Botanica Atlanta | Landscape Design, Construction & Maintenance

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Atlanta Garden Design

Tea with a View

Posted by Sam Valentine on July 17, 2017 at 9:40 PM Comments comments (2)


Image: Elena Svirya


Having landed in Morocco a few hours prior, my friend and I pushed through the bustling market streets of Tangier to find a good sunset perch. Our trek took us up and over hills, twisting through the ancient medina and past a few modern plazas. We had been tipped off to make a stop at the famed Café Hafa, and as we neared that pin on our map, we could feel an urban energy building.


People were descending in droves, arriving by foot, bicycle, and motorcycle on the oceanfront café that -- except for a quick read of a travel article -- we knew nothing about.



Images: Ruben Mediavilla Blanco, Bolbo Laan, and Alessandro Rumi


Entering between stuccoed walls, Café Hafa spilled down before us from the city towards the sea. As we soon realized, we were arriving at one of Tangier's best sunset-viewing venues, and doing so during Ramadan, when the day's fast is broken with the sinking of the sun. Suffice it to say we were not alone.


Café Hafa is situated on a precipice over 200 feet above the Mediterranean Sea. From this overlook, one peers out over the Strait of Gibraltar, and Spain seems so close one could (almost) imagine swimming to it. So close that it is easy to forget you are on African shores.



Image: Sam Valentine


The Café is more landscape than building. The interior shops are scattered and ancillary, places not so much to sit as to order and make payment. Meanwhile, the white-stuccoed terraces, narrow strips of masonry hugging the hillside, dominate the environmental experience. The construction is makeshift and the details quite crude. The stair tread widths and riser heights are each singular and unpredictable. The compartmentalizing walls are quite literally cobbled together. Overall the aesthetic is more ratty than refined, but somehow there is a dignified and durable undercurrent.


Each terrace is screened from the next, buffered by robust plantings of geraniums and seaside succulents. These plant masses create semi-private pockets for socializing, but they also frame views out over the Strait.



Images: Till Jacket and Xuoan Duquesne


It is rare for an American to see the sun setting over the Atlantic but arguably rarer for one to see an unpolished landscape in such high demand. As the sun sank, the Café endured as a vibrant social scene, with every chair occupied and a strong sense that the guests would linger well after their stomachs were full.



Image: Toni Pamuk

Arborsculpture

Posted by Sam Valentine on September 30, 2016 at 5:20 PM Comments comments (0)

 


Image: Wes Hanson

 

My previous posts have covered trees that look like sculpture, sculptures that look like trees, and sculpture woven from twigs and branches. Somehow I seem to have danced around a the clearest overlap: sculpture made from living, breathing trees.

 

Beginning in 1925, a Swedish-American farmer by the name of Axel Erlandson began a project at his California home. His "tree shaping" all started as a hobby, but by 1947 he had trained a veritable freak show of trees. Calling his project "The Tree Circus," Erlandson attracted local visitors and national publicity by growing trees into surprising forms.

 


Images: Axel & Wilma Erlandson and Wes Hanson

 

Tree shaping, a close relative of "pleaching," was by no means invented by Erlandson, but it is he who exposed generations of Americans to the sculptural, acrobatic forms that average trees can be forced into. With archways, basketweaves, picture frames, and what seem like extraterrestrial forms, Erlandson blurred the lines of classic gardens, creating works that were both plant and architectural folly.

 


Images: Wes Hanson

 

Some of Erlandson's sculptured trees still exist today. Thirty years ago, the pieces were moved -- or, more accurately, transplanted -- to form the central attraction at Gilroy Gardens an amusement park near San Jose, California.

 


Images: Peter Cook and Becky Northey

 

If not the works of Erlandson himself, the concept of tree shaping has influenced artists to create interesting works over the last few years. Both artists and furniture builders are employing methods similar to Erlandson's. Pooktre Tree Shapers uses a "gradual shaping method" to grow trees into predetermined sculptural forms. Another operation is using tree-shaping methods to make unique, sustainable furniture; formed like concrete or plastic but made of wood. Growing young saplings over mold-like forms means no toxic glues or binders are necessary, just pruning, training, and a massive amount of patience. Photos of their operation depict an outdoor, organic, but somehow still industrial chair factory.



Images: Full Grown

 

One artist, Richard Reames, may have found the best word for what he creates: "arborsculpture." If you are considering experimenting with this art in your own landscape, Reames warns that using the "artistic medium of a living tree" has "taught me even more about patience and acceptance than grafting and pruning."

