With the majority of us being in some sort of lockdown, we have all become more aware of our home and what it means to be at home. Since we are all supposed to stay at home, I wanted to start this mini blog series of ideas that keep me busy and sane at home. I am spending this lockdown alone at home and it can get tedious over time as I am missing my husband, my family, my friends. But then there is home – that never ending source of work and inspiration. And since spring has sprung, my first ideas is to prep my balcony and turn it into a spring balcony!
Now you might say: what an idea, but I don’t have a balcony! We will get to that too, no worries! But let me tell you first a bit about my balcony spring prepping. Additionally, I want to share some simple but handy tips for your balcony projects too. Let’s roll, shall we?
I will give you here a few tips for shadowy balconies in particular as my balcony is basically all day in the shade and only receives a little amount of indirect, reflected light. However, a shadowy balcony does not need to be colorless and without plants. My recommendation in general is simply to ask the staff at your local garden center, they always know what works best and usually also have an entire section with ‘plants for the shade’. But I will get to some concrete plant recommendations in the tips. Here we go:
– Gardening tools: If you have a small balcony like me you do not need to invest in big and expensive tools. Basically all you need is a pair of gardening gloves, a little shovel and some nice and sharp gardening knives for pruning. For this project I teamed up with the Swiss brand Victorinox. Some of you might know this brand mostly from their handy Swiss pocket knives, but did you know they also have practical gardening knives and flower knives? Since I love plants and flowers, guess what – I got myself both options as well as a practical pocket knife for outdoors – when the time returns for us to go out and bring back cuttings from forests.
For this blogpost I teamed up with Victorinox and received their gardening tools: the pruning knife features a hook shaped blade and is the perfect tool to cut back plants and even bigger shrubs in your garden, on your balcony or even in nature if you want to bring back twigs. Also, it is ideal to chop old plants into pieces for compost when you redo your balcony or garden.
The floral knife comes in perfect pocket size with a straight and sharp blade and is the ideal tool to cut book flowers or little blooms. This handy tool comes in various colors and my choice was pretty obvious, right?
Last but not least, the Forester Wood pocket knife is my new tool for when I am out and about in nature to collect cuttings, twigs, branches, and more. This pocket knife is equipped with 10 fully integrated functions and is crafted in beautiful walnut.
– Plants & Soil: Now that you have sorted your basic tools, you need fresh plants and soil for your balcony project. As mentioned I have a shadowy balcony so I opted for ideal plants that can thrive in those conditions but that will equally add some spring colors to my little oasis. Pansies, daffodils and hydrangeas work well and are great for all kind of balconies. Additionally, I chose a tiarella, a spurge, a little sedge, and a dead-nettle. These new plants accompany some of my perennials such as a few coral bells (heuchera), an older hydrangea, white lavender, rosemary, and a hosta. Regular plant soil and special soil for hydrangeas was delivered too and I was ready to get my fingers in the dirt.
– Prune back perennials: If you have flowering perennials on your balcony or in your garden, do not forget to prune the old flowers to encourage new blooming. This is a tip especially for beginners among you. If you have a hydrangea for example, always cut back the old dried flowers from last year and cut just above the first pair of new buds. Usually, hydrangeas you would cut back even around end of February or early March. Also other perennials need a nice cleaning – not only for the look but also to foster new growth of fresh leaves and flowers. I pruned my hydrangea and cleaned out all my coral bells and removed the old flowers of the lavender.
– Remove wilted flowers: If you already planted some flowering plants on your balcony (think of pansies for example) and frosty nights occurred, some flowers might be frozen and wilted overnight. Also due to transportation after buying new plants (or getting them delivered nowadays), some flowers are wilted and not nice. Prune those back as this encourages new blooming. This is especially valid for the ever popular pansies.
– Plant wisely: Now make a little plan where you want to put each plant. I made a simple sketch on paper to visualize where the plants will go. My tip: Double check online if there is any issue of placing some plants in the same pot next to each other. This happens although luckily not so often with decorative plants. However, remember to leave enough space in the pots for plants to grow. The size you got them from the florist or garden center is just the status quo – it will grow and it will need space to expand.
– Fresh flowers cut back: Not only I planted some outdoor plants, but I also chose to give the final spring touch with a bunch of tulips in a vase. For any kind of cut flowers remember to always give them a fresh cut before placing them in a vase. Cut the stems diagonally with a sharp knife (remember the handy Victorinox floral knife) and avoid scissors – a blunt kitchen knife or scissors will harm the stems or crush them thus hindering their abilities to soak up water and stay fresh for a longer period.
– I have no balcony nor garden: Now in cities many of us end up not having a balcony nor a garden. But hey, don’t consider it a constraint but rather a creativity challenge during lockdown! As the weather gets better, reconsider the area around your sunniest window. Can you make some space there to create a little ‘balcony vibe’? If so, get a comfy chair a little side table, some houseplants and create a balcony atmosphere indoors. When the weather is nice, open the windows wide, let the sunshine and spring air in, maybe you even want to add some flower box outside if possible? If not add some flowering plants on the windowsill and enjoy your ‘indoors balcony’.
Now get your fingers in the dirt and have fun prepping your balcony for the spring! And once the joyful task of planting your balcony is accomplished, I recommend rewarding yourself with a slice of cake and a cup of coffee. Maybe your favorite book or some good music in the background will make the experience even better. And one thing is for sure: Now you will have your beautiful green oasis at home and staying at home will be much easier! Stay healthy, stay safe!
Photography by Igor Josifovic