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DIY Humming Bird Garden

balcony before

Our balcony, February 2011.

balcony after

Our balcony last week.

The balcony is our favorite place in the apartment. It’s been Mike’s project entirely. I’d love to be able to take credit for it, but the most I’ve done is offered to make dinner so he could keep working out there. He built all of the planters, two of the window boxes, and all of the shelving out of materials he found around our neighborhood. For example, the wood for the planters came from discarded broken fencing. One of the window boxes is made from the frame of a torn up sofa left out on garbage day.

window crate

This window box was made from a packing crate.


I picked up this Jasmine at Costco for $8.00. It was tiny, dried out, and dying. Now it’s taking over the north end of our balcony. Mike keeps saying that when it blossoms in the spring we’re going to need respirators to sit on the balcony. It’s going to be incredibly beautiful.

view from the street

This is what our neighbors see. They call us the Crazy Flower People but we have the prettiest balcony on the block so I don’t care. I love how the arms of the jasmine are crawling along the side of the building. Mike tapped little nails into the siding so it would have something to hold on to. These will be full of flowers come April.

our view

The window boxes and hanging baskets are full of lantana, million bells, salvia, hawaiian blue eyes, dead nettle, and some flowers I don’t know the name of. They all draw humming birds and butterflies. We sit out here with our coffee in the early morning and watch the humming birds feed. They are surprisingly bold, often feeding from flowers inches from my shoulder. They’ll sip from flowers in the same basket Mike is watering, and the bird will hover, beak to nose. They’re magic with wings.

garden at sunset

Someday I’ll show you what’s behind that far wall. (Hint: it’s one word, starts with “ga” ends with “ge”.) The plants – New Guinea Impatiens – are sitting on shelves Mike built from lumber he found sticking out of a dumpster. I tried to take a close-up but it sucked. The flowers are too pretty for digital rendering.


Remember our first window box? That’s it in the back. The salvia is the only thing left from the original planting. After all the pansies and English daisies died, we planted begonias and let me tell you, they are be-going crazy! Begonia-ing crazy? Not funny?

tiny purple flowers

We’re not sure what this is called. Mike isn’t crazy about it, but I think it’s lovely. The delicate purple flowers only last for a day, but I’ve seen a little humming bird sip from it.

hot lips salvia

This is Hot Lips salvia. We were told this is humming bird crack, and now that it’s blossoming we will tell you – it really isn’t. They hit the lantana more than this. When they do stop here, the little birds will perch on the branches of this plant while they sip from its bright red blooms. It almost died when we first planted it. The blooms are supposed to be white with red edges. This is it’s first bloom cycle since it came back to life and it’s blossoming all red. We have no idea why.

dead nettle

Dead nettle. I have mixed feelings about it. The humming birds don’t bother with it, but the butterflies like it.


We have red and purple lantana, and they’re both a humming bird favorite. I tried to talk Michael into getting some yellow lantana too, but he’s afraid it will take over the balcony.

little white flowers

Don’t quote me, but I think these are bacopa. Whatever their name, humming birds, butterflies, and bees love them. I love them because of the way they trail out of the hanging baskets. (The wood edge pictured is Michael’s sofa-frame planter.)

red salvia

These alien-looking flowers are our biggest draw. Another salvia variety, these flowers are extremely hardy. We have them in red, pink, purple, and white. The humming birds go nuts for them. This one sits at shoulder level while I’m working and there’s a little female who will drink from it even when I’m sitting right there. She gets so close I get chills.

orange million bells

These are million bells. I love million bells. If I had to choose between lantana or million bells, I’d go with lantana, but these are awfully pretty. We started with pink, purple, and orange, then last weekend we went to The Garden Center and picked up yellow,  yellow-with-orange-centers, pink-with-black-centers, red, and a yellow variety with a double layer of petals. Our first try with these failed miserably, but this second planting has been thriving for the last two months. I’m crossing my fingers for this third planting. It’s been cold all week so I’m afraid they won’t make it.

This garden makes me feel impossibly happy. There’s still a few things Mike wants to do out there; center the chandelier over the table, put up more shelves and hang more plants. I’m keeping my eyes peeled at second-hand stores for cool lanterns, votives and sconces. I’m dying for cushions for the little chairs, but I refuse to buy something unless I fall absolutely, madly in love with it. Mike wants to repaint the balcony floor, but I managed to talk him out of it. Too much work and too much money for a rental. We’re thinking of buying a jute rug as a compromise. What do you think? Does anyone have any suggestions for really fantastic, inexpensive out-door rugs?

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  • That’s beautiful! 🙂

  • This is one of my favorite posts of yours, ever.  I’m so inspired by your ability to turn a small balcony into a flowering oasis! It’s just gorgeous, and I can’t believe how awesome it is!!

    • Thank you!!!! That makes me happy. Though, it’s Mike’s ability much more than mine. 🙂

  • Tara

    So lovely!  (It’s ‘Begonia.’)  I think that if you keep pinching off the dead blooms, that flowers will go on and on.

    • Thanks for catching my misspelling! I have fixed it. 🙂 xox

  • GREAT WORK!!! The packing crate made window not ony looks awesome but unique also. Thanks a lot for sharing!