A view of some of the perennial blooms

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Add an Adenium!

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My Adenium plant bloomed after nearly two years, and I ‘ve decided it deserves a post of its own. If you have a sunshine-filled balcony, and are looking for a low-maintenance plant, the Adenium is a good idea.

Adenium Buds

Adenium Buds

Just make sure that you don’t over-water it (I think once in 2-3 days should do). The soil needs to be pretty well-drained, and you need to have a greater proportion of gravel and sand, than compost.
Starting to Bloom

Starting to Bloom

The plant looks beautiful in slightly flat containers, with the root structure exposed (it has a thick and fleshy trunk).  Even when the Adenium does not flower, it still looks like a little bonsai – with little effort at your end. Consider having some decoration around the container, maybe white or colourful stones/pebbles.

Fleshy roots make for ready Bonsai!

Fleshy roots make for ready Bonsai!

Come to think of it – You can in fact have a complete adenium corner – if you are lucky to have the space.

When we went to Puducherry a couple of years ago, I remember seeing Adeniums growing everywhere around the resort – right around the rocks and landscaping. They look bright and beautiful on a rocky landscape.

I thought I almost lost my Adenium when it developed some white fungus around it. I cut off the diseased bits, sprayed some insecticide and it gradually grew the leaves back – though it did take a few long months – of me waiting to see whether I did the right thing. But the trunk always looked a little green and healthy, so I let it be. Now,  its healthy enough to flower.There are at least 6-8 blooms on my Adenium right now, and it’s still not stopped! Keeping my fingers crossed.

Adenium blooms in my balcony

Let me do more research on this and come back – on care and what works and what doesn’t.

A Succulent Medley for the Novice Gardener

Succulents are hardy plants and lend themselves well to container gardening. The reason I chose to feature them are that they are almost care-free, need little water, lots of sunlight – and little else! They are a good start for a novice gardener, and you can see really quick results with them. And most visitors will love them! They make lovely pieces for table garden arrangements, or to simply decorate your balcony!

What you need: Succulent cuttings (they grow from stems/leaves as well), a container, potting soil and gravel/sand, a little knife for digging, a small ceramic figurine and some shells/stones for decoration (these are optional).

Succulent container needs

Container gardening for succulents

You can choose just one or two plants if you don’t have access to more, and feel free to use any type of container. I already had a pot with a Nephthytis (the little green plant that you see in the middle of the pot), so I didn’t remove that. A note about Nephthytis: Nephthytis is very hardy, and survives well in the sun, even though it’s usually kept as an indoor plant, so it’s fine to keep it with the succulents. As the plant grows, you may have to trim it a little bit, to retain the look of the container.

Preparing the container:  Loosely block the holes bottom of the pot with small stones, so that the water does not run through completely when you water it. Layer it with some gravel and sand, and then potting soil. Succulents do not need a lot of compost or moist soil, so don’t be too afraid to use a lot of mud. I used an old butter knife to dig – its convenient for small container gardening – but if you feel you need a more fancy tool, more power to you :).

The Container with the potting soil and some Nephthytis

Planting: The fun part starts now! Dirty your hands and use gardening gloves if you love your finger nails.

Just dig in a narrow patch with the knife to plant the succulents. Feel free to break the stems (not too close to the top ) if they are too big, and just place in the soil. Press the soil gently around the stem, to hold the new plant, and spread some of it around loosely.

Planting the succulents

Almost done

You ‘ll notice that I ‘ve placed the plants to contrast the colors  and you can do the same if you wish. Ornamental green arrangements thrive on aesthetics, and are an art by themselves!

You can cover the soil with some shells or stones, and place your little ceramic figure, or leave it as it is. Now, spray some water to refresh the plants, and you are good to go, after a cleanup of course! :).

Freshly planted succulents

There, that was a lot of fun!

Succulent Medley

Succulent Medley in my balcony

Care for succulents:

You need not water succulents very often, and in fact, they lend themselves well to even containers that do not have drainage (although drainage holes are always preferred, you can even plant succulents in chipped ceramic mugs, or little bowls). If there is no drainage, just spray the succulents occasionally with water, don’t pour the water in. In Bangalore, succulents always prefer direct sunlight, and I ‘ve seen that the more they are in the sun, the better the color is. Well-drained soil, and just the right amount of water also prevent rotting of the roots (though this is rare), and mealy bugs/ fungus.

How to do a Balcony Make-Over

My first inspiration to “do-up” the balcony came right-after we visited a friend who had a lovely sit-out  attached to the living room. Also inspiring were my neighbors, who are accomplished gardeners, and maintain a beautiful green space.  Up until then, I had a few petunias and ornamental plants, randomly arranged from the nursery, and which were generally at my mercy for watering. The tiny balcony was also full of clothes and all things sundry.  I decided that it was high-time to take action, and then started my “Operation Balcony Makeover”! It’s been a couple of years now – and I am no less inspired than I was then!

Here are some tips for a balcony make-over:

  • Do not make your balcony a dump yard. Trash things that you do not use regularly – rags, cardboard boxes …. and anything else you can get rid of.
  • Get an Instant pick-me-up: Get a good mix of flowering and green ornamental plants. The nursery is usually nice enough to let you know, if you are unsure about what to buy. A word of advice: Don’t buy anything very expensive – till you are sure that it would definitely grow in your space. If you are the I-must-grow-my-own-plants kind, then well, you will just have to wait till you go from seed to plant to flower – and plan the makeover well in advance!
  • Get planters – plastic ones if you are on a budget, to hide the unsightly black pots from the nursery.
  • Get creative with your arrangement – and  keep making small changes, depending on the mood and the season!
  • Some pretty and comfortable furniture helps if you intend to have a morning coffee, or an evening glass of wine on your balcony, or use it as a reading nook. Choose weather-resistant furniture if you have a completely exposed balcony.
  • Maximize space utilization – if you have a small balcony, as is mine, use the walls for hanging pots and plants.
  • Take care of your plants – nothing looks worse than neglected plants . Get some fertilizer/plant food as well for your flowers to bloom well.
  • If you are lucky to have house-help, instruct them on the cleaning and watering, for the days you are not around, and chip in once a fortnight for a complete cleaning job. Keep your balcony spotless and clean – and see how your little green space uplifts your day!

Here are some pictures of my balcony after the make-over:

White Chrysanthemum

Balcony Corner

The Balcony post the make-over

Balcony Coffee Table

Succulents on a wall

Succulents on a wall