Balcony and Rooftop Gardening

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

Sky-High View

A rooftop patio space offers soothing respite.

  • Pea 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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