Friday, May 22, 2015

Morning Glory - The Beautiful Privacy Screen

My Morning Glory (last year's crop)
Many of us who have balconies wish for more privacy. Morning glories provide an inexpensive but exquisitely beautiful privacy screen.  Using just the railing, a bit of string, or fishing line, and you can create a privacy screen from balcony floor to roof for just a few cents.

My Balcony Morning Glories

I have great luck growing these interesting flowers in a container.  I use my railing for the trellis.  These beautiful flowers add color and beauty.  The leaves and vines add a bit of privacy.  If I planted my morning glories more thickly, I would have complete privacy but I plant my flowers sparsely so that the sun reaches all of my sun-loving vegetables.

Best of all, hummingbirds were very interested in the blooms last year.  I hope that the morning glories are a food source in addition to my hummingbird feeder. But because the birds move so quickly, I'm never quite sure if they are drinking from the blooms or just hiding behind them.

Floor to Ceiling Flower Screen

Imaginative people string fishing line (for an invisible "trellis") from floor to balcony roof to make a complete privacy screen. I think the effect is gorgeous. Were it not for my vegetables, I would do this too.

 33 Small Balcony Designs shares with us a photo of an invisible green screen covered in morning glories as well as many photos of beautiful balconies. The invisible trellis can include verticle strings, horizontal strings, or a grid of strings.  It's up to you how you string your trellis.  I think the horizontal strings are an especially interesting look.

Example of a green screen and invisible trellis

Mobile Planter and Trellis

If you love the idea of a trellis with flowers on your balcony, but need to move things around in that space, you can purchase a planter and a trellis. There are several small trellises that can be used in your existing planters. However, if you have a bit of money to spend, you can purchase this gorgeous large planter and trellis on wheels.  In the event you want to arrange your balcony, you can do so with ease if your morning glories are in this system.

Planter with trellis on wheels
This year, I am again starting my morning glories in a small container and will train them to grow up the balcony railing.  I've planted two colors this year and I look forward to their daily dance of opening in the mornings and closing in the afternoons.

Word of Caution - I have read that morning glory seeds are poisonous to pets. So take care to keep seed packets out of your pet's reach and supervise your pets closely around your morning glory plants.

Morning Glory seed packet

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Tonight's Visitor

I was told that the hummingbirds would not come to my feeder hanging on my balcony. But they do. And I'm thrilled.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Cheap Seats - Cushions and Poufs

Outdoor Decorative Pillows
Even though many balconies are very small in square footage, they can be big on comfort. You can save money and show more of your personality using found items, cushions, and poufs.  Your budget balcony can be transformed into a welcoming space - adding living space to your apartment.

Cushions as Seating

With the exception of my balcony garden, I like to keep my balcony as uncluttered as possible. That's why I have chosen to not purchase outdoor furniture. Instead, I use a variety of throws and cushions when I'm sitting outside.  Unfortunately, most of my throws and cushions are not indoor/outdoor. So I have the extra task of carrying them back inside after every use.

To solve that minor problem, I have begun shopping for outdoor cushions. The good news is that there are currently many beautiful indoor/outdoor cushions and pillows to choose from.  The sky is the limit in regards to patterns and colors. My plan is to have a stack of cushions that can remain outdoors and can be used as needed.

Balcony Designs from AVSO.Org

Turning Found Items into Seating

I like the idea of using found items as seating. This photograph shows how to turn wooden crates, textiles, and pillows into functional seating. I've seen storage tubs,trunks, benches, and milk crates used similarly. One of the bonuses to using found items instead of patio furniture is the ease of moving the items into the apartment and onto the balcony. They are also space-saving and often provide additional storage.

Balcony Designs from

Outdoor Poufs

Poufs are GREAT for extra seating. They are popular and beautiful. They come in a wide range of colors.  I'm not sure that I would use one on my balcony without bringing it indoors at nice since it is made with cotton materials and filled with beans.  My balcony faces into the rain, which is great for my garden but probably not great for a bean-filled chair. However, on a protected balcony or used outside on nice days, it is a beautiful seating solution.

Balcony Designs from AVSO.Org

DIY Seating

Human creativity never ceases to amaze me.  And this is an example of that creativity.  Lumber, cushions, paint, and cinder blocks are used to make semi-permanent outdoor seating.  This seating is far larger than needed for my balcony. In fact, it is about 1/2 of the footprint of my balcony. But Meg Made Creations shows two smaller versions that would fit on my balcony.

DIY seating by Be Happy Be Me

There are many inexpensive and creative ways to personalize your balcony and create a welcoming area.  These are just a few.

First Hummingbird of 2015

Hummingbird Feeder
For years I made attempts to attract hummingbirds.  I filled the prettiest feeders with a large variety of nectar mixes and never saw a single bird. Last year I discovered that the secret to attracting hummingbirds is truly cheap and easy. Last night, my first hummer of 2015 came to visit my budget balcony garden and I'm thrilled. I will share my hummingbird secrets with you.

Consider Using Inexpensive Feeders

I had a collection of the prettiest hummingbird feeders ever seen.  My favorite was a large, handblown, "crackled" glass feeder.  It was an amazing work of art and I loved looking at it. But clearly, the hummingbirds were not as impressed.  I tried many types of feeders at different homes that I lived in.  Not a single bird. Ever. Finally,  I gave up.

After watching Nature: Hummingbirds Magic in the Air on television, I was so inspired by the film that I had to try to attract these amazing creatures to my home just one more time.

Even though I was newly inspired, I was also skeptical.  I decided to spend the least amount possible. And the nay-sayers told me that I'd never have a bird visit my balcony. I went to a local big box store and bought a little plastic hummingbird feeder for under $5 (very similar to the one shown above) and filled it with homemade nectar for a few cents and hung it under the roof on my balcony. And pessimistically waited. In a matter of days, the birds came.  I believe I had a male and female ruby-throated humming bird visit me through the summer and up until they migrated to warmer climes.

The weather has warmed again and just last week, I washed and filled the little feeder and hung it back outside. In a matter of days I had my first beautiful winged visitor of 2015.

My first visitor - 2015

Make Your Own Nectar

I had purchased many different brands of hummingbird nectar without any luck. After deciding to give it one more try, I browsed the internet and found that a good number of people made their own nectar using only sugar and water. 

I use that 1:4 sugar water recipe.
  • bring the water to a boil (I use four cups to keep it simple)
  • stir in the sugar until dissolved (one cup)
  • cool to room temperature
  • fill and hang the feeder
  • store the excess "nectar" in the refrigerator
The experts warn against adding things such as coloring or flavors to the sugar water as this may harm the birds.  I check my feeder at each refill, to make sure there is no mold growing.  In the heat of the summer I change the sugar water weekly.  I also have decided to boil my water every time. There are many people who state that they don't boil their water but the one time I didn't, I found a small amount of mold inside the feeder when I changed my sugar water the next week.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Garden Flag

I have seen large numbers of hummingbirds visiting the fancy feeders with store-bought nectar mixes. I am not trying to persuade you to never give those methods a try. I never had luck with those methods and am sticking with the cheap plastic feeder filled with sugar water and am welcoming these winged mysteries to my balcony.  I may re-hang my beautiful hand-blown feeder, in addition to the cheap plastic feeder, but I am sold on the cheap and easy way of feeding the local hummingbirds.

For more information about hummingbirds:

Read it online - the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center