Balcony and Rooftop Gardening

If you don't have a ground-level yard, a balcony or rooftop can supply space for growing and gathering.

By Kelly Roberson


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Balconies and Rooftops
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Sky-High View

    A rooftop patio space offers soothing respite.

    Gravel is an interesting alternative to hard-surface flooring. It provides a softer floor for feet and offers excellent drainage, too.

    Built-in brick planters create a textural counterpoint to the poured concrete walls.

    In tall spaces such as rooftops, trees are essential for shade and privacy.

    Select sturdy outdoor furniture that can hold up to high winds and other tough weather.

    A soft groundcover shields the ground around the container-planted trees.

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An Intimate Nook

    A small balcony provides a just-right open-air hideout.

    There are a host of all-weather rugs that are beautiful and heavy-duty. This one picks up on the neutral palette in the cushions.

    In place of built-ins, furniture placement orients the view on this balcony.

    Dwarf tree and shrub varieties are top picks for balconies; they offer contained growth while softening the edges of a landscape.

    Another good option for balconies: moveable benches, which provide both extra seating and table surface.

    To stash outdoor accessories in the off-season, a coffee table opens up for storage.

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Skyline Scenery

    Plants and water add beauty to this rooftop space.

    A narrow, raised water garden provides a textural and visual contrast to plant and hardscape elements.

    In place of additional containers, a raised bed elevates a pretty collection of flowers.

    A fire pit -- either gas or wood -- is a welcome element on a balcony. It should be constructed and built out of materials that meet local fire codes.

    Colored gravel delivers a subtle (and soft) accent underfoot.

    Containers are a good option for rooftops: They're moveable, can be planted with annuals or perennials, and come in a variety of sizes and materials.

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Veranda View

    A pretty city scene acts as backdrop to a slim dining area.

    This rooftop oasis is divided into two sections -- one, a sheltered sunroom and the other a rooftop dining space. Get the look with an artful use of furnishings or other room accents, such as rugs.

    Break up large expanses of boring walls with outdoor-friendly ornaments, such as this large metal star.

    Electrical wiring is a welcome addition to rooftops or balconies; here, wall-mounted lights offer safety and ambiance.

    Out of sight when the sun is welcome and warming, a retractable shade provides relief when rooftop rays shine too strong.

    A collection of easy-care ferns in containers provides a dose of greenery.

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Bewitching Balcony

    Simple is often better, as demonstrated by these rooftop material and plant choices.

    Clever plantings can offer a welcome barrier in rooftop spaces. Here, a long container planted with vigorous bamboo shields the view.

    In place of an ordinary wood wall, glass blocks deftly allow in sunlight while providing a visual screen.

    Hardworking evergreens supply unusual ornamentation and year-round structure.

    Flowers get plenty of acclaim in the landscape, but varying foliage can provide plentiful visual interest, too.

    Depending on style inclinations, wood can be left to weather a soft gray or refinished regularly to maintain a rich color.

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Better Balcony

    Planters work wonders to soften the sweeping balcony space.

    A subtle change in material -- large, regular pavers merge into a soft border of river rock -- keeps a large expanse of flooring from looking boring.

    A series of planters in various sizes defines the edges of the balcony.

    Benches (and high metal and wire railing) offer a safe perch for enjoying the view.

    A trellis delineates a separate dining space on the rooftop.

    Use a variety of plant types -- dwarf trees, shrubs, a few perennials and annuals -- to draw the eye around, up, and through a balcony space.

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A Cut Above

    An array of hardscape elements supplies interesting spots to enjoy the view.

    A subtle shift in grade -- one step up -- defines relaxing and gathering spaces from the dining area.

    On rooftops, providing relief from direct sun can be key to comfort. Try a pergola to shield a patio set.

    Rambling vines add subtle color shifts to the trellised sides of the pergola.

    A collection of rocks and boulders provides another option to increase visual variety.

    Wiring a balcony or rooftop for electricity should be part of any design plans; outlets here are hidden on the grade step-up.

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Pool Patio

    Water and containers dress up a rooftop area.

    On a balcony or rooftop, a water feature can help to quiet surrounding urban sounds and create a focal point.

    Containers -- even for large trailing vines -- offer an alternative if it's too difficult (or budget restrictive) to bring large quantities of soil to the rooftop.

    Depending on style and visual preference, a variety of materials can be used as a trellis. Here, wire offers a lighter, more airy structure.

    A combination of built-in benches and portable chairs increases the flexibility of seating arrangements.

    Container plants and shrubs work in tandem with the trellis to screen the view.

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Slim Style

    Restrained materials and plants furnish a sliver of space with graceful style.

    A uniform selection of plants can create a contemporary-style space. Here, a solid row of evergreen shrubs provides a stunning minimalist border.

    A mixed bag of rail materials offers visual interest, too, such as the metal railing paired with a raised wood bed.

    A subtle border of river rock defines the edge of the square paving.

    Planted with dynamic grasses and colorful flowers, a few moveable containers add pops of color and structure.

    Fabric and furnishings reinforce the design choices in a balcony. Here, teak chaise lounges and sage green pillows maintain the clean-line aesthetic.

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A Terrific Terrace

    Plants and a pergola contribute to a lively rooftop.

    Plants and hardscape elements can define areas of a rooftop that are more or less exposed. Here, a pergola and plants shield the space from overhead and one side.

    A trellis marks a shift in outdoor spaces, from seating to dining to relaxing.

    The space between two columns of a pergola offers a natural nook for a bench.

    Wood (used as flooring) was also used in planters to create a cohesive look.

    A collection of plants in containers dramatically increases the "plantable" area of a rooftop space.

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