This changing world has an infinite capacity to surprise us and sometimes not in a good way. When suddenly the whole planet goes on a lockdown and no one knows when it will end, a change of scenery is really needed. May be you’ll wish to add some brightness and colours to your new lifestyle or pick up a new hobby for the whole family. Especially since the spring is already here and the summer — just around the corner of the souvlakia nearby.
Well, anyway, we are starting new series of articles where we tried to bring together our skills and observations, collected information and own experience as well as popular trends and tips from well-known professionals in the area.
Let’s start with the simplest thing everyone could make at home — a tiny balcony garden.
I’ll certainly not to be mistaken if I say, that the balconies, loggias and patios in Cyprus mostly stay open to the natural phenomena of any kind all year round. That’s why it would be better to know more about the specifity of the weather on the island and the surprises the climate can give you.
The annual amount of sunny days in Cyprus varies from 300 to 340. The climate of the island considered as healthy and together with Mediterranean cuisine those are probably the two reasons why people in Cyprus live about 10 years longer comparing to the average age in other EU countries.
It is already April but in fact the spring comes in Cyprus already at the end of January. The first sign of it is the blooming of the wild orchids. There are only 4-5 rainy days in March and early April and the temperature rises to 19-20°C. The weather of some days in April could be very much like the one in summer. The temperature could rise above 25 °C. However the sea is still cold (about 17 °C), it will be a great decision to sunbath and go out for a short walks. The actual beach season begins in May: it could be 3-5 rainy days in the first half of the month, but in the second half the air already warms to 28 °C and the water up to 21-22°C.
Where to Buy Plants in Cyprus
It is not a problem at any other time, but could be more complicated during the lockdown. As you might know, there are a lot of different shops and plant nurseries on the island. You can also go private and buy plants and seedlings on www.Bazaraki.com by some keen gardeners.
Here are the best available opportunities to get plants at the time when there are restrictions of the movement in the country:
1. Propagating plants from cutting leaves and stems or with seeds and replanting young sprouts in separate pots. All these methods could be useful if you already have some plants at home.
2. Buying seeds, seedlings, small pot plants and sprouts in supermarkets. While the small shops are closed due to quarantine, you can find some plants in large supermarket chains such as Lidl (pot plants: succulents, orchids, small palms), Homemate (seeds, succulents + accessories, soils and fertilizers), LeroyMerlin (seeds + fertilizers +accessories) etc. You can visit online different plant nurseries and special shops like for example Garden world — Outdoor creations (wide range of plants + qualified guidance in care and design), Floralink Garden (greenhouse farming that offers great variety of plants) and others.
3. Buying online by private sellers using popular websites. Yes, I mean our virtual market of all Cyprus — bazaraki.com and other similar online platforms. You can also find this kind of ads posted in special groups (sell-buy-gift) on Facebook, just watch for updates.
Well, as you can see, it’s not a problem to buy plants in all circumstances, the main thing is to know, what exactly do you want, for what reason and how many effort, time and money are you willing to spend to bring your idea to life.
Internet is full of photos you can use as reference while creating your own style and design, so we put this topic aside and speak more about what and how to choose plants and accessories so that you will get the result while staying within the budget.
Important question you have to ask yourself first: how do you want to spend your free time and how many people would be in there.
Would it be a small greenhouse for your plants collection, a place for romantic dinners with your beloved one or parties with friends? Or may be you want to organize a cozy nook to work in…or a temporary “summer” bedroom? It is possible to make any of these just using what you have at hand!
Whatever you will choose for the balcony of your dream, this place definitely should lift the spirits, cheer up and may be look more or less exotic comparing to other rooms in the house.
Exactly a bit unusual environment helps to relax, distracts from any worries and makes you feel just like you are on vacations, am I right?
An easy way to bring some exotic vibes to your home is to choose the right plants.
The second thing you should take into account is the location of your balcony terrace concerning the sun: does it face north, south, west or east; how long is it sunny there and what time of the day is the lightest; is it already a beautiful place that needs a bit fresh look added to it or is it quite the opposite, the main idea of your design is to hide you from the street.
Pay your attention to the way the light falls on your balcony, while choosing the right place for the desk. Think up what can you use as an additional lighting when you want to study or work in the evening or the natural lighting is too poor. You can also add a small bookcase or hang some shelves for your notes and papers. Few small plants or one big attractive ornamental plant with beautiful colour of the leaves will brighten up the atmosphere of the place. Of course you can’t count on a completely green corner that gives you a refreshing shade in this case. It is better to choose plants without a strong smell that are easy to care for. The plants will help to make the place less official and create coziness that will not distract you from work or study.
