BIG STYLE, SMALL SPACES: Think Inside the Box

BIG STYLE, SMALL SPACES: Think Inside the Box

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BIG STYLE, SMALL SPACES: Think Inside the Box

by Lisa Rogers

Container gardening on balconies and patios can create outdoor magic

After a long, cold winter, we’re all itching to get outside, head to our little backyard oasis and raise our faces to the sun.

Just because you live in a condo or a townhome, doesn’t mean you can’t have a lush beautiful garden. And just because you live in a house nothing says that your leafy oasis has to be on the ground.

Anyone can have a gorgeous garden right on the deck or balcony with a little pre-planning, some fundamental principles and great looking containers.


Figure out how much room there is and the type of exposure – higher floors on a condo create different planting zones because they are more exposed to harsh sun and wind. Check with the nursery to see which plants are hardiest under whatever conditions you have.

Calculate the amount of sun – and whether it’s morning or afternoon sun – to determine the type of plants. If there’s a lot of shade, you’ll be checking out impatiens, periwinkle, hostas and hydrangeas, while geraniums, salvia, coneflowers and peonies are sun worshipers. To create pockets of shade, try planter boxes along the railing, letting the ivy trail and providing cover for plants below.


You want to enjoy the garden not just outside but from every vantage point inside as well, so figure out the views to coordinate colours and feel. Alternately, maybe your clean-lined modern interior would benefit from a riot of colour to draw the eye outside.

Keep proportion and ratio in mind; vary the heights of plants by mixing tall plants like palms or tropical trees with shorter bushes. Tall plants also create privacy from neighbours, as do trellises, but check with your condo board to see if you’re allowed to build. Add a couple of comfy chairs and a small table and you’ve created an oasis.

Decide on a colour scheme – not only simple and elegant, it will restrain you from buying every plant in the store. Choose two or three plants and repeat them. It saves money in the long run and creates a unified look that is calming and easier to care for.


They come in such a variety of sizes and they’ll help with the varied heights. Buy in durable lightweight materials that look like wood or stone as they’re easier to move around. And so easy – no mulch, weeding or digging.

If you like a clean look, choose identical containers that complement simple plant colours such as glossy green leaves and white blooms. If it’s a cottagey effect you’re after, use anything. An old metal wash bucket for growing herbs, wire egg baskets for hanging planters for those coral geraniums and pink begonias. Add in lime green or silvery foliage.

You can also use perennials in your containers. Although they don’t spread quite like annuals and, if you’re in a condo, you’re not likely to overwinter them.


Place the tallest plant in the centre of the pot and lower the heights as you move outward. For example, a tall tree or bush like hibiscus or Mandevilla, surrounded by shorter transition plants and at the edge add trailers. Spend money on plants that spread – impatiens, portulacas, various ivy like periwinkle and pachysandra – but leave enough room in the pot for them to grow otherwise they’ll die off after a month.

Bring out your indoor plants – they flourish outdoors in the summer as long as you keep an eye on sun exposure, which can burn them. Rubber plants, schefflera and Christmas cactus are ideal for the outside.

When grouping containers, remember the 3-5-7 principle — grouping in threes or fives or sevens. If you’re attaching pots to the fence, position at eye level because if they’re placed on top of the rail, you’ll see only the bottom of the pot when sitting down.

And finally, do add some garden accents. There’s nothing like the sound of water burbling all summer so add a water feature. Add a fire pit while you’re at it — summer evenings can be chilly, though it’s also handy to have a basket of pashminas at the ready for wrapping around your shoulders.

Lisa Rogers is the exclusive interior designer for Dunpar Homes.

Lisa has shared her style and design expertise on popular television programs, such as Canadian Living TV, House & Home TV and The Shopping Channel.

Lisa is one of the most familiar faces on CityTV’s Cityline as a regular guest expert for fashion and image, health and wellness and interior design.


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