 


Image: Heinz-Peter Bader

 

 

 


Planting in Brick

Posted by Sam Valentine on February 29, 2016 at 9:30 PM Comments comments (0)


To early philosophers, the world was comprised of just four elements: earth, water, air, and fire. Today, a chemist will more likely give you the number "118" (the discovery of four new elements was announced in December 2015). Landscape designers, however, can often perform the miracle of boiling the world down to merely three elements: hardscape, softscape, and structure.



Images: Dean Hochman, Tanaka Juuyoh, and Susanne Nilsson

 

Though lacking in scientific heft, this tripartite view of landscape is relatively convenient. "Structures" are the architectural inventions, generally vertical and walled, that can be located in the garden or form its outside boundaries. "Hardscape" elements are the seatwalls, flagstones pavers, plaza bricks, poured concrete walks, and the like that remain fixed under foot. "Softscape" components are a mixed bag of almost everything else; I have seen this category to include lawns and trees, water features, and everything in between.

 

In landscape design, things can get exciting where these three elements overlap and hybridize. Examples that come readily to mind include a flagstone path with soft moss conquering its cold stone joints; water cascading down a vertical rock face; and -- as is the focus of this post - walls made of modular bricks that can host planting.

 


Images: Micaela Nardella and Oana Tudose

 

It was an online video that tipped me off to this somewhat trending topic. The two architecture students invented "Brick Biotope," a handmade "bird-friendly brick," to integrate with the standard dimensions of a conventional brick wall. The bricks are patterned to provide room for small plants and growing media, as well as small crevices that birds can call home.



Images: Patio Town, Jensen Architects, FabArtDIY, and Rael San Fratello

 

Brick Biotope is prototypical and hand-crafted. Consequently, unless you are quite crafty yourself, it will not be seen in your garden any time soon. The experiment does, however, remind me that there are plenty of readymade products that allow you to bring vegetation to the walls of your home and garden. Aesthetic detailing of these "plantable" bricks and blocks varies greatly, as does price. On the low end of both spectrums, planting pockets can be achieved in a retaining wall by selecting certain concrete blocks. (It is arguable, though, whether these are much easier to love than roadside gabions, which also allow for some vegetation to take root.)


 


Images: Rael San Fratello

 

Use 3D-printing technology, one architecture firm has pioneered much more elegant bricks that also serve the purposes of nesting birds and holding vegetation. Each brick is a piece of sculpture in its own right, and like the Brick Biotope, these units are coordinated to interweave into a conventional brick wall.

 

One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, was built, to transform architecture into "a lush, green mountain rising up out of the desert". While we may now be in an age of jaw-dropping modern technology, the same fascination remains strong: where softscape meets architecture, inspiration abounds.

 

 


Image: Emerging Objects

 

 


Remembering a Tree

Posted by Sam Valentine on January 30, 2016 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (0)

 


Image: Rosemary Bannon Tyksinski

 

Undoubtedly, you have a favorite tree. Not just a favorite tree species, but somewhere in a nearby park, on your office or college campus, or closer to home, you likely have a favorite single specimen. Like human fingerprints, each tree's structure is distinct, and where a tree's unique visual presence is coupled with personal memories or a shared cultural significance, a truly memorable tree exists.



Images: Courtesy of the National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site

 

By some these special trees are called "legacy trees" or "witness trees," and like all good things, favored trees have an expiration date. Years ago, while working at the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, I was fortunate enough to have a witness tree just outside my office window. Standing on the site for roughly 200 years, the tree was intentionally spared when Olmsted carved an expansive lawn out of the woods on the south side of his property.

 

After reaching a beautiful state of maturity, the "Olmsted Elm's" decline was accelerated by its infection with Dutch elm disease. By the time I was finishing my internship at the Site, the tree had been deemed a public hazard, and to the sorrow of neighbors, regular visitors, and park staff, the tree had to be removed.

 

 


Images: Chris Devers, Matt Griffing, and Todd Roeth


When a legacy tree fails, replanting may seem to be the obvious choice, and it almost always is the right move, with a few important caveats: First, if the tree suffered from environmental threats, these should be resolved before the new specimen is planted. Secondly, if disease is suspected in the decline of the tree, an arborist should help to determine an alternative tree species or a disease-resistant cultivar to prevent replant infection. Finally, it's worth pointing out that the best time to plant a replacement tree is years before the legacy tree actually fails. By monitoring the older tree's decline and picking a nearby planting location for the new tree, an overlapping timeline allows the character of the landscape to recover more quickly.