Cozy Romantic Nook
The number of furniture for such kind of balcony is minimal: a pair of folding chairs or small sofa and a folding or tray coffee table. The plants should hide you from the “public gaze” and create vacation vibes: the combination of different potted plants with one lush shrub or small tree or ivy climbing up the pergolas will create a green walls and help you to reach this goal.
Don’t forget about the right lighting! It must be not too bright. It could be fairy lights put on the balcony railings or on the tree crown, a tiny floor lantern hiding in the heart of your balcony jungle, or a few fake candles (using batteries is more safe than the open fire) — any of these options will easily create romantic vibes and a fairy tale atmosphere.
Party with Friends
(At the time of lockdown this option mostly means an evening with your family). There is a bunch of different ways to design your logia, balcony or patio if the size makes it possible. Let’s hang out!
Use some small poofs combined with durable and colourful furniture pieces to achieve cheering up and relaxing atmosphere. Give priority to the light furniture, which is more convenient to move. If there is enough free space, you can also add a portable hammock, a comfortable flip or sunbed. Why not to try peaceful and relaxing bohemian/ethnic style. The perfect plants for this kind of balcony would be a tall bamboo in a planter, several containers with flowers on the balcony railings to save you more living space for parties to make sure the guests of your small family celebration have enough room to move around.
Greenhouse (another option: winter garden)
Your imagination is the only thing that will limit you in this case, just keep in mind the weather and accommodation conditions and specific care needs of different plants. Let several really tall big leafed plants move in: a plant that is commonly known as the wild banana (Strelitzia nicolai), palm trees (banana, date), Kentia palm (Howea forsteriana), Bismarckia etc. It could be great to place the plants at different heights: ampel plants are often growing in hanging baskets, climbing plants need a kind of net or pergola, the tiny ones could take their place on the floor, in front of the tall ones or, if it’s a rare plant and a pride of the host — live on a special shelf or coaster.
Rattan furniture will be a great finishing touch to your greenhouse. Well, look what a pretty small garden you have created on your balcony! Now it’s time to relax and to get you a good book and a nice cup of coffee.
…and its variation — a Vegetable Garden
This one will suit for those who like to grow in the literal sense: by planting fruits and vegetables and watching they grow and get ripe.
By the way if you would choose cherry tomatoes, several kinds of self-pollinate cucumbers, bell pepper and plant some strawberries in single colourful pots or in multi-level vase-like ones, you will definitely avoid an unattractive look of a messy country yard on your balcony. Let your creativity bloom and the original green design will be your reward.
All the plants I’ve mentioned above will look well on a balcony in country style. Feel free to combine them together with other decorative species. That’s someone (or something since we’re speaking about plants) that doesn’t require much, any place will suit well no matter if you will decide to put the pots on the floor, on a small shelf, on a table or on a rack. Lettuce looks pretty good in such kind of compositions, especially its decorative species with curly leaves and bright exotic colours. All it needs is timely watering and cutting to prevent it from blooming.
Because why not?
Are you tired of sleeping at home within the walls and craving for a lot of fresh air and new experience? It is better to construct some kind of sustainable platform covered with futon  mattress instead of the traditional bed or sofa that require quite a lot of space. You can decorate your new bed with pillows and plaid. It would be a good idea to hang a mosquito netting above the bed, especially at the beginning of the summer season. Set up a green wall  to hide you so that idle stares of neighbours and passerby won’t disturb you to relax and accumulate the inspiration for future achievements.
And now let’s talk about the elements of the “right” balcony garden
The variety of different lamps is really huge: from small traditional garden lanterns to ultramodern of any size, made of glass or plastic (including solar battery-operated).
The climate on the island is quite mild, so everything you will need is to pay your attention to the marking on the box: the kind of lighting you’ve chosen should be suitable for outside usage  (high moisture resistance, dust protection, frost resistance during the winter season). The type of bulbs could vary: many professional designers favour halogen lamps nowadays — it’s a cost-effective type of lighting that has a wide range of shapes and sizes as well as hue palette. However it’s not the cheapest kind. The most popular are led lamps; they are also both economical and long lasting.
Well, what plants are happy with plenty of sunshine? The easiest way to create an original plants composition is to get any type of succulents: big and small, even better when mixed. (We will tell you more about succulents, their kinds and the ways of how to include them into your design very soon). Dianthus chinensis (commonly known as rainbow pink or China pink) and hyacinths with their amazing colourful flowers are also hassle-free.
Another plant that stays very popular for several years and will grow well both in sunny  and shady corners is ficus (or fig tree). For example ficus benjamina with “marble” leaves, Starlight — another species with almost white leaves or Nicole and many others. You can adjust its height by cutting the twigs and shape it in tiny tree or a small bush to your liking.
