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A PATIO OR BALCONY GARDEN

You found the perfect apartment! All the amenities; pool, gym, tennis court. It couldn’t be better. You move in and unpack. After awhile, the ‘new’ wears off, and you look for ways to improve your home. If you had a yard, you’d plant a garden. It’d sure be nice to have some wildlife outside. Maybe just a little butterfly or hummingbird garden? I’ve received many questions regarding butterfly gardens in small places. "Can I have a butterfly garden in a postage stamp backyard?" "I live in an apt, can I grow a butterfly garden?" "Can I grow butterfly plants in containers?" YES, you can! Almost every butterfly nectar and host plant can be grown in containers. Even if you live in a high rise building, many butterflies are high flyers, and will visit balconies way up there. They’ll even lay eggs, if you provide the right host plants. Your only limit is your imagination.

You’ll need a lot of containers and some good potting soil. I mean GOOD soil, not the .99 bargain bag. I like Miracle Gro potting soil for my containers. Your containers will have to be 10 inches and larger. Take advantage of vertical space too, with hanging pots. Remember; you can plant more than one type of plant in a container. Just as in an ‘inground’ garden, the same rules apply: Plant in waves of color, not one plant here and one there. Fill a couple of 10-inch pots with Ageratum or Marigolds. In your hanging baskets, fill them with Lantana, Verbena, Petunias, or Alyssum. It’s important to choose a few species and have several containers of the same thing, rather than a dozen different pots of a dozen different plants.

How many containers you have, depends on how much room and time you have. If you can only have one container, try planting a purple Butterfly Bush in a 14-inch container, and under planting with white Alyssum, in the same container. But you can also plant parsley instead of Alyssum if you want Black Swallowtail caterpillars. If you have more room, get a few six or nine packs of annuals: Marigolds, Dianthis, Cosmos, Zinnias, or Gazania Daisies. Plant the whole pack in a large container (you can space them more closely than the tag calls for). This will give you instant color and fill the container. If you have more money and space, look at the gallon size perennials. Coneflowers will look good in the middle of a large container, surrounded by any low growing (maybe trailing) plant you choose. Even vines, like Passionvine will grow fine in a large container with a trellis inside it.

There are a few things to remember: Containers dry out quickly, and need watering more often than in-ground gardens. You can mulch the tops, to help retain moisture. Drainage is a MUST – ensure your containers have good drain holes, if they don’t, drill some in. Butterflies like the sun, so full sun is best, but you might have to water twice a day. Fertilizer will be less, but more often. If you use the blue powder, use half-strength, and weekly instead of bi-weekly. If you start with a good potting soil, maybe with compost mixed in, fertilizer won’t be such a big thing. Overwatering is the most common cause of death in container plants. I don’t think outside containers have as much of a problem as inside plants, but allow the soil to dry out some between waterings (not usually a problem in the hot sun).

Currently, I have several plants in containers. I like to move them to bare spots in my garden or on the patio. I have Pentas, Butterfly Bush, Milkweed, Parsley, Lobelia, Porterweed, Fan Flower, Salvia and Marigold (together in one container), Calamondin (orange) tree, Rue, and Mint. All grow just fine in the containers. Actually, the Rue is doing better now, since I dug it out of the ground and put it in the container – it’s even flowering!

Picture several hanging baskets with trailing flowers, and lots of colorful containers sitting closely together on a balcony. Pretty, huh? Now add butterflies and hummers to this picture. And add yourself, sitting on a bench on the same balcony. OH! And don’t forget the lemonade!!!!! (Sigh…..)


PREVIOUS ARTICLES:
The butterfly house  May 2000
Unlocking the mysteries of a seed  Apr 2000
The art of companion planting  Mar 2000
What the heck is a host plant?  Feb 2000
What is a butterfly garden?  Jan 2000

Next month's article????  Any ideas????????


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