 


Images: Witness Tree Project, Rhode Island School of Design

 

Besides the renewal that replanting provides, another way to carry on the memory of a beloved tree is through artistic "reincarnation." A collaborative endeavor between Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and the National Park Service, the "Witness Tree Project" brings fallen legacy trees to RISD's furniture studio. Students artists, inspired by the historic and cultural past of each tree, crafted a whimsical range of sculptures to commemorate the Olmsted Elm. Perhaps even more fitting, the presence of the tree can be reimagined in the landscape; the branches and trunk of a beloved tree can be reborn as a bench, arbor, or garden structure.

 


Image: John Taylor

A Courtyard House

Posted by Sam Valentine on July 28, 2014 at 9:10 PM Comments comments (0)


If you have heard of Philip Johnson, you know him as one of the most renowned American architects of the twentieth century. Both influential and prolific, Johnson worked creatively with a range of materials, employed (and invented) multiple architectural styles, and built at scales both intimate and gigantic.


Images: Mark Larmuseau, Carole Félix, and Archirazzi

 


With Johnson/Burgee Architects, the office he cofounded, Johnson designed with stone, glass, concrete, wood, and many combinations thereof. For an architect who built an iconic, small house almost entirely of glass that still dominate many American city skylines, it is a bit elusive to identify which building would appropriately be called his best known.

 

But for a moment let us take a look at one of his least known.

 

While walking down a street in Cambridge, Massachusetts earlier this month, I came upon a structure that seemed a bit out of place with the neighborhood. A small plaque revealed it as an early work of Philip Johnson, and as I began to research the residence I found that it is also quite unique among his body of work.

 


Images: Archirazzi & Studio4112


 

In the 1940s, while a student at the neighboring Harvard Graduate School of Design, Johnson was apparently able to win his professors' approval to design this house and have it built as his graduate thesis project. This house on Ash Street not only served as his residence for the rest of his time in Cambridge, but to historians it is notable as his first freestanding work of architecture to be built.


 


Image: LeastConsidered


 

The residence has a decidedly inward focus, and as a result, neighbors and passing pedestrians are confronted with a nine-foot tall, relatively bland wall. (It is important to note that when this outer fence was built, it was already two-feet taller than what was allowed by city law at the time.) In Johnson's own words, “People felt that it didn’t jibe with the street, and they were right-it didn’t.” In my view, the home's exterior is irresponsive to its context and proves irresponsible towards the surrounding community.


 


Image: North Carolina Modernist


 

In essence, I accept that this first foray into built work was an experiment for Philip Johnson, and while its street presence may be best described as an unfortunate side effect, there is something truly novel about what happens within its walls. Fortified by jade-green outer panels, Johnson embraced a landscaped courtyard as the living room of his home. Even on such a miniscule parcel, it is inspiring that an architect choose to focus so much attention to landscape. Within what is best considered the home's "footprint," almost two-thirds of the square footage is reserved for a simple courtyard garden. Johnson allowed a private landscape to serve as the defining element of his architectural work.



Images: Ezra Stoller

 


Walk the Planks

Posted by Sam Valentine on June 19, 2014 at 7:35 PM Comments comments (0)

 

Image: Alleys of Seattle

 

Take a moment to glance at the photograph above. It is easy to see both character and age in these materials, but while it is pretty clear that this is a time-worn pavement, it might take a bit longer to realize that these are not stone cobbles.

 

Across countries and centuries, stone, brick, or poured concretes are the mainstay choices for exterior, at-grade pavements such as roadways, sidewalks, and paved patios. But one quirky exception -- wood paving -- should be noted for its unique merits.



Images: ForgottenChicago and Slvrmn

 

Examples of wooden pavement are rare, but they still can be found scattered around the globe. One historical example can be found in mid-nineteenth century Chicago, where wood pavers were installed as significant upgrade to Chicago's existing dirt roads. Using the Nicolson Paving System, many of the city's roads were covered in wood blocks to make them cleaner, safer, and still relatively quiet for carriage traffic. It seems apparent that at that time, issues of availability were a deciding factor in the selection of wood, which Chicago's civil engineer explained when he said, "Wooden pavement(s)…have great advantages in a city, where suitable stone was scarce, where lumber was the great staple of the market."

