Picture this; you have bought your new house and finally unpacked. All the hard work is completed and you are looking forward to putting your feet up to enjoy the rest of the summer. Where better to do this than on your balcony, rooftop, or in a communal outdoor space? You might even have a shared or private garden – especially if it is a shared ownership in London property.
No matter how small your outdoor space, with a little imagination and minimal outlay you can create something really special in which to relax, entertain, or even grow your own produce! Whatever you decide upon, make sure you plan for it. Make a rough sketch, measure the space, draw up a budget – and create a list. Nothing is worse than finding yourself in the garden centre wondering what you need to buy.
Here are some inspiring ideas whilst you’re looking to move – or have recently moved – to get you in the creative mood.
Make your balcony bloom
Balconies can transform your life! These are the most versatile of spaces and with minimal expenditure and a small amount of nurturing, you will be rewarded with colour and interest all the year round. Always take into account the direction of the sun, and how much exposure to the wind and rain there is. It will affect the type of plants you can grow.
If you have plenty of light demand a riot of potted geraniums, lavender, rosemary and other scented herbs, which with the right care will grow year after year. Add bulbs to the planters in late autumn for spring surprises. All planters can be seasonally refreshed with cheap supermarket annuals such as begonias and busy lizzies. If you have neighbours with the same idea as you, and you like what they’ve done, go and ask them and share inspiration.
All of these ideas can be used for a colourful window box or a welcoming doorstep.
Reap rooftop rewards
Many community spaces allow access to rooftops or other secure areas, which is something to keep in mind whether you are looking for loft conversions in London or houses for sale in Harrow. If you’re planning on ‘moving up’ with some community spirit, check with your building manager before you start work. But with a little persuasion and a lot of passion you can work miracles on the roof.
Depending on what you’re working with, you might need to start in one small area. Consider access to water, and whether there is a lift for bringing up equipment and supplies. Ensure that the roof space is not exposed to strong sun or wind. If there is a sheltered space against a sunny wall, consider opportunities for vegetables. Dwarf peas and beans, tomatoes, peppers and aubergines could make a tasty and cheap addition to evening meals.
Grow-bags are an easy option as they can nurture plants for a single season. However a mix of wooden planters offer year on year versatility. You can move them around to see where you get the best results, and with larger ones you can mix and match flowers and vegetables for the maximum of colour. Keep in mind that gowing pretty – and edible – nasturtiums amongst your veg will discourage butterflies from laying eggs!
Dazzle in the dark
If your space isn’t immediately beautiful, use the long sunny days to your advantage. There is a huge variety of solar powered lights available, and sets are cheap enough to brighten up your outdoor space – big or small. Invite your friends, flatshare, and neighbours over for a timely house-warming and wow them with your light display.
Depending on your taste, you can festoon a bare wall with pink flamingoes, or wind little green leaf lights around shrubs for immediate pizzazz. Mark pathways with solar torches, and place citronella scented tealights onto safe, non-flammable surfaces – this will keep the mosquitos at bay. As the sun goes down, your space will take on a magical aspect; relax and enjoy.
Welcome wildlife into your world
Some London rooftops are buzzing to to the sound of honey bees. Imagine the rewards of creating a hive within your community, and taking pleasure in sweetness on high. Naturally, some specialist knowledge is required but urban beekeepers or “backyard apiarists” are on the rise, as are their supporting societies. You could be creating more than just a hive!
If that seems like too much effort, it is easy to encourage other wildlife into your garden, no matter how small. In summer and winter alike, birds and insects appreciate access to fresh water. In London you might attract cats and foxes if you leave food or scraps so take care you attract the right kind of visitors!
Although you might not want butterflies in your brassicas, fragrant flowers will attract these colourful insects. For me the excitement of making a green space in the centre of London is ensuring the wellbeing of, and providing a home for our native wildlife. From birds, butterflies, bees, and many others.
So what are you waiting for? Get planning, sketching, and who knows what hidden talents you’ll find!