Hanging baskets are one of those gardening pleasures that can either make you look like a green fingered master or like a novice who really should have found another interest!
A good hanging basket can really bring colour to its surroundings and make doorways and porches look as if they are bursting with summery allure. They are also and easy and low maintenance method of gardening without needing you to get on your knees digging. They can be displayed just as well in a city apartment or country cottage.
If you're thinking of trying a hanging basket this year, here are some tips to start you on your way.
Get the right container
This is basically a two part affair. The 'mesh' style basket (allowing drainage and growth) which will be either plastic or wire based and also the internal lining that you will need for the basket. Both of these will be available from a garden centre / nursery and you will have some option as to the type of lining you prefer - a moss based one, foam based etc. It is always worth asking staff for their opinion on the better linings for the type of plants you are looking to grow.
Fill the basket
Cut the lining for a good fit in the basket, ensuring the entire basket is covered (you can overlap or use more than one layer). If you want your plants to grow out of the sides of the basket (as well as the open top) then make sure you make cuts into the side of the lining to give them space to do this.
As the plants will not be in the ground, you need to ensure that they are able to get the nutrients required for good growth. It is wise therefore to use compost in the basket that will offer season long goodness to your plants. It also aids in water retention (with a percentage of loam in its' make up), however there are also supplements and products you can buy to assist in water retention in hanging baskets.
What to put in the basket?
Of course this does really depend on your own taste and the effect that you are going for - one colour, 2 colours, differing sizes and styles etc. However in theory any small plant can be used and there are of course plants that are generally accepted as being best for hanging baskets. Here are 5 popular plants:
1. Busy Lizzies (Impatiens)
The popular summer flowering plant. This is a two tone plant that will flower in even shady areas. So to guarantee some colour in your basket, you should consider Busy Lizzies.
Another good all purpose plant, the geranium can grow in most climates and soils, as long as waterlogging doesn't occur. You can choose from a large selection of colours and also growth rotations (annual, biennial etc).
With Begonias, there are reasons for every gardener to include them within their basket. You can get incredible colours (such as the Chanson Pink) as well as types of Begonia that are great for the novice or low maintenance gardener (such as the Firewing)
This is a good plant to add as a contrast to other more open blooming plants. The Fuchsia has a tear drop shaped flower and comes in a variety of colours (some which are bi-coloured) so it is a wonderful plant for a hanging basket.
The Petunia has wonderful trumpet blooms that open up and catch the eye as well as offering some prolific growth rates. They will last in your basket all summer and like the Fuchsia, offers you a wide selection of colours and also colour combinations.
It is worth thinking of the colour or style of basket you have and deciding which plants and colours suit your objective and tastes the most.
Planting your choices.
A little preparation is needed as you should water your plants prior to positioning them in the basket. Then you can put in some of the compost (or compost and peat/soil mix) so that it half fills your basket.
If you have trailing plants ( that will hang over the sides of the basket) you will want them to be planted on the outer ring of the basket, so start planting from the outside and then into the middle where you will put your smaller non trailing plants. For the trailing plants, they will need to be planted when the basket is half full due to needing deeper root.
Then you can fill the rest of the basket with your compost (or soil mix) and then plant the shallower smaller plants on top.
They style of the basket is of course up to you - whether you plant in a pattern or uniformed way or if you plant more randomly to create a natural style look.
Don't feel you have to be generous with space between plants, you can fill the basket as much as you like and this will of course give a more striking and colourful looking basket. However remember, you do need to perform some maintenance such as tidying and trimming, but if you do this, not only will you have a beautiful looking basket, but you will also be promoting further plant growth!