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Flower power to brighten your balcony

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Britain’s best flower shows will soon be blooming - bursting with inspiration for visitors to recreate in their homes.

Top of the crop is the Chelsea Flower Show, taking place this year from 21 to 25 May. A highlight of the horticultural calendar, it proudly displays the best of the bunch - from award-winning garden designs to perfect potted plants.

The Royal Horticultural Society’s other shows around the country, such as Chatsworth (5-9 June), Hampton Court (1-7 July) and Wisley (3-8 September), are also guaranteed to enrich your soul with flower power.

Whether you plan to visit - or catch up with the latest gardening trends on TV or on the RHS website, these events can really inspire you to make over your own outdoor space, whatever its size.

From filling a small window box or hanging basket with summer colour, to designing a garden oasis on your balcony or patio area, urban gardening sows its own rewards, enhances your home and gives you a great sense of wellbeing.

Planting perfection can be achieved on a smaller scale - container gardens bring great pleasure, are easy to maintain and give you more time to sit back, relax and reflect during summer and early autumn evenings when the flowers are in bloom.

If you’re planning to spruce up your green space, here are some handy pointers for success:

 

  • Before you even buy your first plant or pot, consider a visit to a local horticultural show, nearby National Trust garden or take a trip to your garden centre. As well as lots of great displays of seasonal plants, rich with colour and scent, you’ll find experts on hand ready and willing to give excellent advice about container gardening and discuss ideas for transforming a smaller outdoor space
  • Gardening magazines, books and gardening websites, such as RHS are great sources of inspiration too. They offer eye-catching solutions to help you create a small garden design that suits you and your outdoor area - from sweetly-scented country cottage gardens to zen-like contemporary spaces, there’s a style for everybody’s taste.
  • Container gardening is quick and easy and perfect for patio plants - colourful annuals and half-hardy perennials. Most shrubs, climbers, herbaceous perennials, grasses and even fruit and vegetables can be grown in pots and troughs too. But check the planting advice on the plant pot labels for suitability before you buy.
  • Likewise, choose containers to fit in with your garden design - and select one or two different styles in various sizes. Whether you’re looking for something traditional like sturdy plastic, wood, glazed ceramic or terracotta, or something more contemporary like galvanised metal, local garden centres, nurseries, hardware stores and online retailers all sell a huge range of containers.
  • After deciding which plants and what type of containers will give you the best results, it’s time to go shopping. As mentioned, you’ll find lots of places selling containers. For quality plants, the best places are garden centres and nurseries, but also country markets. If you’re a bit more organised and want to plan ahead, order from seed catalogues or plant bulbs in pots early next year for great displays - but check planting advice for the correct timing.

  • To make attractive, scented and colourful blooms – consider annuals such as geraniums, petunias and fuchsias – these are summer favourites. Alliums, agapanthus, delphiniums, lavender, lupins, roses and variegated shrubs also make attractive displays. For more inspiration, visit Gardeners World.
  • When creating your new-look outdoor space, consider positioning your pots and containers around your outdoor seating, a patio set or perhaps a water feature. Having a focal point for your displays will make all the difference.
  • Hanging baskets and window boxes are an easy and cost-effective way to brighten your outdoor space. Create seasonal displays of colour with flowering plants such as lobelia, sweet peas, geraniums and begonias. Use trailing foliage plants, such as silver-leaved dichondra or variegated ivy, or trailing fuchsias or petunias, to spill over the edge and coordinate them with potted plants for a matching look.
  • Always use the recommended type of soil for your plants, and make sure there is a hole in the bottom of your pot (with a matching saucer underneath) to create drainage, Finally, find out the specific conditions in which the plant will grow well, such as full sun or shade.
  • If you have wall space on a balcony, consider flowering climbers - such as wisteria, clematis and honeysuckle. Plant them in troughs or pots and trained along painted trellis or wire.
  • If you’re looking to create something a bit more Mediterranean, and the size of your outdoor area allows, you could even plant olive, lemon or fig trees in large terracotta pots.
  • Light up your outdoor space after dark - walls and potted trees are also perfect places from which to hang outdoor lights. Strings of fairy lights, solar-operated orbs and lanterns, lanterns and tea lights in pretty holders will all create a relaxing ambience at night.
  • If you have outdoor seating, add cosy blankets and colourful cushions to really create an inviting outdoor living space.

When the planting is done, enjoy your little oasis of calm and beauty - a place for relaxing and entertaining, eating, drinking, reading - even snoozing!

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