I had high hopes for our balcony when I started gardening in September last year. I saw our modest concrete enclosure through rose, tulip and poppy-tinted spectacles.
It would become an urban jungle, I thought, filled with hanging baskets brimming with trailing ivy and big, beaming flowers, birds and bees making the glorious space their home. It would be a balcony garden to rival Mr Hoppy’s, the green-fingered star of Roald Dahl’s Esio Trot.
We were in the garden shop on the hunt for plants when I spotted the sale rack. The sale rack always tugs on my heartstrings. I look at the sad, wilting flowers, disfigured petals and droopy leaves and I just want to scoop up the whole grotty lot and take them home with me.
I looked at Gavin. He did a reluctant nod. He knew resistance was futile. I bundled carton after carton of sorry looking pansies into the basket and with glee skipped off to the checkout.
On my way to pay, another garden centre misfit caught my eye.
It was a hefty bag of wildflower seeds, reduced to 50p. Without a second of hesitation, I threw the seeds in the basket and off we went.
That afternoon, I spent a good few hours carefully potting all my new planty friends in their containers and window boxes.
The final touch, the pièce de résistance if you will, was the bag of wildflower seeds.
With what can only be described as “reckless abandon” me and Gavin sprinkled the whole bag all over the balcony – no pot escaped the seed sprinkle.
“WE’LL HAVE A BALCONY MEADOW!” I declared with joy, arms flung wide Hills are Alive style.
Let’s fast forward to June shall we? We’ve just returned from a two week holiday. After much umming and ahhing beforehand about what to do with our plants, we bunged some in the bath, and the rest we left outside at the mercy of mother nature, hoping that while we were away it would rain enough to keep them all alive.
The balcony now looks atrocious. It’s like the scene from the Lion King when Scar takes over the Pride Lands. Everything is parched and impoverished. The window boxes are barely visible beneath swathes of yellow grass and weeds. The once blossoming strawberry plant has shrivelled. I’ve never considered lawn-mowing a window box before, but at one point it looked like the most sensible option.
To say the wildflower window box was a mistake would be unfair and perhaps premature. I think it’s more a case of unrealistic expectations, combined with a long period of time without water.
In fact, despite everything, I spotted a fuzzy little bee hanging out among the stems the other day, which was the main purpose of the wildflowers in the first place.
A little bee having a rest in what’s left of my strawberry plant.
Plus, after significant plucking and pruning, trimming and watering, I think they’re starting to look a lot healthier and might just be on the mend. I’ll keep you posted.
But in the meantime, a gardening tip from someone who knows nothing about gardening: Don’t plant a metric ton of wildflower seeds in containers and then abruptly stop watering them. They. Will. Die.