Making elegance look effortless, actress and script writer Diane Valsonne transformed a narrow Parisian balcony into a chic garden. When we dropped in on her in the 10th Arrondisement the other day, she shared 10 ideas to steal to add charm to any small urban garden.
Photography by Mimi Giboin for Gardenista.
Bring a balcony garden indoors with double doors (or floor-to-ceiling windows). A pair of side-by-side doors hinged on the outer edge of the doorway’s frame are French doors, often used to enter an outdoor balcony, patio, or garden.
European iron makers have been creating beautifully ornate railings to adorn facades in France and Spain for centuries. Painted black, a lacy iron railing is a classic backdrop for plants and outdoor furniture.
Every Inch Matters
You can create a layered look by thinking of a balcony as a space with three separate zones for plants: a facade (where trained vines can grow up the wall), a floor (where potted plants can cluster), and a railing (for window boxes full of herbs and sun-loving flowers).
Plant a mix of herbs and flowers in railing planters so you always have something to snip for dinner or for a vase. As the season progresses, replenish and replace plants as necessary.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with a wide range of plants. Figs, fennel, tomatoes, herbs, cutting flowers, and wisteria are some of the plants Valsonne grows. She mixes edibles and ornamentals in a single pot and encourages vines to grow just wild enough to lend the balcony an untamed, bohemian air.
Frame the View
Valsonne allows wisteria tendrils to curl around door frames and windows to frame the picturesque neighborhood views.
Vines and climbers can get heavy as they mature (especially if stems become woody). Dense foliage adds to the weight. Install a sturdy trellis, arbor, or pergola and train vines to grow on it.
Drought Tolerant Plants
A balcony garden’s pots and planters will dry out fast, particularly if they get several hours a day of full sun. Water plants once a day (or better yet, install a mini drip irrigation system to manage the chore for you) and choose plants that can withstand a little neglect. Olive trees, citrus trees, and other plants that hail from dry, Mediterranean climates are good choices, as are succulents and cacti.
Keep the color palette simple and unified on a narrow balcony; choose a single color (such as red) and add blooming plants here and there to complement the greenery. Valsonne’s red cherry tomato bushes echo the same theme.
Throw open windows and doors to invite cool breezes (and scents from herbs and flowers) to come indoors.