 

Common sense tells you that for any of its advantages, wood has significant drawbacks as a pavement material. Lacking the hardness and durability of masonry materials, wood is certainly more prone to degradation from wheel, hoof, and foot traffic, and it is obviously quicker to rot. In Chicago, Nicolson slowed rotting through the application of creosote, which you probably know as the tar-like substance that seeps out of railroad ties and telephone poles this time of year.



 

Images: Emily Long, Ryan Wilson, and Nancy Regan

 

A recent project has rehabilitated one of Chicago's last remaining stretches of wooden paving. Wooden Alley, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was restored, and by selecting naturally dense and durable black locust timber, the use of toxic creosote was avoided.



Images: J. McConnell, Gabrielle Marks, and Brigitte Reiser

 

If you are seeking a paving material for a garden terrace, patio, or pathway, do not be too quick to dismiss wooden paving as an option. Depending on the needs of the outdoor feature, wood blocks might be a perfect material choice. It is lightweight, affordable, easy to install, and has the hidden advantage of developing a rich,

aged patina much more quickly than stone or brick.

 


Image: ForgottenChicago

 

 

 


Public Gardens Add Grace to our Lives

Posted by Bonnie Helander on October 23, 2013 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (2)

This past spring on a trip to see our son and wife in Virginia Beach, we stopped and visited several public gardens in North Carolina,including the Sarah P. Dukes Gardens on the campus of Duke University in Durham. This exquisite garden (really four distinct gardens) is free and open to the public and students to enjoy all year round. It was named one of the top ten public gardens in the United States by Tripadvisor.com.


During the three hours or so that we spent wandering around the 55-acre space, I enjoyed watching how a diverse group of people interacted with the garden. Students found private nooks to study for final exams. Others were jogging along the paths, dodging high school girls in vibrant-colored prom dresses that matched the flowers who were having their pictures taken. Families were picnicking and young children were fishing and enjoying the wildlife. Brides and grooms posed at lovely garden focal points to have cherished wedding photos made. Older folks sat on benches and watched the birds and the butterflies flitting around. The gardens provided the perfect backdrop for people to interact with others or just relax.



Families enjoying picnicking and feeding the ducks at the Sarah P. Dukes Gardens. (Images: Bonnie Helander)


The gardens on the Duke campus are a lovely place to get the perfect wedding shot! (Image: Bonnie Helander)



A high school girl, decked out in prom dress, gets her time in front of the camera lens.  (image: Bonnie Helander)


Many studies have documented the amazing benefits of public gardens, parks and natural spaces. They connect us to the natural environment and all the health benefits that nature supplies including fresh air, sunshine, exercise, the reduction of blood pressure and the sense of nourishing our souls. Beautiful and well-kept public spaces increase our town pride, raise property values and help reduce crime. Gardens add beauty to our lives and provide places of tranquility and relaxation.


One of the best and most comprehensive books on advocating well-designed parks, gardens and public spaces, is Parks, Plants and People: Beautifying the Urban Landscape, by Lynden Miller. (Norton/2009)  This book will give you lots of ideas on not only promoting more public natural spaces in your own hometown but ideas to make your own personal garden more beneficial to your family and friends.


Take a look at some people enjoying public gardens…


Girls picnicking and checking their social media sites at the Cheekwood Gardens in Nashville. (Image: Bonnie Helander)


Left: hiking a trail at Dunaway Gardens in Newnan; Right: Enjoying a rest duirng a garden visit. (Images: Bonnie Helander)



Left:Children decked out in Sunday finery enjoy feeding Koi at Missouri Botanical Garden. Right: Children hiking along a creek at The Biltmore Estate in Ashville, North Carolina.  (Images: Bonnie Helander)


Small boy fascinated with the garden train at Cheekwood. (Image: Bonnie Helander)



Start children out early experiencing the wonder of the natural world by taking them to explore a public garden. (Image: Bonnie Helander)



Falling for Fothergillas

Posted by Sam Valentine on October 17, 2013 at 8:05 PM Comments comments (2)



Images: Nature Project and HorticulturalArt

 

This time of year, it always seems that the trees are vying for your attention.

