Four gardening tips to steal from Toronto's Shangri-La Hotel

Photography by Brett Walther Image by: Photography by Brett Walther Author: Canadian Living


Four gardening tips to steal from Toronto's Shangri-La Hotel

Shangri-La Garden Suite

It's no wonder the Garden Suite is one of the most popular rooms at Toronto's tony Shangri-La Hotel. Sliding glass doors in the living room and bedroom of the seventh-floor suite lead out to a sprawling patio that's packed with planters of every shape and size. The one thing they have in common? Each was selected by Josie Vincent, a design consultant who's well-versed in the delights--and challenges--of urban gardening.

"The Garden Suite is unexpected--it has an element of surprise," she says. "You're on a narrow street in the middle of the concrete jungle, and you open the doors into this garden. It just makes you feel at home."

Here's are four ways to transplant Vincent's gardening savvy onto your very own balcony.

Red begonia

Photography by Brett Walther

1. Make a wish list.
Before you buy plants for a balcony garden, Vincent suggests asking yourself what it is you want to achieve with your plantings. "Do you want privacy, colour, or a sense of movement?" she asks. "And if it's flowers you're looking for, do you want something that blooms for the whole season, or are you fine with temporary blooms?" Taking these into consideration--along with other factors like your balcony's exposure, light conditions and degree of shelter from the wind--will help guide your selection of specimens, and ultimately ensure that your balcony garden ticks the boxes that are most important to you.

Container gardening

Photography by Brett Walther

2. Choose low-maintenance plants.
Since the Shangri-La's Garden Suite is always in high-demand, it's difficult for Vincent to access the patio for regular maintenance, like dead-heading spent blossoms. This factored into her choice of plants, most of which were selected for their hardiness and easygoing natures. "Sedums are very drought-tolerant, and work great as a layer in front of a container," says Vincent. Along with equally low-maintenance grasses, sedums blanket the green roof beyond the patio's railing.

pergola terrace garden

Photography by Brett Walther

3. Mix fresh growth with faux greenery.

Although you'd never realize it from afar, the ivy weaving its way through the patio's pergola is artificial. Not only does Vincent's decision to "go faux" ensure a vibrant shot of green throughout the year, but it's also a savvy use of the limited space on the terrace. "Real perennial ivy requires a large container, and for this application, that would've meant a large planter at the base of each foot of the pergola which would have really encroached on the usable space," she says.

honeybee house pollinator

Photography by Teddy Chau

4. Create a haven for pollinators.

This summer, Shangri-La Toronto introduced a Birks Bee Wall installation on its third-floor terrace. Not only does this honeybee hotel help give the pollinator population in downtown Toronto a much needed boost, but it will also provide the Shangri-La's chefs with a local and sustainable source of honey for their culinary creations. No room for a big beehive on your balcony? Take Vincent's lead and grow sedum instead. "It's a magnet for honeybees," she says.

Click here for a peek inside Shangri-La Toronto's Garden Suite!


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Four gardening tips to steal from Toronto's Shangri-La Hotel