Mitre10 _all_a_02.qxd            28/5/05        10:38 AM          Page 17        SKY GARDEN        Gardening doesn’t have ...
Mitre10 _all_a_02.qxd   28/5/05   10:38 AM   Page 16
Mitre10 _all_a_02.qxd            28/5/05       10:38 AM         Page 18   Balcony and roof themes   What do you want your ...
Mitre10 _all_a_02.qxd             28/5/05        10:38 AM          Page 20                                                ...
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Sky Garden: Gardening Doesn’t Have to Happen At Ground Level


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Sky Garden: Gardening Doesn’t Have to Happen At Ground Level

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Sky Garden: Gardening Doesn’t Have to Happen At Ground Level

  1. 1. Mitre10 _all_a_02.qxd 28/5/05 10:38 AM Page 17 SKY GARDEN Gardening doesn’t have to happen at ground level. Balconies, roofs and windowsills can all become your private oasis of green. Here’s a few ideas to inspire modern-day sky-dwellers. Use them if you live on the ground – they work at low altitudes too! BY KEVIN FARRELL Before loading can use a long pot or planter box that sits on the windowsill THE STRUCTURE your balcony with weighty pot plants and water features, check that the or brackets, or place individual pots on a shelf. You can make your own window boxes from any durable material, structure can support it all. Most balconies are suspended such as treated pine. Very easy indeed, but there are a concrete slabs, but some are steel or timber frames. couple of considerations. The first is gravity. Remember If you have a timber balcony or deck there’s a few Mrs McGillicuddy? Planters or pots must be fastened so special things to consider. wind or clumsy hands can’t dislodge them. They should First, check its structural condition. If it’s cantilevered also sit in a tray to catch excess water. Position the tray so (no posts – it’s fixed to the wall of the building) check for rot spillage won’t do any harm. in the timber frame where it meets the wall. If there is any, Garden windows are bay-style windows that protrude reduce the load on the balcony until it can be repaired. from the wall to catch more sunshine and display the Second, check the condition of the decking boards, plants. If you already have a bay window it’s an ideal place balustrades and handrails. You don’t want a 100kg pot for a garden – just add pots or planters on shelving or plant falling on Mrs McGillicuddy downstairs…do you? racks. If you don’t, several companies make windows that Concrete balconies aren’t immune to rot either. It’s not can be installed to replace an existing window. Give this uncommon for the steel reinforcement within the concrete careful thought, because you could add more heat and to rust. If it’s near the surface it can get pretty ugly – chunks humidity to your home. of concrete split off to reveal the rust beneath. But if it’s Shelves and hangers are the easiest way to ‘green’ a deep down it can be much worse, particularly for window. If there is suitable fixing in the ceiling above the cantilevered balconies. These are continuations of the window, install hanging hooks, hang chains of various concrete floor and the only thing holding them up is their lengths and attach planter baskets. Alternatively, fix steel reinforcement. When this rusts along the line of the brackets either side of the window, fix a shelf on top in the wall the balcony can fall off the building. material of your choice, and sit planters or pots on them. Windows Just consider the weight of the plants, soil and the water Don’t despair if you have no balcony or roof –a you add when choosing shelf material. window can be made suitable for a sky garden. There’s at For more information, there’s two MITREPLANS to least three ways to put a garden in a window: window read: ‘Create wonderful window gardens’ and ‘Create your boxes, garden windows, and internal shelves or hangers. own Hanging Gardens of Babylon’. They’re available in Window boxes are an old idea that still works. You store or at do it winter 2005 17
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  3. 3. Mitre10 _all_a_02.qxd 28/5/05 10:38 AM Page 18 Balcony and roof themes What do you want your new garden to feel like? Try this list of theme ideas or create your own: Oriental: use traditional forms such as Japanese, Thai or Chinese, or pinch a little from each and mix them up. Characterised by clean lines, focal points such as specimen plants, water features, rocks, sculptures or artefacts. Bamboo and pebbles work a treat. Native: yes, native gardens can work on balconies and windows. Have a close look at the precarious places that plants survive on rocky hillsides. Materials such as bush rock, weathered logs and coarse sand are the go. Contemporary: a contemporary apartment building demands the same of its balcony gardens. Clean, formal lines are the fashion. Incorporate current artworks and sculpture to impress your guests. Materials include large tiles, terrazzo, stainless steel, and glass. Artistic: go on, it’s been burning in you for years to create a sculpture garden from old bicycle parts and cans of Campbell’s soup (are you the next Warhol?). Use anything from space junk to jelly, but rarely anything green and growing. Naturist: if you like to go nude, create a little screening for privacy. Avoid sharp, scratchy plants, furnishings and materials. Island: bring the feeling of that holiday in Bali or Bora Bora with reed, thatch, wood and tropical palms. Furniture should be laid back, so consider scattering cushions on thick reed mats instead of using tables and chairs. Sand is nice underfoot as long as the cat doesn’t use it and it doesn’t wash down the drain. Marine: not just water, but all things marine. Use driftwood, watercraft, seaside plants and weathered materials. Choose washed or limed paint styles to add to the weathered feel. Formal: symmetry, topiary, hedges, rows of identical potted plants, and carefully placed stylish furniture make a formal balcony, maybe with a little statue or a wall- mounted