Ideas other than plants for decorating balconies?

tinanJuly 15, 2012

Our townhome has 2 giant balconies (one off each bedroom) in addition to the front and back patio/garden areas. We don't use the balconies at all, since we have a nice patio that is more easily accessible and spacious.

I may add some planters but don't look forward to watering all the hard to reach plants. However I know the best thing to dress it up is probably a planter full of nice tumbling red flowers.

I would like some ideas on any alternative decor that could help make the balconies look less empty/boring, but low maintenance. THere is an HOA which forbids umbrellas on balconies (due to them blowing onto neighbors due to wind, I guess) and an awning - which I have considered - would require architectural board permission and I am not sure if it would be approved because it would be a big impact on the curb appearance.

Here's a photo taken before we bought it, showing the front balcony.

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juliekcmo

If you do plants, I would think you would water them from inside the home, bringing a pitcher of water through the bedrooms.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 7:53AM
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graywings123

How about exterior wall art hung on both sides of each set of doors? Look at these ideas from Frontgate.

Here is a link that might be useful: Frontgate exterior wall decor

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 8:10AM
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mclarke

My last house had second-floor windowboxes which looked wonderful when they were full of greenery and flowers. Unfortunately, it was impossible to keep real flowers in the boxes, for the same reasons you mention.

So I went to Michaels and bought a nice selection of "silk" flowers, greenery, and florists' foam bricks (to hold the flowers in place). I arranged everything in the window boxes. They looked great! From the street, the flowers looked real.

I didn't think the flowers would last very long, out there in the weather... but to my surprise, they lasted more than seven years. From time to time, I would bring them in and wash them in the kitchen sink.

They still looked great when we left. The people who bought the house asked that we leave the flowers for them, and we did.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 8:11AM
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ellendi

Furniture? Even though you say you don't use them, a small bistro set could fill up space.
For the one facing the street, maybe some outdoor art on the walls flanking the sliders.
I personally would prefer plants. A few window boxes with tumbling flowers would look great. Not sure where you are, if you have winter, you can plant little ever greens.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 8:22AM
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emagineer

Possible to use some of the fake cactus? They come in all sizes and are looking close to real. Plus the succulants which have many colors could be put in window boxes. I'm not a fan of fake plants, but these are tough to distinguish between fake and real. Add some full door shutters, preferably to the style of home in wood. A couple of wrought iron chairs with bright colors or prints you enjoy.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 8:59AM
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bronwynsmom

I would suggest investing in four big fiberglass pots - in a simple gray stone colored Tuscan style, or a plain faux slate cube...and four trees, appropriate to your climate, one on either side of your two sliders.

If you plant them carefully, and put a layer of small stones on top of the soil once they are planted to prevent the soil from splashing, their maintenance will be minimal - just a yearly feeding, and some water maybe once a week when it's dry.

The simple forms and the scale would be perfect for the spot, and much less fiddly than a lot of plants - and it would take a LOT of plants to make any impact up there.

What zone are you in? If your climate allows, ficus or citrus trees are lovely and evergreen. Small Japanese maples would also be wonderful, although they are deciduous, and would be bare in winter, but their forms can be great then, and their colors are beautiful and change through the seasons. If you want some flowers, any of the prunus group - flowering plum or cherry - could be a good choice, and their pink-to-lavender colors would look lovely against your house.

In any case, something big enough to fill the space, but with a soft open profile (rather than a dense stiff conifer) would look great, and after the inital investment, relatively maintenance free in both cost and effort.

Here are some examples of what I'm imagining - but there are many more.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 9:23AM
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susieq07

A nice long flower box attached to the outside of the railing, with an array of colors, would look awesome even from the street..

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 10:59AM
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tinan

I forgot to mention - I am in California zone 8, rainy cool winter but no frost, warm dry dry spring summer fall with a few really hot days. The front balcony gets sun from 11am-sunset and it gets HOT up there!

Also the HOA prohibits flower boxes on top of or attached to railings, so I am restricted to having them on the balcony deck (up against the railing so the flowers can tumble through) and I have to ensure that they do not drain onto the deck/cause water retention on the wood.

I was thinking Ivy geraniums in those "self watering" planters. Otherwise, I'd have to water them several times a day and even then the sun just scorches some container plants with so much exposure.

I like the idea of 2 tall evergreen trees on either side of the doors, I'll look for something appropriate!

Wall art I have to check on the HOA rules, I am not sure if I can do that either. Trellises need HOA permission I think anything affixed to the stucco is a concern.

Maybe a bistro set (to make it look used even if it's not), tall evergreen topiary/shrubs on either side of the doors and then the flower boxes up against the rails?

This balcony is the most anyone sees of our unit from the street so I want it to look a lot nicer. of course we have power washed the stucco and the balcony and replaced the awful plastic vertical blinds that were there in the photo, so it already does look better :)

Any suggestions on a good place to find a cute bistro set for a low price, only has to look good from a distance (I don't care if it's comfortable, since we likely will never actually sit there) - and coordinates with the mission style of the building?

