Starting with a design for the second story, here is what I would do:
Install awnings, to shade the garden below so its fun to start work in.
Get the biggest oblong self-watering planters I can find, to go behind the window-railings. String some twine or wire across the rest of the sun-drenched walls and window, and plant some climbers to shade the whole area.
My choice of climber, for now, is bouginvillia flowers, mail ordered for soft, unique colors, and intertwined with vanilla.
My bouganvillia 'flowered' for almost half the year, right into winter, on my north-facing Melbourne balcony. They like fertility, sun, and hate being over watered. They loose their leaves in winter if its cold. Not here.
It needs a trellis-friend to climb on, good sun, some shade. Vanilla plants can be ordered by mail, or grown from cuttings - they are costly, which is discouraging, if you expect it to die anyway, or encouraging, if you expect to propagate and sell them on again.
This vanilla bean mural from Spicelines gives away the theme I have in mind for downstairs...
(Tabacco plant, soft colored chillies and tomatoes, coffee bush, cocoa plant, and maybe a toothy fish for the pond...). More of this in the next installment.
Thanksgiving day is tomorrow. We have lots of delicious things to thank a certain continent for.
These are the shade vines I thought of and dismissed:
Passionfruit: it needs deeper soil than a window box
Clematis: it needs its roots kept cool. Too much direct sun on the pots. Wisteria: too heavy to grow on the lateral strings. Structures like wooden lattice would't be allowed by body corporate, and rightly so - it looks a mess from a distance, unless all neighbours have the same structure.
Here are plants that could be good, but don't fit into a theme I have in mind (its secret, for now)
Honeysuckle or Jasmine: lovely fragrant yellow or white flowers
Hardenbergia: native, delicate purple flowers, not very bushy though.
Ornamental or fruiting grape: light, and there is JUST enough acces for someone to harvest and trim once a year.
So, why does a combination of two complementary flowers intertwined look so much better than one?
This bougenvillia is glorious, but could almost be made of polymers. Kind of 'dehumanizing' (the plant version). From a distance, the blaze of color would visually disturb the balance of the house, and thats no good.
Maybe we need each other to be beautiful. Maybe its all about context.
My hope is, that once the bouganvillia is tried and successful, the other neighbors will do the same. The office workers on the other side of the urban canyon will look up, see what we have created, and their souls will be soothed.