There is only so much room on a balcony, so being able to take advantage of every inch of growing space is important, especially when you have cement or brick walls that may not be that attractive. But if they get 6-8 hours of sun everyday you can grow vines. Here are four of my favourites.
Group C clematis is on my flowering climber list for the balcony garden. Group C clematis bloom on new wood each summer. On my balcony they are considered annuals – they don’t winter over in a container (might if I could move the plants to an in-ground gardening spot, but our property footprint doesn’t really have that). So for large flowering plants that will cover a wall and typically bloom from June through to September look for these clematis hybrids, here listed by colour:
- white: John Huxtable
- pink: Allanah Comtesse de Bouchaud, Pink Chiffon, Kardinal Wyzynski, Mme Baron Veillard, Pink Fantasy,
- dark pink: Ernest Markham
- red: Mme Eduard Andre, Rouge Cardinal, Voluceau
- burgundy: MonteCasino
- purple: Dorothy Walton, Gypsy Queen, Jackmanii, Jackmanii Superba, Lady Betty Balfour, Perle D’Azur, Prince Charles Star of India
Clematis alpina is hardy in Calgary and I have these very happy, spring blooming plants in a tough. They bloom on old wood. The flowers are smaller than Group C clematis and the flowers droop downwards. Cultivars are available in purple, pink, red or white flowers. My plants are relatively slow growing, so need very little pruning. One of the varieties also has a pretty feature foliage colour (lime green). So while alpine clematis are very good, early-season performers – they are setting buds now – they are not the climbers in my garden.
Black Eyed-Susan Vine
This sun-loving annual vine can create a nice dense wall of orange flowers (although, late in the season, as pictured below, the plant is almost flowered-out). It’s easy to grow and I’ve had great success with it. It starts flowering in early summer and continues well into the fall if watered and fed regularly. This vine is sometimes planted in hanging baskets where it will run up the hanger or gracefully drape over the side of a pot. I’ve also planted them close the balcony rail and watched them run along and wrap the railing – until the first wind storm – but this an idea if you balcony is protected. Orange is a very particular colour in a garden, and combined with other climbers like hops and ivy can be quite pretty. This vine needs support to climb.
Engleman Ivy and Hops Foliage Screens
Engleman ivy is a fast growing, dark green climber planted for its bright red fall foliage and blue berries. It has self-clinging pads, so will scramble up stucco, rough cement or brick. It’s another annual on my balcony, but in a slightly warmer zone I think this one could winter over in a larger container. Engleman ivy can take a little shade and if you forget to water, it can tolerate dry soil, but baby this climber and it will cover a balcony wall and put on a show at the end of the growing season.
Likewise, hops is another fast growing, dense vine that likes full sun, but this one needs some support. The plant will run up bamboo stakes, string or light rope or a mesh surface, you just might have to give it a little help to twist around the support. Hops grow quickly, the foliage is dark green and kind of fuzzy and a chartreuse-colour leaf variety is also available (pictured below) – which can be the perfect choice for a feature in a balcony garden. This plant will produce a cone-shaped fruit is the fall but the foliage does not have any special fall colour. It needs a bit of attention; you’ll feel the need to prune it throughout the growing season to keep it in check and neaten up any dried out foliage, typically at the base of the plant. Often, I underplant this vine to hide the bare, end-of-season stems.