WITH the warmer climes on their way and spring flowers finishing, people’s attentions turn to their summer displays, writes James Iles.
Hanging baskets, wall planters and patio pots adorned with trailing flowers inspire even the least enthusiastic gardeners to get some colour in their outdoor spaces.
Many garden centres and DIY store are taking online orders currently and while ready-made baskets and planters will provide an instant splash of colour, these are often more expensive and may be short lived compared to planting your own baskets up which, if done to good effect, can provide year-round interest.
How to start your own
It is simple to do – all you need is your choice of hanging basket or wall planter and liner (many come with the liner attached) such as coco fibre, moss or artificial ones made of compressed paper pulp, some peat-free multi-purpose compost, water retaining gel crystals (or compost that contains these), some slow-release feeding granules and a bin liner.
The most important and fun part is your choice of plants for your seasonal display.
You’ll need the right mix of bedding plants to flower at the top in a basket and complementary ones to trail either over or out of the sides of the basket, or to trail from both positions.
You may wish to mix plug plant annuals such as fuchsias, pelargoniums, impatiens (busy lizzies), petunias, salvias and begonias with trailing annuals such as lobelias, bacopias, dichondras or trailing varieties of fuchsias, begonias, petunias (million bells is a favourite trailer of mine) or trailing pelargoniums for example.
Or you could just to stick to one type of plant such as bush fuchsias with trailing ones.
One colour or a rainbow?
Within your choice, you could go for either a monochromatic colour scheme (plants of the same colour), analogous scheme (similar colours – blues with purples or reds with oranges for example) or a contrasting scheme mixing, say, yellow marigolds with blue lobelias.
Perhaps the favourite scheme for hanging baskets adorning the nations homes, High Streets and hostelries though is polychromatic – a rainbow of colours displaying a patchwork quilt of reds, oranges, yellows, blues, violets and whites to hold your attention.
To plant up, firstly mix your compost and (if required) water-retaining crystals together.
Placing the empty basket on an upside down pot for stability, remove one of its chains for better access and place the bin liner inside the fibre lining, cutting around the edges. The bin liner will help keep moisture in the basket.
Add about an inch’s depth of compost to the basket and then place three slits around the side of the basket liner to add your choice of trailing plants for this level.
To prevent them getting damaged initially, wrap the roots in a tube of paper.
Push the plugs from the inside of the basket towards the whole until they nestle firmly in place and then add more soil until the basket is about two-thirds full.
Now add another set of trailing plug plants destined to cascade over the sides of the basket and fill between them with more compost, firming them in place.
Add your upright annuals to the centre and fill the whole basket with more compost until its about a centimetre off the top of the rim. Next, water it well (checking that you don’t displace any plants, in which case just firm them back in) and it’s ready to hang up on your bracket.
The process for wall planters is similar, just adapt it to the size required and remember to leave space for plug plants to expand.
There is typically less soil in them so they can easily become ‘strangled’ by competing plant routes leading them to finish earlier than baskets.
If you put baskets and planters in place before the last frosts have passed be prepared to bring them inside to a greenhouse or your own house to protect them.
Alternatively, take them down and place them under a cover overnight in a sheltered position.
Watering is key
Remember to water them daily especially during hot and dry spells and get a kind neighbour or friend to take charge if you’re away on holiday.
Pinching out spent blooms two to three times a week will also help to prolong your display.
Not just for summer…
Finally, though we traditionally associate hanging baskets with summer shows a little more thought over your choice of plant will see your vertical displays lasting more than one season.
For example planting bulbs such as tête-a-tête narcissi after your summer annual plants have expired and incorporating trailing ivy and winter-flowering pansies your baskets will add interest from autumn through to spring when it is time to think of summer all over again.
James’s Instagram is at @jigsaw_gardening