Today we’re visiting with Cynthia Strickland. We visited her former garden in St. Louis (Gardening in St. Louis), but today she’s showing us her current gardening setup on a balcony in Raleigh, North Carolina. It’s a good reminder that even the smallest of spaces can be made into a garden filled with beautiful plants.
My first challenge was gardenias. I planted two Gardenia jasminoides ‘August Beauty’ (Zones 7–11) evergreen shrubs in autumn of 2020. The plants survived the mild winter in plastic pots in a sheltered area. The flowers bloomed in May and June! I adored the flower form, scent, and the glossy green leaves, so it was worth a try in the less-than-ideal conditions.
In this second photo you can see one of the evergreen gardenia shrubs next to a pot of Heuchera sanguinea ‘Bressingham’ (Zones 3–8) and some potted Ajuga (unknown variety). Sadly, by July both gardenias dropped all their leaves and died. Gardenias were one of the main flowers in my wedding ceremony, so it was nice to experiment with the plants. The flowers and scent brought back happy memories.
My second trial was Lagurus ovatus (annual), an ornamental grass native to the Mediterranean with a common name of bunny tails. I grew quite a few seedlings indoors with a heating mat and grow light. Several small, compact mounds of soft foliage endured the spider mites (I tried homemade insecticidal soap and neem oil spray). Without full sun, I managed to enjoy one soft and fluffy bunny tail panicle in August!
In this wide view of the summer balcony, you can see two small containers of the bunny tails grass.
The third new plant for me last year was Thunbergia alata ‘Blushing Susie’ (Zones 10–11 or as an annual). I started seeds indoors and hoped to have three hanging baskets of vines with pink flowers. One white basket produced flowers for a few weeks in June. However, the white containers were cooked with heat. Rotating them proved to be too much work for not enough enjoyment. A few of the most vigorous vines were transplanted into the ground and flowered sparsely until frost.
Closer view of a Thunbergia alata ‘Blushing Susie’ flower
By late summer I still had several pots of dark green foliage (my favorite) but needed more flowers, so I filled in with three pots of Canna × generalis ‘Bronze Orange’ (Zones 7–11 or as an annual), which was also new to me.
The canna plants took turns blooming until frost. One of the three canna is currently enjoying life as a houseplant.
Have a garden you’d like to share?
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