Windy high floor terrace suggestions desired

elisamamaApril 9, 2012

Last summer everything on my terrace had to stay indoors while the outside of the building was worked on. The work started in May and didn't finish until September. I lost perennials I had for years. Only the chives, sedum and lithodora have returned. Not sure if the red American honeysuckle is hanging on; it has some green leaves but they've been there most of our mild winter.

So, I am mostly starting over and would really appreciate any and all input. It is a west facing balcony that gets sun from 1:00 PM until sunset from early spring to late fall. The entire space is 4.5'x 13' but for the past few years the growing space has been 4.5'x 5' in 9 pots ranging from 12"x12" to 18"x18" interior dimensions.

I am open to getting new pots, as long as they can stay outside all year or are both small enough to bring in easily and look OK inside. I have lots of houseplants and don't have lots of storage space. I usually bring in two 12"x 12" pots of amaryllis. I also have a window box but since it is so shallow most plants do not do well in it.

A major factor in plant selection is wind. I live in Manhattan 2 blocks from the water and since the terrace is on the 42nd floor, there is an extraordinary amount of wind. Over the years I have found that plants that stay behind the plexiglass partition under the 41" high railing have a better chance of escaping the wind. Vines and climbers do fairly well as the shoots grab onto each other and can be trained to grow laterally. In addition to the honeysuckle, I lost a 10 year old wisteria which would only get a few meager blooms each year. I have many houseplants that theoretically could summer outside but since most are orchids in bark, they are too light and would topple over in the wind, if not literally fly off the balcony.

I have leaned towards perennials because I like the thrill of plants and especially flowers returning year after year. Also, buying plants is not so easy. I don't own a car and rent cars mostly in summer. Tarragon and chives return for many years, but many other perennial herbs end up being annuals because they don't survive the winter.

Another factor is watering. Since there is a terrace above, direct rainfall is limited. I have a home office so I am able to water fairly frequently during the week, but I am away many weekends in the summer, so the plants need to be fairly drought resistant. Drought resistant evergreens have not faired well in the past.

Thanks in advance for any advice. I am particularly seeking plant selection, positioning and care recommendations, but would appreciate any guidance at all.

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Wow, those are tough limitations. If you haven't already, it might be worth setting up an indoor grow space stacked with levels and lights to save space. It would certainly increase your options and give a safe haven when needed. As far as suitable plants for the outdoor space you have, it might be best to ask the question on the Small space / Urban Gardening forum, as most of the main posters on this forum don't have these limitations.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 11:18AM
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Thanks, Capoman. Good idea, I will post on the Urban Gardening forum.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 1:22PM
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I couldn't find the Small space/ Urban Gardening forum. Is that the Square Foot forum? Is there another name for the Urban gardening forum? Or is that not part of Garden Web?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 1:36PM
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here are the links - they are on this forum, you just probably missed them:

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 4:18PM
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An interesting question to ponder for awhile before answering. Because your situation is basically alpine growing a good place for you to begin your thought process is to search 'plants for alpine growing conditions'. Some time spent reading may be helpful.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 6:48PM
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Thank you Rina & Capoman. I did find the small spaces shortly after I posted that but apparently my re-post was rejected because I had just posted. I had missed small spaces initially since it wasn't in alphabetical order. But I am even more excited about finding the Balcony forum! Lots of info there on windy conditions, so I've been reading up before I post again.

Nandina - one of the things discussed on the balcony forum is that it is warmer the higher you go. Some with balconies in the teens actually have records on how it is warmer than at ground level. And since I'm on the 42nd floor, I wonder if it is even warmer? Still, I will look into alpine growing too. Thx.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 4:54PM
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