Monday, January 21, 2013

Hanging Baskets

Gardening with hanging baskets can be one of the most difficult aspects of gardening, but it can be very rewarding. A good place to start is your local nursery. They are great for ideas and inspiration. There are so many options available. Weight is an important consideration when you are buying or making hanging baskets. Wire baskets using pre-formed coconut fibre liners are very light. There are also plastic ones that come in a range of colours, self-watering baskets that have a reservoir that the roots can draw on, or ones with a drip tray. Terracotta baskets are also available. These are heavy of course, and they don't have drainage holes, so put some pebbles in the bottom and place a conventional pot, growing your preferred plant, inside. There is also a huge range of wall mounted baskets. Upside down pots are another interesting alternative.

Coconut fibre liners come pre-formed or as loose material. Other liners that are available are made from recycled tyres. It is thin but porous, breathes and locks in moisture. Sphagnum moss has been an old favourite, but it is not a renewable resource so it is better to find an alternative, and there are many on the market. There is also a lot of paraphernalia for attaching hanging baskets, from simple pergola hooks that fit across overhead beams, to brackets that attach to walls or posts.

When choosing plants for hanging baskets, the conditions that they are going to be growing in must be considered first. Conditions under a roof can be very hot, and if they are outside it can be very windy. They are often exposed to the full range of the elements, and they will dry out very quickly under these conditions. A big mistake many people make is hanging them too high. Unless it is in a high traffic area where hanging baskets can make their presence felt, hang them around eye-level. Hanging baskets need watering every single day. With so much watering a lot of nutrients are going to be lost. Slow release fertiliser is going to have to be applied regularly, as well as liquid plant food.

Fuchsias are made for hanging baskets, with their weeping habit and pendant flowers. They will tolerate quite a lot of shade and will flower for up to nine months. Kalanchoe blossfeldiana is a very tough plant. They have succulent leaves, are sun loving, flower well, and can cope with an occasional drying out. If you want masses of flower in full shade, Impatiens cvs are an ideal choice, and the range is enormous. The double flowered forms look like miniature camellias. 

To make a fragrant flower ball basket, prepare a wire basket with a pre-formed coconut fibre liner. Cut holes about 4 cm in diameter (keeping the disks) in the top half of the basket, and some slits for plant seedlings to be pushed through. Use premium potting mix that contains fertilisers, water crystals and wetting agents. These will make a big difference to the quality of the final product. Soak the plants in water for 20 minutes before planting to minimise stress. To fit plants through the holes, gently remove any soil that will need to be removed from the plant to allow it to fit through the hole in the basket. Wrapping the roots in gladwrap while pushing through minimises any extra damage. Placing the disc over the hole and plant contains the soil in the basket. Push the seedlings through the slits. Pansies and lobelias have been used in the sides of the basket. In the top of the ball Lavandula 'Kew Red' is planted with Brachyscome 'City Lights' and Sweet Alyssum Lobularia maritima which will trail over the edge of the basket. Fill the remainder of the basket with potting soil, leaving about 2 cm for the water to pool and soak into the basket.

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