Hanging baskets are a wonderful way to enhance any exterior part of the house, or brighten up an otherwise dull area of the backyard or garden. Baskets are more commonly seen during the late spring and throughout the summer, but they can be utilised all year round by making the most of winter flowering plants.
There is such a wide range of plants available that it is easy to incorporate any colour scheme you wish. You can match your baskets in with the general colour scheme of your garden, or use colours to compliment the building or area where they are sited.
There are a variety of different baskets to choose from; some come in half moon shapes and others are round. You can choose a wire basket or a solid-sided model, which has a built-in reservoir and will require less watering than a conventional basket. One disadvantage of using solid baskets is that you cannot plant around the sides.
Liners, again, come in a variety of materials. You can choose from moss, loose coco fibre and wool fleece, or you could use a green bin liner – but this is obviously not as attractive as a more natural-looking material. Solid liners are also available and come in a range of materials from cardboard to coco fibre. Many have a disc of capillary matting in the bottom to help retain moisture. They come in various sizes to fit most baskets.
You can buy specially formulated composts for hanging baskets, or use general multi-purpose compost. Many of these types of composts already contain water-retaining gel, but if not, you can add your own. To avoid having to feed your basket regularly it is also a good idea to mix some slow release fertiliser into the soil before planting – always check the packet to work out the quantity required first.
There are obviously many ready-made hanging baskets for sale throughout the year, but it is much more fun to make your own and cheaper too! Before you begin planting your basket it is a good idea to place it on top of a flowerpot, bucket, or other suitable container to keep the basket steady whilst you are working on it.
1. Make sure the basket chains are kept well out of the way – remove part of them carefully if necessary. If you are not using moss, evenly line your basket with your chosen liner and then put in about an inch of compost in the bottom. Then make several cuts above this level in the liner around the sides of the basket.
2. Carefully tease out the roots and then push your selected plants through the lining, taking care not to damage the leaves and flowers, until the root ball is up against the liner and then firm the soil around it – this is important, as many side plants fail to survive due to not being fully planted in the compost. Repeat the process with each plant and then add more soil to around two thirds up. Repeat the process again and then complete by planting the top of the basket.
3. If you are using moss, you will need to start off by putting a small layer of moss around the bottom of the basket and then a layer of soil on top. Then plant some plants round the edge – remember to carefully tease out the roots and firm the soil around the root balls. Put a thin layer of moss just over the roots of the plants and then add another inch or so of lining and soil before putting more plants around the edges of the basket. Repeat this process until you reach the top of the basket. Putting a final layer of moss on the very top around the plants – this will help drainage and humidity, which in turn will help the plants to grow well.
4. Finally, once you have filled in all the spaces in the top you need to water the basket well. Do not overfill the basket with compost and leave a slight dip in the middle to prevent water running off whilst watering – a good tip to help reduce watering, is to plant a two to four inch pot in the top of the finished basket, which will act as a reservoir to hold the water.
5. Until your basket has started to grow out a little, keep it in a conservatory, greenhouse or other similar area – unless you live in a mild climate – and keep turning it to promote even growth. Regularly dead head any fading flowers to encourage more buds to develop.
If you are not sure what plants to use, then why not take a trip down to your local garden centre and see what is on offer. Trailing plants such as, trailing fuchsia, trailing geranium, trailing petunia and ivy are ideal for planting in hanging baskets, particularly around the sides. Impatiens, lobelia, marigolds, pansies and non-trailing petunias and fuchsia are just some of the perfect plants that are available for the top of your basket – make sure all the plants you use are sturdy, well rooted and ready for transplanting.
Hanging baskets can also be made up of shade-loving plants for shady locations, or they can be planted with herbs, to ensure that you always have a fresh supply on hand. Winter baskets for colder climates can also be made up, using winter flowering plants such as, Pansies, primroses and polyanthus.
Half moon shaped baskets can be fixed directly onto a wall with hooks. Round baskets will require a bracket to be fixed on the wall first. They are best sited in a sunny position away from strong winds and need to be checked regularly for water requirements – never let the basket dry out; if the first half-inch of soil is dry then it will need watering.
Hanging baskets are probably one of the most creative and attractive aspects of gardening and are very easy to do once you have got the hang of them. Once you have become an expert in planting your own baskets, you can experiment with different colour combinations and plants to find out which arrangements are the most attractive and which flourish the best.
By Jane Grimshaw