Architectural Plants as Focal Points
Flowering plants are not the only ones that will embellish balconies and. There are also striking foliage plants that will provide a framework, background and contrast, as well as greenery all year round in the case of evergreens. If you look around you will notice plants with the most remarkable colours and forms that offer amazing possibilities for many locations, including shady corners.
What gives a plant its architectural quality is its habit. This may be spherical, columnar, erect or trailing. Whatever it is, if it is strongly defined it will create a focal point on the balcony or terrace. The concept of texture depends on a combination of the colour and the smoothness or roughness of the leaves. The leaves may be one colour only or variegated, and with a rough, smooth or shiny surface. The shape too can vary enormously: large and round, serrated or finely feathered, to name but a few. The budding leaves of hostas and ferns are quite a sight in themselves.
You many need just one architectural plant as a focal point on a balcony or terrace but sometimes groups work better. Delicate ornamental grasses such as Pennisetum combines very well with other plants while creating an interesting contrast. Different textures often only work if they are repeated several times. Single plants are not as eye-catching as groups of plants – this is even more true if the plant is small. In this case it is best use plants of similar appearance but in larger numbers to avoid an excessively busy effect. For instance, the dark leaves of bergenias placed next to the yellow-variegated leaves of Salvia ‘Icterina’ will create an interesting contrast. Similar leaf shapes in different colours, as can happen withfor instance, may also be very attractive.
Container plants are very versatile and will give a lot of pleasure. They can be endlessly re-arranged according to your whim or fancy. Mediterranean and sub-tropical plants will remind you of wonderful holidays while evergreens will provide greenery all year round. Many of our traditional pot plants are native to warmer climes. In their native habitat they grow in the wild as perennials but where the climate is cooler they must be over-wintered in a light, frost-free room between October and May. As a rule of thumb: the brighter the room where the plants over-winter, the more water they will need. But only water when the root ball is dry. Continue to watch out for pests even when the plants are over-wintering indoors. If space is at a premium, there are species that can be pruned before you bring them indoors. The plants can be returned to the terrace or balcony again after mid-May when there is no longer any danger of frost. Put the plants out on a cloudy day so that they have time to get accustomed to the light and do not get sun-scorched.
Frost-hardy container plants bring a double benefit: you enjoy your shrub or tree all year round and you save yourself the trouble of bringing the plants in and out again. However, even these need some protection during winter. The roots of container-grown plants are more exposed and therefore more vulnerable during prolonged periods of frost than those growing in flowerbeds. It is therefore advisable to insulate the container adequately against frost. Remember also that evergreen plants should still be watered during winter, although this should be carried out only on frost-free days.