Plants Galore On A Surrey B.C. Condo Balcony
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

August 30, 2015

Above, Steve Karolyi relaxing om his Surrey B.C. condo deck; Brunfelsia and Eucomis potted on Steve’s deck; talk about exotic plants, here is Plumeria (which he brings indoors for winters); and this is one we have often grown here in Parksville. Below, this is our Passion vine growing in Parksville, where we put it in a small cold greenhouse for winters (Author photo); Elephant ears or Colocasia, and Dahlia ‘Aloha’’ and B;aom Berdan’s Toronto apartment garden in the 1970s (Author photo). All other photos courtesy Steve Whysall and Vancouver Sun.



According to Steve Whysall, the Vancouver Sun Newspaper’s gardening columnist, there is a delightful deck attached to a condo in the Vancouver major suburb of Surrey. The condo is owned by Steve Karolyi and judging from the photos included by columnist Whysall, Steve has a good collection of both hardy and tropical plants.

Here is what Steve Whysall wrote earlier this month, courtesy of the Vancouver Sun.

“How much does Steve Karolyi love the plants on the deck of his Surrey condo?

Well, so much that when major renovations were being done at his condo complex a few years ago, he brought all his treasured plants into the living room for winter. That included rhododendrons, hostas, azaleas, all sorts of tropical plants and even an ornamental cherry tree.

“‘I was determined not to lose anything, so I put down a tarp and carried everything indoors,’ says Steve Karolyi, who is a manager for B.C. Ambulance.

“‘I kept all the plants alive by giving them a sip of water each day. They were inside with me for four months, from December to April.’

“The only problem was that some of the plants started to grow and bloom because of the warm indoor temperature.

“‘My home turned into this crazy greenhouse. The rhodos and azaleas began blooming. The cherry tree burst into flower. Even the hostas started coming up.

“‘One evening, when I was watching TV, I noticed a snail going across the carpet. Yuck, I know. I jumped up and got it out of there.’

“Fortunately, he had given away some large pieces of furniture and that made more room for plants. When the renovation work was finished, he moved everything back on to the deck.

‘Some plants went into shock when I moved them back outside. I guess it was inevitable. It took a long time for them to recover, but they did and now they are fine.’

“Today, Steve’s third-floor deck, measuring 51 sq. metres (550-sq. ft.) and accessed directly off the master bedroom, is packed with a grand assortment of tropicals, trees, shrubs and perennials.

“Everything has been carefully arranged to create layers of foliage texture with taller plants at the back and shorter ones at the front.

“The dominant planting palette is tropical with lush, dramatic foliage and bright flower colour occupying centre stage.

“The first thing to catch your eye when you step on to the deck is a large yellow-flowered, super-scented angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia) under-planted by purple begonias and variegated ornamental grasses.

“In front of this is a black pot exploding with burgundy flowered pineapple lilies (Eucomis).

“These two containers have been strategically placed between two pink sun loungers, with cushions featuring green palm trees, yellow philodendron leaves and pink flamingos.

“Immediately, you know from this picture that here lives a person who is madly in love with the tropics and vibrant colour and emphatic structural forms. And as it turns out, Steve Karolyi is indeed in love with the tropics … notably Brazil; he even talks about retiring there as he loves the vitality and vibrancy of the place so much.

“In his Surrey home, he has brightly coloured paintings of hillside favelas (shantytowns) in Rio de Janeiro as well as a kaleidoscopic sarong with a Plumeria pattern that he has turned into a framed picture.

“On the deck, Steve expresses his artistic side in flowers and foliage. He has found room to grow pink Bougainvillea, burgundy Brazilian crinum lilies, Brazilian jasmine, bromeliads and Strelitzia (bird of paradise).

“I grow the bird of paradise for its striking foliage, but I also get about seven flowers when I take it indoors in fall.” [Incidentally, that’s about the same number of flowers we get on ours, but ours starts into flower while the plant is still in the house—under a skylight--in mid April.]

“The deck also has interesting planting rhythms to go with the upbeat Brazilian connection. Steve has achieved this by repeating the placement of items, such as banana trees and purple canna lilies, to create a salsa-rhythm of exotic foliage around the perimeter of the deck. Between the lush foliage of these plants, he has added variegated New Zealand flax grass (Phormium ‘Flamingo’), the rich blue flowers and velvety foliage of Tibouchina, tall stands of ginger lilies, lobster claw plant (Helconia rostrata) and the pure white, highly fragrant flowers of a Madagascar jasmine, grown up a metal pyramidal trellis.

To further enhance the sultry topical ambience, Karolyi has placed a windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) in one corner and a large Hawaiian plumeria bush in another with Brazilian jasmine (Mandevilla) left to scramble freely over it.

“Curiously, Steve’s heritage is far from tropical; his parents were both born in Hungary and he was raised with a love and appreciation for Hungarian culture. He is still able to speak fluent Hungarian.

But his parents also had a passion for gardening and they were ultimately responsible for getting him excited about growing plants, particularly ones with dramatic, architectural foliage and beautiful flowers.

“For extra impact, Steve grows Colocasia ‘Elephant Ears’, which produces large heart-shaped leaves. And in a large container, he has combined the bright blue-flowers of Agapanthus with red-flowers of Crocosmia to create a powerful colour contrast, one that pulls in all the neighbourhood hummingbirds.

“With all this exotic flower and foliage content, you’d think there would be no room for summer annuals, yet Steve has made good use of Calibrachoa and other top bedding plants, such as orange-flowered Lantana in hanging baskets. Standing tall with the banana trees at the back of the deck are a few well-placed shrubs, including rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), a bright yellow Knapp Hill azalea and a towering ‘Aloha’ dahlia with its fiery red and sun yellow petals.

“Despite his passion for the tropics, Steve Karolyi has found it hard to resist a few iconic woodland and temperate zone plants. He has squeezed in a few rhododendrons for spring colour, along with some choice maples, including the distinctive lion’s mane maple (Acer ‘Shishigashira’), and a classy hydrangea from the easy-care Cityline series.

“For winter, Steve cuts back the banana trees, lifts and stores dahlia and canna tubers, trims back the Brugmansia to its frame and finds room to store everything else indoors.

“Cold-tolerant plants, such as the rhododendrons, azaleas, windmill palm, rose of Sharon, maples and so on, all stay outside. He puts all the tender plants back outside in March and starts the whole process of construction of his private tropical retreat all over again.

“At night, the deck is tastefully lit to create an alluring atmosphere similar to what you would find at a tropical resort. A small water feature enriches the atmosphere with its soothing sounds.

“On a smaller balcony off the living room, Steve Karolyi has intertwined a blue passion vine to soften the look of railings with its interesting foliage and unique flowers.

“‘Tropical plants are my passion,’ he says. ‘I like the challenge of growing them and I love the colour and fragrance. For me, it feels like I’m on holiday when I step out here. I love it.’”

And so there you have Steve Whysall’s excellent description of a unique third floor condo deck. Thanks much to Steve and to the Vancouver Sun.

When I was in the process of writing my container gardening book (Gardening Off The Ground), I actively searched out similar balconies (by looking up the sides of taller apartment buildings and noting the floor numbers and then proceeding to track down the owners. The second edition of my book contained photos of three such balconies, one (artist Blain Berdan’s) with a collection of plants similar to Steve’s with even a patterned painting on all parts of the floor not already covered by plants!


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