Getting your balcony ready for the Summer

Published: 17/04/2019

Summer is coming, so it's time to get your balcony ready. Look around any Spanish, Italian or French town and you’ll see amazing balconies every way you turn. Well, Berkhamsted and Tring have plenty of apartments with balconies, so why not bring a piece of the Med to yours with these top tips.

Balconies are magnets for every broken, unwanted or ‘I might need it later’ thing in the universe. All of these things must leave immediately: unwanted useable items can go to charity, ebay, Gumtree or Freecycle while things to keep deserve a proper place in your home. For everything else - and anything dead - the bin beckons. Now you've reclaimed the territory, you can see what you've got to use.

Just like a bathroom, a balcony always looks better when it’s clean. Scrub the decking or tiles and use newspaper and vinegar on any glass. Don't things already look a zillion times better? Now you have your blank canvas.

Freshen any stained or ugly surfaces with a pot of outdoor paint: choosing a shade you’ve used in the adjoining room can really connect the two spaces and make both seem larger.  Or, try a strong contrasting colour that gives a great ‘frame’ for any plant or furniture. If the floor didn't scrub up well, treat it to a non-slip floor paint and outdoor rug. Now for something to relax on…

The right chair and table says ‘come and enjoy me’, but overcrowding with furniture that's too large will feel like Tokyo rush hour, so be realistic.  French bistro-style folding tables and chairs come in delightful colours that can ‘pop’ against a painted wall, while an upcycled wooden chair and home-made cushion can create a friendly corner (leftover fabric from elsewhere at home injects a shot of continuity).

From a strand of fairy lights draped along a wall to designer fittings to suit any style, lighting makes your balcony a useable space day and night with a welcoming evening glow. No power socket? No problem! Perch a simple battery-powered lamp on a table, or hang candles in windproof lanterns.

Think of plants as music fans: some can’t listen to punk while others hate classical. Different plants need different things to thrive, but they all come with a ‘care label’ that tells you all you need to know, so read it and go with it. If a plant needs sun, put it in the sun; if it needs shade, put it in the shade. Don't mess with nature's way!

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Sun: Geraniums for a proliferation of bright flowers; herbs for seasoning, scent and pollen for bees; succulents for low maintenance and minimal watering (but they need to come indoors in winter).

Shade: ferns for a sense of mystery and woodland fairytale; ivy for easiness and hard-to-killness.

Grouping plants in threes, fives or sevens, in similar colour pots adds unity to your design, while varying sizes of leaves and heights and shape and a ‘natural’ flavour. Remember that plants GROW, so always transplant into larger pots with good quality compost after buying - they will reward you!

Now you have your own special outdoor spot to entertain, dream and relax. Happy Summer!