these sensitive souls outside.

Most of my cacti seem to be fine outside as long as it’s not winter, but succulents are very much more demanding, and i have lost many since starting up this small garden a few years ago. Be it too much water, not enough, too little light or perhaps the wrong drainage – anything slightly less than optimal leaves me with dead plants pretty quickly.

The best news so far has been my hostas, and am thinking of cramming a few more in the last remaining free spots on the balcony. Having said that, i am now on a crazy cost-saving routine at the moment, so even a tenner on some small plug plants is something that i’ll probably delay for the time being.

As i learn more about each of the different types of plants on my balcony i am getting better at putting each in the right spots. My ferns and hostas will sit lower now, whilst anything more exotic will get maximum exposure to the sun, or sit inside if it’s too cold or windy. Being set on the Thames, wind is certainly an issue for some of my more dainty plants, such as the young succulents which remain fragile.

I have had a Yucca Rostrata sat in the corner, furthest from the balcony door, and is has coped admirably with anything thrown at it over the past two years. There have been some serious wind and rain storms that have failed to upset this truly hardy plant and helpfully it’s tips are just below the top of the balcony cover.

Yucca Rostrata

The Yucca remains my most expensive purchase at around £80, with the new Draco coming second. That looks much happier now and sits across from the Yucca, with a little more protection, sat just behind the plant stand.

Draco

With the ferns and hostas sat on the lower levels of the stand, the rest of the rows are given to a few small vegetable pots (spring onions), different sizes succulents and also a Cycas Revoluta which remains slightly pale, but hopefully ok. My Aloe Veras are now back inside after starting to brown whilst outside – they came back with me from our Tenerife holiday.

Several of my Acers are now with leaves, whilst others continue to look a little moody in the corners of the balcony. I gave some of them to my mother, as well as some pine trees, and those all seem to appreciate Mum’s garden more than mine. She simply has more space, more sun and also more time and experience to look after them better.

My two Bamboo plants continue to also look a little sad, both pretty much leafless for the last few months. I am hoping that once i can move them to a brighter location they will be happier.

The north-facing nature of our balcony will always make it hard to keep all of my plants happy, but i am starting to get better at choosing ones that are more suitable.

Fruit Plants

You can see above how my new fruit plants have also burst into life. No actual fruit yet, but i will be patient! The main thing is to see that there is plenty of growth occurring on an almost daily basis, which promises much for the summer.

The fruit plants arrived straight off Ebay in suitable small plastic pots. I literally just slapped them straight out on the balcony and make sure that they have plenty of water. It was around mid-March that the cut-back branches suddenly started to show new shoots, and they’ve been very active ever since.

New grasses have been placed besides the bamboo plants as i try to create some sort of wall cover from prying neighbours. There are now several different reeds and grasses together in two large pots as i experiment with these hardy types of plant. The Thames route around our flat features similar choices so i thought they would be a good bet to thrive with the additional cover of my wall. Only time will tell, but the ones i planted last year have already doubled in height and just begun to spread out a little as their seeds blow around in the wind.

Grasses

Hostas Resurrected in Balcony Garden

April has become a key time for my balcony, with plants coming back to life and sunshine starting to hit my garden directly for the first time of the year. My north-facing balcony struggles to encourage healthy growth and many of my plants must stay indoors until the weather looks promising enough to pop them outside.

The best surprise so far has been several hostas which have sprung into life, having appeared lost to the world ever since last summer. After a long holiday where they went un-watered, these limp beauties seemed done-in. I pulled away the dead leaves and kept watering the tiny roots over the winter, and suddenly we have some stunning hostas on the way again!

I am really pleased as i bought several different varieties last year and believed they would be ideally suited to my shady, north-facing spot. After this experience, i will do the same with some small ferns which are also struggling and see if they can return to life later in the year.

hostas-reappear-in-spring

Dracaena Draco Plant

Dracaena Draco – Dragon’s blood tree – is the latest addition to my ever-expanding plant collection. It is a plant that i have loved ever since we started visiting the Canary Islands. The photo below is a giant one found in Tenerife.

Dracaena Draco in Tenrife

The trees are very slow growing and also not entirely suited to the UK climate, so it took quite some time to get hold of one online. It is a good size, nearly a metre in total height, and i am hoping that in can cope with indoor conditions for 3/4’s of the year.

Since buying the plant, it has not looked too healthy. All low branches have browned before falling off. However, with the weather now reasonably warm i have been able to drop it outside and it’s looking much better. It seems to take a decent amount of water without too many problems and is providing cover for some of my other plants, with space on the balcony now being at a premium!

When indoors i was not able to really give it much water at all, because there was no tray to protect my carpet. That may in fact be the real reason as to why the plant is enjoying life a little more, as on the balcony the water can just drain away or be soaked up by surrounding plants.

Weekend in Norfolk

It has been a fairly tiring week but my mood is up again as the weekend draws close. I will pop to see Mum and Dad in Norfolk for the weekend and this break seems to be perfect timing. With only a few days left of my current contract, next week will be interesting and i am looking forward to some fresh, new work coming in.

Mum has had her garden done up recently and i am looking forward to seeing that in all it’s glory. This is an important place for her so i am pleased that her feedback on the work has been really positive. The garden should also now be much safer for her and Dad to bumble about in, where as before there were some precarious spots around the top fish pond.

Dad has recently become quite a keen cook and will be knocking up a roast dinner this weekend, which has always previously been Mum’s territory. He has been using several recipe books of TV chefs, and it seems that he enjoys planning his next feast.

Jamie Oliver's Chorizo Soup

I have not done much cooking myself recently, except for a Chorizo Soup to use up some of the leftover vegetables from our Abel and Cole delivery.

Ruby will remain in London to work this weekend having taken time off for our recent trip to Tenerife. Hopefully we might be able to do another trip soon, so long as i can find a good cheap deal somewhere warm. I tend to search on HolidayPirates.com for deals, they always seem to have something interesting available.