One of the most popular romantic scenes in literary history is set in a balcony! It’s from Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Romeo and Juliet. A love-struck Juliet, unaware of Romeo’s presence beneath, mouths the famous lines standing on her balcony: “O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?” Romeo looks up at her, and mesmerised by her beauty and charm, declares his love for her too.
Cut to the present century. Think rows of identical balconies jutting out from high rises that hog every bit of available space in an urban sprawl painfully devoid of greenery. A far cry from the Shakespearean era ornate balcony overlooking a lush yard, such present day balconies evoke not profound outpourings of such grand emotions. Sigh! An oft-neglected part in an otherwise well-maintained furnished flat, they are mostly utilitarian and drab. A majority of us simply use them for drying clothes and storing stuff like a spare cylinder, bundles of old newspapers, magazines and plastic bottles before discarding or selling them to the junk man. A tulsi or money plant may occasionally feature in some, however, overall they cut a sorry picture that would inspire none.
The busy schedule of inhabitants and space crunch – bane of modern urban life – are to be blamed for it. But with a little bit of initial investment and effort, such outdoor extension of the flats can be transformed into a beautiful, green relaxing space. Hence, without further ado, here are a few easy tips to sow the seeds of transformation.
SORTING THE EXISTING MESS
Start by putting in order the existing things. Buy a retractable clothesline (if you do not have one already), which can be fixed to the railings, walls or even ceilings, to make more space. A wide array are already available in the market.
Sorted on that front, focus on other things. Build a small rack that can fit in all that you want to store. Hire the services of a carpenter to get a customized one. Getting a fresh coat of paint for the balcony walls and railings is a great idea too.
BASIC ASSESSMENT FOLLOWS NEXT
Before you begin buying stuff, assess your balcony. If you are lucky enough to have a spacious one, a lot of things can be accomplished – from a range of plants to a coffee table set and even a small fountain. However, if space is tight, it’s best not to clutter it with too many things.
In order to green your veranda, you need to track the course of sunlight during the day and the force of wind blowing across it. You also need to check if it is fully or partially covered and how that affects the flow of light, wind and rains. Armed with the basic knowledge, start drawing a plan.
PLANNING ON PLANTS
Plants can breathe a new life into your balcony. But creating a verdant outdoor space is a whole new ballgame altogether. With proper sun, you’ll be spoilt for a choice and be easily be able to grow a wide mix of plants, seasonal as well as perennial. Roses, marigolds, sunflowers, daisies, bougainvillea, night jasmine, hibiscus and many more seasonal flowering plants are perfectly suited for the Indian summers and winters. Team them with money plants, ferns, bonsai, creepers and climbers for a colourful canvas.
Without ample sunlight, options could be slightly limited. However, that shouldn’t prevent you from creating a thriving garden. There are a variety of plants like aloe vera, bamboo palm, money plants and snake plants are quite sturdy and require very little light to grow. And the fact that they are good air purifiers is the icing on the cake!
If yours is a windy balcony, try growing cacti, bonsai with thick stalks or ornamental grasses (which acts like a bulwark).
An important tip: your local nursery would be able to guide you best regarding the plants, the soil required and their care.
Time permitting, give a shot at growing vegetables too. Chillies, tomatoes, potatoes, spring onions, curry leaves, spinach and herbs like methi and coriander leaves grow amazingly well in the Indian soil and climate. Such home-grown fresh produce is healthy and makes food taste better. And, you don’t need to buy most seeds as they can be got from available vegetables at home.
FINAL TOUCHES – PLANTERS, FURNITURES AND DECORATIVE ITEMS
Aesthetics are important. All your efforts would turn futile if your flower pots are tasteless and scattered carelessly across the floor space. Depending upon the budget, buy something fancy to suit your space. Hanging pots, pyramid planters, railing or grill planters are perfect for a constricted area. Spare bottles and cans can be recycled too with a little bit of creativity – that’s a good way to utilize your downtime too.
This would free up space, which can be used for a small coffee table set, a swing or a couch where you can rest after a day’s hard work to satisfactorily gaze at the fruits of your labour.
Additionally, you can invest in lighting and decorative pieces. For example, use a wall mirror, a small fountain, or a lamp to highlight your greens after sunset. But, overall try to keep it minimal and elegant.
TENDING AND CARING
Plants need to be cared for. It’s not a herculean task, though. You just need to water them from time to time. In case you have a busy schedule, try plants that require less water or using a single pot to grow many plants. Use a plate beneath your pots to make sure muddy water isn’t all over the balcony floor right after watering. Try adding compost or changing the soil in a couple of months to give the plants a more luscious texture.
Tending the plants and decking up your balcony is considered therapeutic. So instead of remaining hooked to your smartphone, partake in a real life and shape your own little paradise. Who knows what profound feelings it would inspire as you sit in the terrace with a cuppa!