Zen Luxury. Creating a Garden that is Lush. Easy. Peaceful.

Zen Luxury.  Creating a Garden that is Lush.  Easy.  Peaceful.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

June 17 - Garden Needs a Haircut

My balcony garden was in need of an adjustment.

I’m not talking about the normal maintenance issues (which I’ll cover on another post), I’m talking about some major adjustments. Just as the chiropractor realigns the spine, or a hairdresser cuts the hair back into proportion, my plants needed an evaluation and some renewal.

What stays? What goes?

The following full photos clearly show a few bare spots where nemesia has died back and the zinnias are failing. I see too much purple on the right side of the balcony and too much orange on the left.I'm losing height as the lovely gerberas are turning down their displays. Along with uneven trailers, I notice some height “issues” where plants did not grow as expected and my window boxes look unbalanced. Unbalanced? I know, I know! Me talking about “balance” in a garden dedicated to lush abandonment seems like a contradiction. Yet, is it a contradiction?

Over the course of the first 6 weeks of this garden’s progress, certain plants grew well while others failed. Nature does its thing, even right here in my own small garden space.

At what point do I, as the gardener, make some major changes?

Could I achieve the balance and perspective that is pleasing to my eye while still allowing lush wildness, a sense of mystery and the ability to acknowledge horticultural surprise, and do this all in a 5’ X 10’ balcony?

In my artist’s eye, I desire the perspective of any container to grow as high, or slightly higher, than the depth of the container. Accordingly, for my 7” deep window box, I desire that the center plants grow about 8 – 12”. I also strive to encourage trailers to drip down about 2/3 of the container height (see also my How To Plant a Container Garden for details about the well-known Thrillers, Fillers and Spillers).

In order to make these major adjustments and removals (heads will roll, I’m telling you now!), I headed back out to my two favorite nurseries in search for replacement nursery stock. In my mind, I am seeing some tall foliage plants and/or tall orange flowering plants (zinnias perhaps?). Ugh, who knew the quality of the plants would be so poor? The nursery “season” for the sale of small plants (3” pots or 6-pack annuals) is obviously OVER. Already? Focus appeared to be on some very lovely, large hanging baskets that do not suit my mood or my environment. I’m bummed as I continue to shop. What I found were lots of impatiens (NO thank you), oodles of coleus (grabbed the biggest, darkest ones I could find) and the standard zinnias, marigolds and ageratums. Sigh. At the second nursery, I see a small inventory of failing calibrachoa -- my now favorite plant. I am, once again, predictably over-purchased. Therefore, I need to be ruthless and really do a Search and Replace here in my own garden.

What plants no longer bring me joy?

Today’s Haircut Plan:

  1. Eliminate what is not performing and replace with known performer

  2. Adjust the height by adding tall specimens into 3 window boxes

  3. Adjust the trailers both outside, and inside, the railings

  4. Adjust some color dominance

  5. Check the pansies and remove any gone full into seeding

Various Gardener Notes:

Are you cracking up because you cannot believe that a small-space gardener would actually have a workplan for the day? Ah, we do create them and our execution is quite short. I spent 2 hours on the balcony doing this remove, readjust and rebalance festival. A portion of that time included my photography, my video on the outside of the window boxes (see next post) and watering my newly disturbed containers. My total work effort for this balcony garden in 2010 is 6-8 hours for the May creation and the mid-June adjustment. Not bad! My futzing, putzing and consistent pinching/pruning time is not included as I view my doting as the meditation of the garden.

For those of you who are avid gardeners, I know you are cringing when you see I have placed coleus right next to gerbera, croton and calla lily. Don’t they have very different sun requirements? Yes! I’m experimenting here. These railing boxes get 3 hours of direct sunshine, otherwise they only receive bright light or filtered sun.

BTW, the calla lilies no longer bloom, though they are happily growing as foliage plants and ya know what? I think they look darn good.

I found no other suitable tall foliage plants and the zinnia stock was not suitable. I purchased dark coleus for height and contrast of color and if the coleus experiment does not work, I’ll go back to adding in some crotons. Crotons are lovely plants with super colors, they just do not grow for me and the leaves they lost have not been replaced. What I love about the common coleus is that every time you whack off the top of that plant, it simply grows double the amount of leaves. That’s a wonderful thing.

Oh if only I could find the way to double my investment portfolio this easily!


  1. Hello Joan. It´s me, Danielita. Your garden looks great so I´d like to ask if I may use these photos, hm?

  2. What a beautiful garden! I would have loved to walk there, and see all the gorgeous flowers! Thanks for sharing

  3. Your garden looks fab! What kind of brackets are you using to hold the planters on the outside of the rail?