How to transform your balcony garden into a blooming oasis
Six expert tips for creating a blooming high-rise balcony garden.
As Melbourne’s population swells, the hallowed quarter-acre block is now eyed off as a site for five homes – or 50 if it’s part of an apartment block.
The 2016 Census revealed more Australians than ever are living in apartments – 1.2 million of us – and inner-city Melbourne recorded the most apartment dwellers in Australia: 33,496 residents plus more than 4400 visitors. Victoria has also recorded the largest national growth in new high-rise apartments built each year – an increase of 601.2 per cent from about 2000 dwellings in 2003-04 to more than 13,000 in 2017-18.
While this is a good use of space, the loss of greenery can affect our health and wellbeing. Studies have shown that spending time in green space actively reduces depression and anxiety, while looking out to green spaces can improve mental focus and attention span. In fact, humans seem so programmed to be in nature that even looking at fake green plants helps hospital patients recover faster and experience less pain.
Benefits of greener cities
From a climate perspective, trees and greenery help reduce the urban heat-island effect, while dark roofs and black bitumen absorb heat, increasing city temperatures. Nevertheless, a 2017 report into tree cover found 44 per cent of Victoria’s urban municipalities suffered a significant loss of canopy since 2013, while hard surfaces increased statewide by 3 per cent.
But all is not lost. Even those with a small courtyard or balcony can cool their own private space by growing a few plants. Which is why the 2020 Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show had been planning a special balacony garden design competition to showcase clever hacks for small spaces. "Although many of us live in apartments or units, that doesn't mean we can't enjoy a lush or prosperous garden," says Marcus Gale, event director of the now cancelled garden show.
While MIFGS has been cancelled and the public won't get to see the clever designs conceived by the six finalists in the Ryman Healthcare Balcony Garden competition, the finalists have some great tips for making small balcony spaces blossom.