 

In autumn, ginkgos, American beeches, and locusts repaint their green leaves into a spectrum of golds and yellows. Sugar maples burst into yellows and reddish oranges, and red maples show off their seasonal color, which is, well, red. Even deciduous conifers, like baldcypress, get in on the action, exhibiting fall foliage that can be reddish orange or even ruby red. Like a fireworks show in slow motion, all of these colors beautifully flare up and then fall, and this seasonal show takes place in front of a reliable, bronze-brown backdrop of oaks and other hardwoods.

 

With all of this action overhead, it is all too easy to forget about the shrubs below. Autumn has a wide palette of showy shrubs, including burning bush, barberry, and red- and yellow-twig dogwoods, but perhaps my favorites are the two fothergilla species. Just a quick look at the plants' seasonal transformations -- from white flowers to blue-green spring leaves and vibrant, variegating foliage -- evidences an valuable and noteworthy landscape plant.


 

Images: John Hagstrom and Clemson Extension Home & Garden Information Center

 

Fothergillas are remarkable, and remark about fothergillas is exactly what Michael Dirr, America's woody-plant guru, does. "Among native plants I have many favorites," Dirr writes, "but (Fothergilla gardenii and Fothergilla major) are near the top." In his Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, Dirr offers a litany of reasons why the fothergilla species and their many cultivars stand strong among native shrubs.

 

Though the two species differ in height, form and leaf size, they share most landscape characteristics. Offering year-round interest, fothergillas exhibit small fragrant, bottlebrush flowers in April to early May, sometimes before fully leafing out. The leaves, which resemble those of the witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis) are a robust green in the spring, and then, as Dirr reports from his Athens garden, coloration develops in mid-November.


Images: John Hagstrom, Carex Grayii, K. Brown, and Maggie Hopper

 

When the leaves begin turning color, fothergillas are at their most striking. Though Fothergilla major is more reliable in vibrancy, both species produce "excellent fall color ranging from yellow, orange, to red," and Dirr notes that this color variety can appear not only on the same plant or same branch but often within the same single leaf.

 

The height difference between the species is important to understand. Fothergilla gardenii, native to pine savannas and wetland edges of the Coastal Plain, generally stands two to three feet tall in southeastern gardens. Fothergilla major, native to an region of the Appalachians stretching from North Carolina to northern Alabama, grows taller, reaching six to ten feet on average. "No two are exactly alike," Dirr writes, "which adds to their interest."

Michael Dirr heaps a surprising, but deserved, amount of praise on these "great American native shrubs for fall color." Virtually free of diseases and insect problems, fothergillas are a strong candidate to consider adding to your own garden. "Fothergillas," Dirr writes, "ask so little from gardeners, yet give so much; all friends should exhibit this kind of relationship." 



Image: Distant Hill Gardens

 

Character: Cobbles and Curbstones

Posted by Sam Valentine on October 8, 2013 at 11:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Every single day, visitors flock to the world's oldest cities to consume the authentic and antiquated sights, sounds, and cultural offerings. Strolling the streets of a venerable urban environment, one finds him- or herself transported to another way of life and to an earlier time period. This sensation stems from an immersive composition that can be perceived on all sides, overhead, and underfoot. While it might be the carbonara that pulls a tourist to Rome's roadsides, the wine that takes another to a Paris pavement café, and the seafood that makes you stalk Savannah's River Street, none of these flavors would hit the tongue in quite the same way without the unique backdrop of a historic city.

 



Images: Simon HW, Bikey DXBach, and Jeroen Tiggelman


 

Salvaging. Repurposing. Reclaiming. Recycling. There is a handful of terms to describe the action of relocating discarded stone curbs and paving blocks from a city street to the residential landscape. What is remarkable about installing antique road materials, though, is that these unwanted chunks of rock have the ability to bring their storied character with them into their new home.




Images: Biz Reed


 

In the garden, reclaimed granite has an array of applications that is limited only by human creativity. Granite curbs become benches and steps, cobblestones become durable, patterned paths and garden edging. In all cases, the stones' worn faces -- infinitesimally sculpted with each pass of a million wagon wheels, iron horseshoes, and daily footsteps -- can offer compelling, visible clues to the materials' centuries of earnest use.

 

 


Images: Lauren Jolly Roberts, Matthew Cunningham, and Jason Ross


 

Don't get me wrong: there is certainly a place in the landscape for concrete and even asphalt. Where curbs and cobbles are rough and uneven, aggregate-based paving surfaces can be smooth and uniform. Sometimes a tame, even surface is preferable in the landscape, and other times it is an absolute necessity. However, in these materials' consistency lies their visual blandness. Conventional asphalt paths and concrete walls and walks leave little to the imagination, and unlike with salvaged stone, age tends to erode the beauty of these sleek surfaces.

