Charlie McCormick's tips for a balcony garden


29 Jan 2018

Do you covet 's Georgian parsonage in Dorset? Well, make sure you also take a look at his Bloomsbury flat. Its accompanying balcony garden is lovingly tended by Ben's husband , a cook, florist and avid gardener. Charlie's enthusiasm for all things floriferous is contagious. Here he shares with us his top tips for making the most of a small city garden or balcony.

Read our favourite extracts from Ben Pentreath's blog

Assess your space

You can rarely choose which direction your garden, balcony or terrace is going to face so adapt your planting to suit its situation and exposure to sun and shade. Hostas are good in the shade and they are particularly easy to grow (just beware of slugs - ). A surprising number of perennials enjoy a spot away from direct sunlight. Foxgloves, agapanthus, lavender and star jasmine are good in sunny locations.

Our London balcony garden is split into two levels. The lower level is for sitting so we have a small table and chairs in the middle surrounded by clematis and jasmine and lots of pots. The climbers offer privacy. The upper level is reached by steep metal staircase and this is where we have large planters filled with vegetables and flowers for cutting.

Plot your pots

Accessibility can affect small spaces so it's good to have a think about what size planters to use on a balcony or small deck and also consider how the garden is going to be watered before installing them. Pots dry out quickly so will need regular watering in the warmer months. It's worth putting a simple automated watering system if you know you will occasionally be away or don't fancy endless trips with a watering can.

Mix it up

At the moment I'm growing a mixture of perennials, bulbs, trees, succulents, box, climbers and vegetables. I like the variety. Generally I plant bulbs in the winter, annuals and vegetables in the spring (I bring on my seedlings inside so they are ready to plant out once the bulbs go over). I will then harvest veg through summer and autumn and start with the bulbs again in winter. The advantages of a small outdoor space is that they are quite easy to maintain, giving you plenty of time to potter and enjoy the space.

Hunt out the best tools of the trade

I like to look in junk shops and vintage fairs for interesting planters and old terracotta pots. A good pair of secateurs are a must - Japanese brand are the best. Sometimes the best tools are not necessarily purpose-made - a from an equestrian shop is a good alternative to a hoe to get weeds out of hard places and unwanted ivy off walls. Our trellis panels and large black planters are from - they have a great range of sizes and colour options.

Have courage

Try things. Trial and error is all part of the process. Foxgloves are very easy to grow and their spires look majestic towering from pots instead of a traditional border. Let things go to seed and spread - see what happens!

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