Getting the balcony garden ready for winter and spring

Well, growing season is definitely over and my non-frost-resistant containers are all empty and safe in the basement. Needless to say, out balconies look rather sad now.
Except for the hydrangea, there was not much going on anymore... we entered a balcony wasteland. And I got really grumpy looking out on the grey concrete. Things had to change. I wanted something to catch my interest now and also during winter as well as some pretty bright flowers to enjoy in early spring next year.
To be fair, we do not know where we will live next spring. Stronger even, we will most definitely have moved somewhere else by then. But containers are easy to move so I thought planting them up will cheer up any new place we will move to, no wasted money here.

See? Boring, sad and very empty balcony:

The hardwood tiles are our addition. The actual balcony surface is grey-coated concrete. The wood was really nice this summer and felt great when walking on it with bare feet. We loved it. Defninitely a keeper and a very easy way to improve your balcony.

Now, on to the planting. Both "Gardener's World" and "Beechgrove Garden" had a segment lately in which they cover bulb planting in containers. The good thing about bulbs is that they do not grow massively. All their power is contained in the bulb and apart from some roots for water absorption, they do not spread out much. This means you can put a lot of bulbs in one container without overcrowding. And when you choose a nice mix of early and late blooming plants, you will have a continouus display of flowers all spring until you can start planting out the first veg.

Here is what I did.

I had two containers. A frost-resistant blue one and a tin one. I found that I really love the rustic charme of tin and this year slowly expanded my collection. You will see more tin later in this post.

My bulbs came from a Dutch online shop: Vreekens zaden. It took a while for them to arrive because they had a lot of orders to deal with, so keep this in mind when ordering.
From left to right:
  • Early small Iris reticulata "Harmony"
  • Nacissus "Tete-a-tete"
  • Tulips "Mount Tacoma", white
  • Crocus "Yellow Giant"

I started planting the later bulbs first, as Monty Don explained. And if Monty says so, it must be right ;) 
The blue pot is a very nice radiant blue and I wanted to add a bit more color by adding bright yellow flowers. So the lower layer consists of the narcissus, followed by some soil and then the yellow crocus. Top it up with some more soil and the job is done. 

This combination of blue and yellow should make for some nice and vibrant colors in the middle of the cold, wet Dutch spring.

For the tin container I chose a different combination.

Here, the white tulips went in first, followed by the Iris on top. So in spring we will first have the nice, deep blue Iris that should go well with the yellow from the crocus and narcissus. And then, when the narcissus are almost gone, the beautiful white tulips will emerge. I think they will look stunning in the tin container.

The containers are not so interesting right now, since it looks like there is only soil in them. Maybe I can come up with a solution for winter like adding pine and holly together with some christmas tree balls. Not sure yet.

To keep the balcony looking nice, I also made a display in yet another tin container. This container stands on the other balcony, next to the kitchen. I cook fresh every night and so I look at this balcony a lot.
The hydrangea and a little decorative grass were the only plants on it and together, they looked a bit "unfinished".
So I took the container that had the lady's mantle in it, removed the plant and replanted it. The lady's mantle was really looking sad and when removing the plant, I found out why... there was barely soil in it, only sand and gravel. Oh well, it was a gift, so I shall not complain. But this is not a good way to plant ;)

Now, the container houses a little cypress tree, some frost-resistant heather and two decorative grasses. These plants will look interesting all winter long, with snow or ice on them. They have lovely textures and can stand the weather without looking drab. I even found a little solar-powered string of lights to decorate the cypress tree with come christmas.

So there you have it. Sorry for the very long post, but I did not really write about the balcony garden in a long time...