Two things many balcony gardeners must deal with are wind and shade. In my last apartment and my current one, I’ve noticed that the close proximity of nearby buildings often creates a shady wind tunnel. These are some plants that will flourish in such conditions.
Lady’s Mantle: Hardy to zone 3, the billowy flowers of Lady’s Mantle belie it’s toughness. It forms 12-18 inch mounds, and looks great as the only plant in the pot or in combination with other plants. In the summer, it will be covered in billowy yellow flower heads. Even when Lady’s Mantle is not flowering, its soft, light green, fuzzy leaves that hold droplets of dew will not disappoint. It will be happy in full sun or light shade.
Look for ‘Thriller,’ which is easy to grow from seed.
Rose ‘Marie Bugnet:’ Another plant hardy to zone 3. This rose has the whitest, white flowers, bar none. It also has a great scent, that will be easy to appreciate on a balcony garden. Marie Bugnet keeps a compact shape, only getting 3 feet tall and wide, which is perfect for small spaces and container gardening. It would look great with Lobelia ‘Cascade of Color’ growing beneath it.
Gaillardia: Is a total show off. It produces large flowers with orange-red centers ringed with gold. Several varieties are more compact and well suited for container growing. The varieties I have in mind are also hardy to zone 3. While technically a full-sun plant, I have been able to get them to bloom (although less profusely) with bright shade/part-sun. Gaillardia are heat and drought tolerant, the later of which makes them great for windy balconies where soil tends to dry out more quickly.
Look for ‘Fanfare’ (the varitety shown at left) and ‘Arizona Sun,’ which will only grow to be 10 inches tall and wide.
Catmint (Nepeta): Catmint looks a bit like Russian Sage, but will tolerate less sunshine than its doppelganger. It is very easy to grow, with few pests or problems. The foliage is topped with billowy spikes of flowers that bloom repeatedly all throughout the summer. It’s a traditional companion to roses. Catmint is hardy to zone 4 and likes sun to partial shade. As the photo indicates, some of the varieties are very attractive to cats. So if you have a feline friend, you could make him or her a little bouquet.
Some varieties of catmint can be quite large, inappropriate for a container garden, especially a windy one. Look for ‘Felix,’ which will stay around 12 inches tall.
Columbine: Columbines prefer partial-sun, preferably morning sun and afternoon shade. Hardy to zone 4, columbines like rich, moist soil, amended with lots of compost. In late spring or early summer, you should see their unusual blooms opening up. Be sure to chose a dwarf variety as some of the larger sized plants can be unmanageable in a container garden.
Look for ‘Red Hobbit’ (White and Red) or ‘Little Treasure’ (yellow)
Pine ‘Cesarini Blue:’ If you’re looking for a tree and are going for a woodland look, check out this tree. It has beautiful blue-grey needles. After 10 years, it will only be 6-8 feet tall, and will be perfectly happy in a large container. It’s a pine tree, so it’s not surprising that it’s hardy to zone 3. Cesarini Blue doesn’t need great quality soil or even that much water. While tall plants are often at risk for tipping over on a windy balcony, this tree and its pot and soil should be heavy enough to stand up to most winds.