The garden of memory

I used to be a balcony gardener.  After a stint in Texas my next job took me back to the Northeast, and rather than commit to a house I opted for an apartment.  My choices were narrowed down to a roomy bachelor pad with an excellent nighttime view of the city lights or a smaller two bedroom apartment in a quiet residential area.  I chose the quiet life.  My choice was partly because it was half the rent, but mostly because of the small balcony which came off the kitchen and overlooked the side yard.  I knew I needed a spot in the sun but just wasn’t ready to buy and didn’t want the responsibility of taking care of someone else’s yard again.  Who would have thought my stay would last over three years, and who would have suspected I could fit so much more than just the grill and a few chairs.

balcony garden

Does a gardener live here?

By the third summer things were completely out of hand.  I tend to like fast growers and big leaves and none of those are a logical fit with a small balcony… but what the heck, I usually just grow things because I can and not for any well thought out plan or agenda.  A rooted cutting turns into a butterfly bush, a trip down south adds a banana, a clearance sale brings in a staghorn sumac.  Things add up quickly, but mercifully winter would usually wipe the slate clean.  Plants have a hard time overwintering on an exposed, second floor balcony.

pink caladium tropical plants

These caladiums went out for the summer and came in for the winter for three years straight without a problem.  Nine years since moving and I’ve killed more than I care to admit.

If there was any secret to how my garden grows it was the drip irrigation which snaked out from the laundry, slipped between sashes of the window, and clicked on every 8 hours and saved me from the boredom of daily watering.   With the automated watering my plants were also saved from the almost certain neglected death due to a weekend away at the shore, a week traveling for work, or that gardener’s nightmare of a two week midsummer vacation.  No returning home to fried and dead plants for me!

Strangely enough my landlord never questioned the green tsunami which overwhelmed my small balcony, and we all ended up becoming good friends.  Coincidence that he and his wife ran a landscaping business?  Who knows.

tropical container plants

One chair. I guess this did turn into my bachelor pad after all, and with just enough room for a seat this became my preferred spot for a summer book and a icy cold beverage.  There’s a grill in there as well, I guess it goes without saying that for a couple months each year it was out of service.

Eventually it became time to move on and the balcony garden was traded in for the next adventure.  There’s an actual yard involved in this one but as usual delusions of grandeur made for a bumpy road.  Live and learn I guess 🙂

Hope your winter is going well.  It’s set to get warmer again this weekend and with snow melting almost as fast as it came my spring fever will be worse than ever.  I’ve been sowing seeds again and a sensible person would have stopped this nonsense a few dozen packets ago.

36 comments on “The garden of memory

  1. Thank you. I really enjoyed that blast from the past.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Kathy. It’s that time of the year for gardeners to dig into the library and photo albums and just hunker down. Or dig into the refrigerator, I’ve done that as well 🙂

  2. That is incredible! So much growing in such a small spot. You da man!!!! I thought I had my seed sowing all planned out but then I read about a little red salvia that looked just like the big red salvia that was eaten by the rest of the garden so I had to get more seeds….

    • bittster says:

      Haha, thanks! Funny you should mention the little red salvia. I was just eyeing a big red salvia to replace the little red ones I had. Why can’t we just be satisfied? Oh yeah, that’s boring!

  3. Pauline says:

    Amazing! A gardener will grow things no matter where they are, your balcony must have been a haven for you, I’m glad to see there was a chair in there for you!

    • bittster says:

      I enjoyed sitting out there quite a bit. Except after rains, every little bit of foliage would want to slap you with a wet smack and there was no escaping it!

  4. Christina says:

    I love your balcony; I also think it proves you are a true gardener! that Datura looks amazing.

  5. Julie says:

    You did make me smile this morning, your balcony garden looks fantastic and would make a wonderful place to sit and enjoy your plants. Seed sowing is addictive! Hope your Spring comes soon.

    • bittster says:

      Winter isn’t really digging in this year, but it’s still a few weeks before we can start to even pretend spring is here… so I’ve sowed even more seeds and am considering ordering a few more 🙂

  6. Lisa says:

    Love this post! Brought me a lot of joy mid-Winter 😀

  7. The master gardener in his infancy! Wonderful! It was obvious from the start, you were going places in the garden!

  8. rusty duck says:

    Bravo. That’s amazing! Before coming here we rented a cottage with no garden. It was supposed to be for six months and ended up being three years. I was going crazy by the end of it. A gardener needs to garden.

    • bittster says:

      You’re right. Something needs to be growing and although a rental property can work for a bit it’s so hard first committing to gardening ‘for someone else’, and then leaving it all behind. I’ve been known to ‘google stalk’ my former gardens in other states!

  9. Linda says:

    You had that drama garden gene from the start it appears!

  10. Alain says:

    Sitting on this balcony must have been wonderful.

  11. Annette says:

    You’re pure mad, Frank, that’s what I like so much about you! This balcony is stunning. True, little space for humans but it must feel heavenly to sit there. You’d think you’re in a jungle. I spotted a similar one in a town near us and it always made me smile.

    • bittster says:

      I love wandering around town and discovering homes where the owner is passionate about something. It might be gardening or it might be paint colors or Christmas lights or anything, but to see the excitement is always fun.
      You do realize the same could be said for you, not everyone has their own Pompeii 🙂

  12. That is amazing! And even more so because that balcony was able to support all that weight with no posts underneath, LOL Do you happen to recall the approximate size of the balcony?

    • bittster says:

      Well I’m not too sure if the balcony was holding up well to the weight. It’s still there, but does have a bit of a warp to it 🙂
      I think it was about 5×9 feet… maybe.

  13. Indie says:

    I love it! What a spectacular balcony garden! I have killed more than my share of plants, too. When people tell me that they don’t have a green thumb, I tell them my secret is just to plant more plants than I kill!

    • bittster says:

      Heh heh, absolutely!
      I keep my mouth closed when someone admires all my seed growing pots and seedlings. When you consider how much I sow, if you did the math the whole place should be planted four or five times over… and it’s not. Dead seedlings are so much easier to hide and there’s very little guilt involved 🙂

  14. Cathy says:

    What a great oasis you made up there! My first ‘garden’ was a balcony too south-facing it was great for herbs and tomatoes, but without shade a nightmare to keep watered!

    • bittster says:

      Watering is such a chore, and there’s so much guilt involved in seeing a balcony filled with wilted plants. That’s another good reason to settle down to a patch of earth!

  15. Kathryn says:

    That is amazing! It may have been “out of hand” but it brought a huge smile to my face and looks like it was a lovely oasis.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Kathryn. I might be one of those childish people who think that if it’s not ‘out of hand’ you didn’t experiment enough. Since I was a very responsible teen, maybe this was my way of finally rebelling.

  16. pbmgarden says:

    A happy respite. Wonderful.

  17. Layanee says:

    That green balcony is just divine. Must get me some yellow brugsmania for next season. Must!

    • bittster says:

      I love love loved my brugmansias, but got a little nervous about growing them when the kids came along. If I would have known how anti-vegetables they would be I wouldn’t have given it a second thought.
      Now pets though, that’s a different story. The brugs stink horribly when you bruise the foliage and I don’t know how toxic they really are, but puppies are unpredictable.

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