water feature. Materials include tiles, glass, stone, and terracotta. Entertainer: just the basics: table and chairs, barbecue, bar fridge (if you’re serious, get the type with a tap on top and keg inside), a few large pot plants (with sand in the pots for stubbing butts). Materials should be hosable. Kev’s Tip Floor finish The main issue is their containers – pots and Tiles, paint, synthetic grass, mats, pavers, real grass, planters – so be careful to select plants without extensive Group potted plants, rather than timber decking, wooden paving tiles – the sky’s the limit! Of root systems. spread them around the balcony. course, the simplest thing is to leave it raw, but polishing or Plants can be used for privacy and wind protection They’ll look more interesting painting concrete will greatly improve its feel and look. Tiles (palms, bamboo, shrubs, vines on a trellis), scent and lush. can create a formal look and are available in a huge variety (geranium, gardenia, violet, herbs, lavender, roses), colour of colours, sizes and patterns. Make sure you use exterior (pick anything!), noise reduction (thick hedges such as tiles, and get advice about the right waterproofing, azalea, box, or abelia), for striking form and foliage adhesive and laying method – or hire a tradesperson (pandanus, golden cane, cordylines, palms or ferns) or for (check with Mitre 10 for some reputable local contractors). food (herbs, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, chilli, or Consider tiles with a non-slip finish – it might be a long way colourful lettuce varieties) It’s probably wise to also select down from your balcony. plants that are not thirsty. Mats and synthetic grass are nice underfoot, but can Water and Light trap lots of dirt, harbour insects, and go rotten unless you These are key aspects to any landscape project. vacuum and clean them regularly. Water addresses three of our five senses: it looks Plants appealing; the sound of trickling or falling water can have a Your local Mitre 10 garden centre can help you major effect on how you feel; and you can run your fingers choose plants for your climate and orientation to the sun. through it or dip your toes for a cooling sensation. Any plant that doesn’t grow too large is good, but avoid spiky or poisonous ones. 18
  4. 4. Mitre10 _all_a_02.qxd 28/5/05 10:38 AM Page 20 Images courtesy of YOUR MAKEOVER Every balcony needs something to make it comfy, especially if it’s typical of most balconies – bare concrete, steel balustrade, brick walls, sliding glass doors. Plants and pots Plants soften the whole effect, as well as becoming quiet ‘friends’ we get to know and care for. If your balcony only receives full sun in the morning, choose plants suitable for sun and shade. Garden centre staff can help you with the right plants for your balcony, but you’ll need to be able to tell them which way your balcony faces, how much sun it gets, and what kinds of plants you like. Maybe you like cacti? Maybe Asian-style plants or bright flowering plants. The owner of this balcony likes plants that keep to themselves but was also keen to have a few ‘utility’ plants. These include chillies, basil, parsley and lemongrass. Balustrades for an easy clen-up and no unpleasant fumes. Your first step is to clean and paint the steel Water feature balustrade and roof beam. This is easy enough; scrape off You might choose a pond for your balcony especially loose, flaky paint and rust, clean with a wire brush and if you love goldfish. On the ground, ponds are usually back- paint. Naturally, choose the right paint for the task – White filled and planted out to make them look natural, but to Knight’s Rust Guard. Generally go for the brush-on variety, achieve a similar effect on a balcony use bush rock, but if you have wrought iron or cast iron lace balustrades, pebbles, potted plants and mulch. A formal water feature is the spray-on type might be better. Rust Guard is an anti- much simpler! corrosion epoxy modified resin paint that’s been around for Make sure the pond or fountain is level by packing many years, but has just been relaunched in hundreds of with blocks or sand (your balcony has a ‘fall’ to allow water shades that can be tinted in store, so there’s no problem runoff), and ensure that any balcony drains are clear and with matching colours – even Colorbond! This is really able to do their job. important, because you’ll probably find that you can’t paint If there’s no power on the balcony, get a licensed your balustrade just any colour, it must match the original. electrician to install a weatherproof outlet or two, fitted with You see, your balustrade is really common property with safety switches. the other units, and if they were all painted different colours Lighting – Yuck! Check with your strata body corporate if you want Solar-powered garden lights give a soft, subtle light to do something different. without cables. If you want more powerful light – perhaps Floor for dramatic spotlighting effects – you may be able to hide Next step, the floor. Bare concrete just doesn’t cut it, an extra-low-voltage transformer behind a pond or plant. unless you polish and seal it. You might choose to paint the Furniture floor for a relatively informal look – especially if the concrete All you need is a table and chairs and possibly a has existing stains that need covering. Paint is also bamboo screen to provide a little privacy from a inexpensive and fast – but only if you choose a fast-drying neighbouring block of units. Bamboo fits well with a paint like Jet Dry Aquatread. All you need to do is clean and ‘natural’ landscaping style, filtering light and sight, but degrease, etch the surface for good adhesion, and paint. letting in the breeze. Two coats provide a beautiful and durable surface you can You can fix the bamboo directly to an overhead steel walk on in just two hours. If the concrete is newer and beam or the underside or the balcony above, and tie it to unmarked you might use the Jet Dry Aquatread the steel balustrade at the bottom. Clear Sealer instead. Both products are water-based 20