 

Stone curbs and cobbles, having endured tirelessly under winter's harsh chisel and civilization's heavy, repeated traffic, deals with age quite differently. The stains, wear, and tear that come from centuries of use only improve upon stone's rich visual character, and for every innumerable footstep that each stone has received in the past, there is the unwavering promise to endure just as many in the future.

 



Image: Chris Salt

 


The Garden the Sky

Posted by Sam Valentine on August 15, 2013 at 7:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Image: Ádám Zoltán

 

It doesn't have to be this way.

 

The balcony, named in the 1600's by the Italians and, in one form or another, likely invented whenever mankind built their first two-story buildings, is by definition a piece of architecture. It is a truly novel idea, a structure that manages to extend an interior room, offer secure, sheltered access to the outdoors, and provide an elevated platform for viewing one's surroundings. In color, form, and style, balconies -- as architectural elements -- can create interesting rhythms and engaging compositions.

 


Images: Gerry Balding, Chas Eastwood, and Dorris D.


 

While everything I have just stated is true, it seems a little one-dimensional to characterize a balcony as only a piece of architecture. While a balcony space extends the building interior and is, quite literally, a part of the house, the structure also could not and would not exist without its strong relationship with landscape.

 

Whether it is overlooking a bustling urban street, a tropical ocean-front vista, or a more familiar suburban gardenscape, a balcony is as spatially and visually reliant on the surrounding landscape as it is structurally dependent on the building walls. As far as the designer is concerned, a balcony falls into a no man's land, or perhaps an everyman's land. The most successful balconies are created when architects and landscape designers recognize the space as both an architectural extension of the garden and a critical, attractive interface between indoors and out.

 

As a landscape designer who lived far too long in an apartment with only a couple square feet of wrought-iron fire escape to call my "outdoor realm," I want to be clear that the following comparisons intend no judgment. In a typical living situation, outdoor space is a luxury, and what appears to one person as clutter is, to another, just evidence of a utilized outdoor space. With all that said, I have grouped examples of balcony treatments into three main categories, as outlined below:




Images: Villa Afrikana, Jczii, and Daria Angeli


 

Some homeowners choose to keep their balconies neat, clear, and free of detritus. Advantages of keeping a "spartan" balcony include a sense of openness, the ability to move about freely, and the possibility of focusing visitors' attentions to the surrounding landscape. 



Images: John Hugh Glen, Coralie Mercier, and Louise Best


 

On the absolute opposite end of the spectrum, there is cluttered or "maximized" balcony. These spaces are easily identified by the presence of overflowing container plantings with sprawling, jungle-like vegetation. In addition to seating, a balcony such as this may also be crowded with other uses, including laundry and household items, pet supplies, and children's toys. In many cases, these overflowing uses are symptomatic of an urban dweller. To some residents, the balcony must fulfill the purposes of an entire backyard.

 

As with most things in life, there is a middle way with balconies. An approach that is "balanced," one that weighs sensory interest and spatial freedom, is most likely to appeal to the average gardener and homeowner.

 


Images: Jorge Luis Zapico, Kenji Izumi, and BadAlley


 

Intentional arrangements of plantings, tidy but still verdant and alive, can bring life to the steel, wood, and concrete of a residential balcony. Softening and screening external views to harsh urban alleys and suburban roadways can be achieved with foliage just as effectively as in a full-scale garden. Pleasant vistas and borrowed views can be frames and emphasized with plant material, furniture, and small objets d'art.

 


Images: Paul Heneker and StreetLevel


 

Regardless of how busy or how sparse of a balcony a gardener keeps, what might be easily forgotten is the inevitable impact that a balcony treatment will have on the adjacent interior spaces. While the structure's inherent colors, forms, proportions, and size may be beyond the homeowner's (or apartment renter's) control, many other qualities of a balcony are able to be freely and creatively manipulated.

 

The miniature outdoor realm we refer to as "the balcony" is yours to reimagine, and there are a number of off-the-shelf products available, quite a few attractive precedents to look to for inspiration, and some truly experimental concepts in the works. With all of these ideas at your disposal, you should find few excuses to settle for a balcony -- even a small one -- that is boring, lifeless, or lacking your personal touch.


 


Image: Erik Hovmiller