BY JAROD LIM
THE COMMON myth about gardening among Malaysians is that a huge place is needed before indulging in the green hobby.
However, this is not necessarily the case as one can make a garden at a balcony or a veranda of a high-rise building.
Garden designer Desmond Ho, who founded Terra Garden, shared his thoughts about balconies being one of the best areas to create a lively garden.
“Apartment and condominium owners should redefine the concept of gardening. Why should we deprive ourselves of utilising every available space in the apartment?
“Usually, some balconies oversee another high-rise building while some are shielded by a glass window from the apartment’s interior, but we should not put a barrier between our balcony and the apartment.
“We can design and create outdoor rooms for our balconies and harness pleasure from mother nature,” he said.
Ho, who specialises in Malaysian culture-inspired concepts, shared a few tips on starting up the Neo Nusantara-themed balcony garden.
“Setting up a balcony garden requires a lot of planning and one should know the direction the balcony is facing.
“Balconies facing east and west will be exposed to sunlight and hence, sun-loving plants such as the Jasmine, Muraya, or Cempaka flowers should be used.
“Residents should put shade-loving plants such as Boston Ferns, Staghorn Ferms or Anthurium on balconies facing north and south,
“My advice for new gardeners is to try not to be too adventurous while decorating the garden and go with nature.
“When the sun is too strong, residents can install lattices to block out part of the sunlight,” he said
Ho’s past balcony garden projects for his customers feature balcony walls that are transformed into vertical gardens, the floor is filled with either a shallow planter box as grass flooring or a wooden deck is added.
Some of them have water features decorated with terracotta fountains and decorative lamps coupled with Neo Nusantara items such as a pangkin — a raised platform for resting, or a kuda-kuda, a two-tiered bench.
Ho explained that the different items have their own functions
“When designing a garden, we should include the five senses; namely sight, smell, sound, touch and taste.
“One should feel relaxed walking into the beautifully decorated garden with fragrant aromas of certain flowering plants, spice or shrubs.
“Water features give a calming effect and having a planter box or a wooden platform enhances the sense of touch.
“Ultimately, we will feel calm when we walk on the soft grass or the cool wooden deck,” he added.
Apartment owners can get creative by plating Pandan leaves, serai wangi, or bird’s eye chilli at the balcony garden.
Ho said that vertical gardens with vertical planter pots were useful when it came to maximising space.
“It also frees up flooring space for apartment owners.
“Installing different flooring usually depends on the the owners. By putting wooden decks, stepping stones or grass, the garden will look more serene.
“Wood gives you a warmer feeling compared to concrete and cement,” he said.
Ho also urges houseowners to not only do a beautiful garden but a functional one.
“Maintenance is also important in gardening. Although maintaining a balcony garden is fairly easy, one should be equipped with knowledge and research to sustain a long-lasting balcony garden,” he said.