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 1:33PM
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Fun2BHere

Going along with Bronwynmom's idea, lemon trees do wonderfully well in full sun and don't require a lot of water. Another fairly well-behaved citrus is kumquat. The advantage of both is that you can actually use the fruit from the trees in your cooking.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 2:28PM
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bronwynsmom

Zone 8? I'd plant Meyer lemons. Gorgeous and delicious.
Or avocados.
Or dwarf oranges.
Might as well grow something you can eat!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 2:52PM
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graywings123

Viewing a bistro set at an angle from the ground, passersby are going to see the undersides of a bunch of chair and table legs.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 2:53PM
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tinan

I can't do fruit trees on the balcony - citrus trees around here produce abundant fruit which drops and makes a mess and attracts rats and raccoons, and "food producing" plants are not allowed by the HOA for this reason, so I'll have to stick with non-fruiting trees.

graywings, good point on the furniture... maybe I should just see how the planters and plants look. I was just hoping to fill some space with something the HOA allows but less maintenance!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 3:09PM
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teacats

How about a lovely larger rounded Mexican Talavera pot with a nice faux plant arrangement? Maybe a matching pot for each corner of the balcony? Place the pot on a stand so it really shows through the railings .... simple ... easy!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 3:29PM
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suz1023

how about a collection of old bird cages and/or iron sconces or something somehow interesting without being noisy?

tho if were my balcony it would have several large cat climbing trees on it,lol.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 6:42PM
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lindac

What do others have on their balconies? Sure does look prison like!!
I would have trees....don't know what grows there, but you can get moisture retentive crystals that keep your plants moist longer.
But I sure would have some greenery up there...trees i n huge pots and tumbl8ing red flowers in deep planters.
Linda c

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 7:23PM
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tinan

Lindac, prisonlike? Ouch! We find it quite homey, I have never seen a prison that looks anything like it. The photo is certainly not the best.

I definitely plan to have the plants, despite the difficulty of watering, but it is a huge balcony 14' wide and 6' deep so I may need something else to make it look more balanced.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 9:00PM
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tinan

Lindac, prisonlike? Ouch! We find it quite homey, I have never seen a prison that looks anything like it. The photo is certainly not the best.

I definitely plan to have the plants, despite the difficulty of watering, but it is a huge balcony 14' wide and 6' deep so I may need something else to make it look more balanced.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 9:01PM
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melsouth

From the angle of the photo, it looks like a bistro set could be seen. Colorful cushions on the chairs would look welcoming and inviting.

Or two more comfortable-type chairs, one in each corner, again with colorful cushions.

And tall evergreens in planters would look great, too.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 9:18PM
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writersblock

>The front balcony gets sun from 11am-sunset and it gets HOT up there!

Does your HOA have restrictions on umbrellas? A half-umbrella might help with that, if allowed.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 9:46PM
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tinan

No HOA does not allow umbrellas, probably because it can get windy and they may blow over onto a neighbor's property - that's my best guess for the purpose of the rule. I would love an awning actually because reducing the sun on that window would cool that room - it's the only room that gets hot in our home.

I also wrote the HOA to see if we can do something about the gardens in front of our fence. The ivy on the right needs to go as it grows through the fence, I am busy removing that from our front walkway garden. Spiders hide in it and it grows inches every week and needs constant trimming. The oleander hedge is uneven and out of control, too!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 11:08PM
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fully2


Maybe a little off the wall but at Christmas time something like this could be done with Christmas carolers

    Bookmark   July 17, 2012 at 12:20AM
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teacats

Check out the folding metal bistro sets at Target.com -- on sale for $99. Yep -- in several colors.

Pretty AND the whole set can be folded and stashed away ...

Then just add a colorful Mexican garden pot or two in the corners -- fill with good-looking faux greenery.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2012 at 12:19PM
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emagineer

Jeesh, they sure limit you. But guess this halts what could lead to other's going beyond.

Wonder if you could had redwood benches which have potting units on each side and add colorful cushions. Or just a couple of wood benches and small side table with solar lanterns (am thinking of the black large ones used for candles, etc.)and ceramic ware of color. No upkeep of plants. Most of the benches which are storage units can't be seen as anything else from the underside.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2012 at 2:04PM
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pricklypearcactus

Is the adjacent balcony the neighbor's or are they both yours? If you want any privacy between, perhaps you can put a long rectangular pot with a trellis attached to grow some vines to provide some soft green privacy and maybe even same thing along the exterior walls? I love the idea of some furniture. Maybe some comfortable lounging chairs or sofa with cushions or a small table and chairs.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2012 at 2:55PM
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tinan

The balcony on the right is the neighbor's the townhomes are set up as grouped duplexes. We also have an equally large balcony on the back overlooking the pool. A lot of space to fill!

These balconies are not really convenient to use because we have sheers in the bedroom windows that we keep closed for privacy, so we have to battle through those, and the balconies are much more exposed so less pleasant to sit on. We have a large patio out from and out back, both of which are much more private and have shade, so we have no shortage of sitting outdoors space. I would have been happy with no balconies and just some railings with window boxes or something!

Yes HOAs can be limiting but to be honest I am glad, when you live in close quarters you don't want to have everyone putting up random stuff everywhere or storing junk on the balconies. Also the HOA is responsible for painting and repairing balconies so they want to ensure that plant pots are not sitting in water rotting the deck etc.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2012 at 7:45PM
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tinan

I ended up sticking to plants after all! Waxleaf privets provide a bit of privacy from the street, and red ivy geraniums I hope will grow and tumble down, Red Sun Parasol (mandevilla hybrid) will drape around the rails.

Not great but a nice splash of color and a bit of welcome screening! I've been focussing on the areas we live in more for now.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 11:58PM
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loribee

Pretty! Enjoy....

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 6:05AM
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