A citrus tree (lemon, tangerine or orange) can distinctly highlight the style both while blooming (filling the space at home with its gentle fragrance) and while the fruits are showing up among the leaves. Green in the beginning, they will grow in size and please you with tropical colours. Olive tree also can tolerate a lot of sun. The only thing you should keep in mind while choosing plants is that succulents, fig tree and some other undemanding plants (like oleander  and similar) all have poisonous sap (very strong by some species). Please, be careful if there are small children and pets at home.
Another good choice could be field flowers and herbs that can be grown in pots: lavender, basil (with green and purple foliage), thyme, sage, rosemary or any other spices. This way you will get two for the price of one: a beautiful flavoured green garden on your balcony and culinary and medical herbs that will be always at hand.
Annual flowers like petunia, aster, daisy, morning glory and godetia feel at ease in such a place. However these species are quite light loving, their leaves are sensitive to direct sunlight.
Daffodils and ferns also demand some shade. Among the big plants set your sight on thuja (or any other conifer including bonsai), howea or coffea or, if the height allows — on a young cypress.
Life in Shadows
What to do if your balcony is located in the shade and you see the sun only early in the morning or few minutes before the down? Begonia, gardenia, fuchsia, anemone and sweet pea, any type of ivy or familiar you from your childhood undemanding and surviving in all conditions spider plant (chlorophytum) is your choice then.
Important: draughts that are common for shady places are bad for many types of houseplants. The solution is quite simple though, put the pots with the plants closer to the wall or part of railings that will hide them from the wind.
It doesn’t really matter will you choose annuals or perennials. The main thing that really matters is that you would like your final design, the look of the plants would definitely bring you joy then.
You can express yourself by choosing pots and hanging baskets for your mini garden. They could be made of ceramics, clay, plastic or concrete of any colour and design.
The colour palette of your balcony “oasis” could also be decided by your hearts and minds: for blooming species it is better to choose plants which flowers will contrast with the colours of walls and furniture. So they made the whole appearance of your balcony or patio even brighter. By the way, exactly the shady places need the most colours. Textile of interesting design contrasting with the colour of the walls or bright blooming plants — anything of that will work great. Let the boho, Mediterranean or Eastern (arabesque for example) style be your inspiration. Forged furniture will add elegancy and airiness to the whole look.
Can’t afford to arrange everything in a big way because of the lack of space? Think about “vertical” garden for the main part of your green collection organized using shelves, hooks fixed on the ceiling or decorative wooden grate built against one of the walls.
Or may be your budget is limited? You can easily decorate your balcony without spending much by using everything you have at hand to make a hanging pot for example: it could be an old basket that is still in good condition (will be great if you put some moss on its bottom that will absorb excess water), big tin retro biscuit or tea box or original shaped plastic container.
Why not to decorate a comfortable hanging pot for your “green” pets with durable and beautiful fabric? Another option: a crochet pot hanger made from some yarn leftovers! You can find a lot of patterns on Pinterest by searching “crochet plant hanger pattern”.
When it comes to plants — be careful! It could easily become an addict, so you would risk overdoing it and put pots with plants in every inch of your balcony. Remind yourself that you should be able not only to stand there on one leg but also to move around.
The main problem with gardening in Cyprus is the lack of water together with a lot of direct sunlight. So you would better to figure out a solution that will suit you the most. You can water your plants using one of the methods (wick watering, trickle/drip irrigation or some kind of automatic system) and don’t be too lazy to set a timer, especially if you are always super busy and can forget about your plants during the daily hectic. The Internet will provide you all the necessary information about the different watering methods.
If you are not sure how to water your plants properly, ask professionals for advice or search the web. Monitor regularly how your green friends are doing: do they like the new place you have chosen for them or is there something alarming in their look (plant goes limp, stops blooming or grows slower than usual). It’s better to change the place of the pot and…like in any other unclear situation — google it.
Please, don’t forget: no matter how nice and beautiful you designed your mini garden, the plants are living beings that need your care and at least a little attention. The reward for your care will be verdant balcony or patio, bright colours, gentle fragrances and what is more important — improved health of your family both physical and mental. The plants will help you to create the desired atmosphere and bring a little more joy to your life.
 It could be a great idea to choose “Alii” fig (Ficus binnendijkii) that looks like a mix of small palm tree and eucalyptus. If you put 3 or 5 plants in a row, they will create a dense and high green wall keeping you out of sight. Because of these qualities these plants are very often used for ground floors in houses and apartments that are fronting noisy streets in Cyprus.
 Please note: it is advisable to place all the switches and sockets of the outdoors lighting (located on balcony or patio) inside the house. Another option is to make special protecting covers to avoid the possible entry of moisture.
 It is not recommended recently to plant oleander anywhere close to the living quarters and children playgrounds. It is commonly used for landscaping of public parks, squares and along the highway. All this is because of the very poisonous sap. So it is better to remove oleander from your plant list despite its undemanding simplicity, availability and attractive flowers.