Two magnificent early flowers on the clematis, as the rest of the vine continues upwards.

The roses start on the floor with the Duchess Cristiana, whose lanky shoots are blending in with the lower part of the climbing rose above.

Having been spoilt with glossy leaves for two years, so far this spring I’ve had black spot, powdery mildew and caterpillars. The black spot is under control, touch wood, it seemed to be mainly early foliage on the climber that was affected. Spraying with milk and water really takes care of the powdery mildew; it gets a bit stinky after a while, and I have to lug the pots inside for a shower, but it’s effective. The caterpillars seem unstoppable though.

The business end of the balcony, where we harness the power of the sun. Despite last year’s bumper tomato crop, I totally forgot to collect seeds, so this one is from the garden centre. Of the same kind though, and growing nicely. As are the chives and the parsley, also cheats from the same place, lovingly repotted (I could have done a better job with the chives, probably).

I’ve sown some sweet peas, too.

Pouting Duchess.

Lupo, the raggedy wolf of a rose bush, is in the pink.






Since I took the “feet up” approach to gardening, most of the action is happening elsewhere: blossom on trees, tulips and forsythia. The balcony is stuck in its eight-months-a-year colour range of green to maroon.

Although I do take proprietary pleasure in the new rose leaves, the photos tend to get a bit samey.

Sometimes ridiculously so – remember the sprouted bulbs, accidentally kept in room temperature all winter, that I planted at the end of February in the hope that they might flower anyway?

 Yes, what happened to them?

Not a lot.

So I’m going to plant them in the courtyard and hopefully surprise the neighbours with a small, blue guerilla border next year instead.

On the other hand, I usually worry that my geraniums are a bit too warm in the stairwell over winter, but now I’ve read that they don’t really need harsh treatment or to go dormant.

Since they don’t look too lanky or unhealthy, I’m going to stick with this new advice. What they do need, I’ve noticed, is gradual exposure to the sun – or their leaves go bloody maroon too.


Interest was lukewarm at the annual disrobing-of-the-balcony event.

Whether or not all the sackcloth and bubble wrap made a difference – at least everything is alive and growing. Including the clematis (on the floor) emerging for the sixth year from that little base of twigs.

I also unravelled a very raggedy-looking Lupo. I’ll have to cut that back.

The top of Herzogin Cristiana in the foreground, Cubana in the background.

I’ll just put my feet up then, and wait until it’s time to get some companion plants.

img_3965A ranunculus and twigs salvaged from the office flower arrangement on Friday afternoon. Gather ye rosebuds while – and where – ye may.

img_3991Not that there isn’t life on the balcony; the roses all have little pink shoots. Cubana (above) is way ahead of the the big roses, probably because it’s sheltered and warm on the window ledge. One pale green shoot was even growing inside the window frame, I noticed, when I cleaned the windows on the first warm day of the year.

img_4003Ah, the bulbs… As usual, I bought a supermarket mix in early autumn but promptly forgot about it, so the bulbs never got planted and spent all winter in their box at room temperature. I found them in February and most of them had sprouted. It was hard frost outside, so I popped them in pots at the top of the stairs instead. I couldn’t really find any conclusive information on the internet about what will happen next – am I just growing some leaves or will they flower? Well, now they’re out on the balcony at least.

Still stuck in the stairwell – the stalwart pelargoniums.




Apart from Lupo – good flowerer, attracts bees, hips look nice in a flower arrangement and light up winter – is there anything this rose can’t do?

img_3877A few forlorn paw prints in the snow.

img_3876Evergreen leaves on the ivy and hellebore – but very stiff.

img_3823I had been thinking to myself, and remarking to others, that it was soon time to winter the balcony. Then all of a sudden it became very chilly and I remembered I had pelargoniums and dwarf roses left fending for themselves along the balcony railing. Things have been running a bit wild out there; once the big roses finished blooming and the harvest was taken care of, I stopped fussing.

So I had a busy Saturday morning, whipping the pelargoniums into the stairwell (no one seems to mind), clearing out annuals and preparing the perennials. Although tucking the pots up in bubble wrap, coir mats and sackcloth feels good, in an anthropomorphising sort of way, I realise at most it will protect them from too frequent thaw-freeze-cycles. As usual, I pin my hopes on the balcony maintaining its own microclimate along the wall.


img_3829Still a warm autumn light on a freezing November morning. It will get warmer again before winter sets in, of course.

img_3819Rosy cheeks on Lupo. I wonder how it will fare, it’s supposed to be very hardy – but that’s in the ground.



Ok, the Protea and the purple berries are from the flower shop, but the rest is from the balcony, including the ivy (which has been in exile in the courtyard over summer) and the rose hips.

IMG_3700The Cubana flowering tirelessly.

IMG_3707Also in abundance are the tomatoes; with three plants this year I wanted to have enough for cooking, and I did. I picked off enough to make just under two litres of sauce and when I got back after the weekend the plants already looked like this:

IMG_3702Shortly hereafter, the one on the left toppled and left me with the harvest in the top photo, which is now just sitting on the counter.

Late summer means more debris and more insects. Anyone recognise this guy?






IMG_3661It’s the Nightshades, Solanaceae, that are heralding the changing of the seasons on the balcony. Not wholly unwelcome of course – I can’t wait for the tomatoes to fully ripen, and I know the brilliant orange of the trusty physalis will be more or less alone in lighting up the balcony once the great greyness descends.

IMG_3662As a further harbinger of autumn, I found a tiny little mushroom patch down by their roots.






IMG_3568The climbers reach their peak early – but jolly good show!