Before the move to Paris, trying to imagine living without a garden, I searched for images of Parisian balconies and stumbled on Un Jardin sur un Balcon. This blog, sadly no longer updated, glows with beautiful images of Cosmos, lavender, wisteria and climbing roses, thriving in flowery abundance on two small, sunny balconies, somewhere near Montmartre. If that was what a Paris balcony looked like, I couldn’t wait to get started.
Balconies are a common feature of Paris apartment buildings – particularly on the second and fifth floors of the Haussmann era buildings – but we soon realised that flats with quiet, sunny balconies don’t stay on the rental market long. New to Paris, we were wary of taking on a flat on one of the main boulevards, even though agents assured us that noise wasn’t a problem five floors up. Some balconies turned out to be so narrow that a chair could only be placed sideways. When we found a flat with 15m2 of decked terrace, tucked in the angle between two wings of the building, we decided we were home. Admittedly on Google Earth the terrace showed up as a black hole, but there was a retractable sun canopy fixed on the wall, which suggested the sun must reach it sometimes……..
The terrace has strong, built in plant boxes along two sides, with wirework above to support climbing plants. We took on the tenancy of the flat complete with a selection of hardy shrubs and climbers in the boxes, well chosen some years back but suffering from recent drought and longer term neglect. We learnt from the landlord that the terrace had received maintenance visits from professional gardeners two or three times a year and between these visits relied on an automatic watering system. As I started watering and feeding the surviving plants, it became clear that the watering system hadn’t been working properly for a long time. The visiting gardeners had put in new plants twice a year, without removing the remains of the plants that had succumbed since their last visit. With regular watering, dusty stumps started to sprout new leaves, sometimes among the stems of the successor planted on top of them.