In Sydney we had three balconies for gardening on, each with a different aspect and microclimate. The main rooftop space was open to the North, with walls on the other sides. Although it was only 4 floors above street level, it was quite exposed to wind, and standard tapered pots easily blew over. We settled for a row of square pots across the open side. They were cream coloured which also helped keep them cool. They were very heavy to bring up the stairs, though, and were definitely a choose once and leave alone option.
The rooftop was an entertaining area, with a good sized table, a barbecue, and a few benches. It also had a fold-down clothes line. All of this means that space for plants was limited, and that we didn’t want it looking like an allotment garden. Consequently vegetables were not really a consideration: they need space to produce more than token yields, and I could buy them economically any time. I went for productive plants that I particularly appreciate having on hand, that is, herbs and citrus. For instance it’s great to have a few limes to pick, some lemongrass for a Thai style meal, or some salad burnet to round out a salad.
This gave the roof a Mediterranean style of planting, although being Sydney, the subtropical was always edging in.
The other two balconies had different microclimates and uses. A small balcony off the living room faced North and was fully covered by a cantilevered roof. It was very sunny in Winter and shaded but bright in Summer. Perfect for camellias and a Nandina, with the water feature and bonsai for interest.
The bedroom balcony was South facing and sheltered, with a partial roof. It got morning sun in Summer, and rain, so was good for orchids, and it also had a golden cane palm, a dwarf Nandina, and a Dracaena, one in each outside corner.