Even the smallest patio or balcony increases the living space of an apartment or townhouse. Getting outside on a warm spring day or balmy summer evening provides a respite from the hustle and bustle of life. Don't let that precious square footage go to waste: Create an oasis with a little imagination and a few plants.
The sound of water is soothing and blocks noise from the street or neighbors. Add a trickling fountain to one corner of the balcony. Surround the fountain with smooth, round pebbles. Place a ficus tree to the side of the fountain and scented blooming flowers such as white geraniums, gardenias or roses in matching containers on the other side. White is calming. On the other corner of the balcony, line up pots of bamboo or nandina. Place a grass mat in front of the plants with two or three pillows for a relaxing area in which to meditate.
Most patios are at least big enough to hold a bistro table and two chairs. Paint the furniture a bright, cheery color. Place them furniture on an indoor-outdoor carpet to define the nook. Add potted dwarf citrus trees on either side of the carpet. Plant a strawberry pot with strawberries and another with herbs. If there's room, add two or three tomato plants for color and fresh vegetables. Select a variety that stays compact such as Sweet 100 or Patio Pick. Find an old plant stand and a bucket and spray paint it to match the bistro table. Fill a bucket with ice and place it on the plant stand to stash cold drinks.
Many indoor plants get a boost by coming outside during warm months of the year. Give the pots a customized, coordinated look by wrapping them in bamboo fencing cut to size. Fasten the bamboo with wire or a twist tie in the back of the pot. Cluster pots for a full, lush look. Add flowering plants in bright colors. If the patio is in the shade, begonias and impatiens will thrive. Coleus has miniscule flowers but brightly colored foliage. If the patio is in the sun, choose birds of paradise, cannas and annual flowers like zinnias and marigolds. Corn is not a tropical vegetable but the stalks look tropical. It's easily grown from seed and will reach 4 to 5 feet high in a month. As a bonus, you can have fresh sweet corn.