When daughter Eleni, her husband Emilio and their toddler Amalia moved from one apartment in their building to another, bigger one, as soon as I realized that it had a balcony, I vowed to plant things so that from the living room it would look like there was a garden outside. Another reason for adding planters was to close off the openings under the fence around the balcony, to prevent Amalia from slipping under or pushing things off (not that she would ever be allowed on the balcony without an adult! The glass door to the balcony is kept double-locked.)
(This is how it looked before they moved in.)
This balcony is on the fourteenth floor, facing south and east, and the winds out there are fierce. Now, I am in no way an expert gardener, and I had no idea how much sun different sections of the balcony would get.
In early June I assembled and drove in from Massachusetts some inexpensive planters, bags of dirt, geraniums, pansies, Dusty Miller, New Guinea Impatiens, and some plants with multi-colored leaves that I know like being in the shade. I also brought two large round planters that had a Greek acacia leaf design and two small evergreen trees that look like cypresses but aren't. (Can't remember their name, but I know they grow fast.) The whole thing was very reasonable--because I bought it all in Massachusetts, not New York City.
At the beginning
I quickly learned a lot about balcony gardening! All the pansies I planted around the two trees promptly died. So did some of the impatiens which were getting too much sun. ( Later I planted a dwarf sunflower in the sunniest spot.) The Dusty Miller survived--it always does--and the geraniums did okay.
Late July, looking northeast
Late July, looking south
Even from the street below they make the balcony stand out from the rest.
I'm pleased with the results so far, but about half the plants didn't survive and I'd appreciate advice from expert gardeners out there as to what, besides morning glories, would flourish up there on the 14th floor. I know that everything will freeze come winter, but I'm hoping we can keep the trees alive--taking them inside if necessary.
We're certainly not the only ones in the neighborhood who are gardening high in the clouds. Some incredible gardens with outdoor furniture and statues and large trees are visible from Eleni's apartment. The leggy beauty above always puzzles people who are looking down from the kitchen window. She lives on the roof of a nearby brownstones far below. After much sleuthing, we found out that she is a work of art and the brownstone is an art gallery. The building is called the Waterfall Mansion because it has the largest indoor waterfall in New York--23 feet!. And it all could be yours for only $31 million.
Here's a party they had on the roof while I was visiting New York in July (and snooping on the neighbors.) Their garden on the roof is a little more lavish than Eleni's balcony garden, but I can use it as inspiration for what we'll be planting next year.