Maximise your balcony or roof terrace

Maximise your balcony or roof terrace

Read on for our guide to making the most of a balcony or roof terrace, and ensuring it is eco friendly.

Don’t be put off by how small your balcony or roof terrace is — even the tiniest of spaces can be transformed into a cosy retreat — and not just an area for putting your bike or storing your recycled bottles and plastic. Here are some top tips to making the very best of the space you have.

Take a seat

Without a doubt, one of the easiest and quickest ways to get your balcony looking great is with a stylish table and chairs and even the smallest space will be able to accommodate this. But don’t be tempted by cheap plastic sets — you’ll end up regretting it as it will quickly start to look worn out. So, make sure you buy quality wood furniture which will last a long time while also looking great. And, if you’re limited by space, go for a storage bench, so that you can maximise the area available. Remember, balconies and roofs can be really exposed so protect the furniture by using a good quality furniture oil (such as Ronseal Eco Garden Furniture Oil) — and you can be kind to the environment too!

A touch of green

Well-chosen greenery is a great way to turn a roof or balcony into your own little oasis, and, if you live in an apartment block, is a great way to make it look less generic and achieve a bit of standout. The biggest challenge you’ll face are the extremes in the weather conditions that your plants will have to survive, from hot intense sun to drying cold winds that scorch leaves. Shade is another challenge once the sun has moved round, therefore choosing the right kind of plants is essential.

Don’t be tempted by often expensive exotic plants straight away. It’s much better to start with some sturdy, hardy perennials like hardy buxus, choisya "aztec pearl" and dwarf rhododendron, ivy, bay or small conifers. This will provide you with a green base and you can then judge what kind of conditions you’ve got to work with and what level of plant life you want to go for. By putting in robust evergreen hardy plants you can create protected pockets for the more delicate ones.

You can then start to get a bit creative, and build up a series of seasonal plants to add a bit of colour. The options here really are extensive, dependent on the height and exposure of your balcony. Choose the containers carefully, chunky wooden planters are ideal, but make sure they are sturdy enough not to get blown around, while also ensuring they have adequate drainage — although make sure you don’t end up dripping water onto the people below you!

A touch of colour

Think carefully about the colour schemes, do you want colours that complement each other or ones that contrast? Bear in mind the colours you’ve used inside your home. Colours are either warm (reds, oranges and yellows) or cold (blues, whites and violets) and complimentary colours tend to intensify the effect as well as making sure there are no colour clashes. At this time of year, go for spring bulbs and bedding such as double daises, wallflowers, forget-me-nots, tulips, pansies, hyacinth and daffodils — these will survive most conditions.

If the position is particularly shady then violas and pansies should do well and also impatiens throughout the summer, while for the late summer period fuchsias should provide a lot of colour.

And finally, using some natural coloured wood stains, such as Ronseal’s new Woodland Trust colours range, is a great way to add a splash of colour making the space look more natural and appealing.

Light and wind

Lack of light can be countered to some extent by painting the surrounding walls a light pale colour, although brilliant white can be a bit harsh and look tatty in the winter months. Also choose shade tolerant plants such as foxglove, rhododendron, ivy, periwinkle and fern nearer the back wall.

And if your balcony or roof suffers from gusts of wind, then consider a small trellis. As well as acting as a wind block for for both you and your plants, this will make your balcony look more natural, as well as blocking an ugly view or even shielding you from street noise. And to ensure it lasts a long time, protect your wooden trellis with a preserver such as Ronseal Eco Decorative Wood Preserver.

Really work with the space you’ve got. If there’s a balcony or overhang above your space, then hanging baskets can be a good idea to add real interest and depth to your space. And if there’s an adjacent wall to work with, then train plants, such as vines, to grow up it, immediately making the space more interesting and appealing.


Even in a city centre you can attract wildlife to a balcony or roof terrace. Clearly if you’re up on the 20 th floor in a block of flats, then you won’t see any large mammals, but that’s not to say you won’t be able to attract anything. Birds, bees and insects are the most likely things you’ll see, especially if you’ve got a good mix of flowering plants and shrubs and bushes. A bird feeder is also a great way to attract a variety of birds to your space.

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