I’ve been so excited to write this post! I started creating my balcony garden (as it is) during the spring of 2010, and finished it up right at the beginning of summer. I had a lot of help–Katharine Tretter helped me with space planning and her husband, Kevin, built my free-standing wall fountain. My awesome boyfriend & Hunky Foreman, Brett, hung planters and lights for me; and my Summer Minion, John McAlpin, did all sorts of oddball jobs for me as well. Then last summer, my landscape designer/writer friends, Susan Morrison and Rebecca Sweet, began writing their book “Garden Up!: Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces” (Cool Springs Press) and asked me to contribute some photographs for how I planned a small-space garden. Whew! Lots o’ activity within a few months.
I’d like to take a few moments to show you how it all came together, because even though it’s a small space, it had some real challenges. It’s a 3rd floor balcony in an apartment complex–so it’s windy with morning sun only, and I can’t really drill holes in the walls to hang anything. It’s also right by I-35 and next door to my son’s high school, so it’s loud. I had no idea what to do with it. Until I went to the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show in March of 2010, and saw this display garden by designer Dawn Engel:
Dawn called this her “Salvaged Creole Jazz Garden” and it’s so easy to see why. Tumbled old brick pavers, saturated colors, a fountain with alligator heads, swingin’ party lights, planters from old musical instruments, and an overall darkly romantic but somehow playful mood. Isn’t that New Orleans all over? I thought so, too, and wanted to create a similar feel in my own space. But don’t laugh, because this is what I started out with:
Pretty gloomy and nasty, huh? How about this lovely view:
Yeah, okay, let’s move on. It’s making me break out into a rash just remembering it. But what I did have to start out with was a red bistro table and two chairs, an old green chaise lounge, and an outdoor rug. I also had a some architectural salvage (an awesome old door) but I had it inside my apartment. I knew I had to have a fountain, but I couldn’t hang a wall fountain on my cement-board walls. So my friend Katharine came up with an awesome idea–she and her husband built me a free-standing false wall with an attached planter. Katharine gave it an antiqued faux finish and Hunky Foreman Brett hung it for me. Here it is unpainted, but with the fountain:
Now you can see more details coming together, even though this in-progress work is a mess. I realized that it’s important to layer this outdoor room, just as I would my indoor living room. So I bought another outdoor rug, some lights that need hanging, and lots of plants:
Now I’ve started to rearrange furniture, added cushions for the chaise lounge and bistro chairs, and moved the salvaged door to the back wall.
Okay, now I’ve got most of my pieces purchased; I just have to arrange everything, hang the lights up, and put in the finishing touches with plants and accessories. Ready? Here was one of the first pics I took, probably the day I got everything in place (poor Brett, that was a long day!):
And this view is one of my favorites, too. I added some black trellises and French-quarter inspired topiaries to flank the fountain:
And this view, too, with my Craig’s List $50 bench and red throw that I already had:
Now here’s some close-ups of details:
- Ground your space with an outdoor rug.
- Add furnishings: table, chairs, benches, chaise lounge, side tables
- Layer with lighting: overhead patio lights, electrical lights if you can, and candles.
- Move in your planters and plants; make it lush or keep it simple.
- Finish with accessories: cut flowers, statuary, artwork, throws, cushions and pillows
Thank you Dawn, Rebecca, Susan, Brett, Katharine & Kevin, John, Luke and Max–I love my romantic New Orleans jazz balcony, and your inspiration, encouragement and hard work were invaluable to me! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a balcony to lounge on.