Bas­ket Aces

Rutherglen Reformer - - House & Home - David Domoney

Noth­ing cheers up a porch, garage or pa­tio like a hang­ing bas­ket. They are great for bring­ing flow­ers to walls, win­dows and door­ways – and will make bees and but­ter­flies happy.

And there’s still time to get a cou­ple of hang­ing bas­kets up that you can en­joy into late au­tumn. You can buy beau­ti­ful ready­made bas­kets but cre­at­ing your own is easy. It’s a great project for the kids, too. There are two ba­sic types of bas­ket: the type with solid sides – ba­si­cally a pot with a chain – and tra­di­tional wire bas­kets. Per­son­ally, I pre­fer the lat­ter.

I use moss to line them, then train trail­ing plants over the sides for a spec­tac­u­lar ef­fect. Plus, they let some plants grow through the sides, rather than just on the top.

The se­cret is to get the big­gest pos­si­ble bas­ket or con­tainer. The big­ger it is, the more soil it will hold, mean­ing more mois­ture and nu­tri­ents.

If you choose too small a bas­ket, you will spend all your time wa­ter­ing it – and those plants will get thirsty in sum­mer. Check for drainage, too. If wa­ter can’t drain away, soil will be­come wa­ter­logged. Some con­tain­ers, such as wicker ones, come pre- lined with plas­tic. Punch a few holes in the bot­tom of the lin­ing so wa­ter can es­cape.

Plas­tic tubs usu­ally have drainage holes drilled in the bot­tom but it’s worth putting crocks in, too. These are a layer of gravel or bro­ken pot­tery to stop com­post block­ing the drainage holes.

Rounded bas­kets will roll about when you’re pre­par­ing them, so bal­ance it in the top of a bucket or plant pot to keep it still while you’re pot­ting up.

Line the bot­tom of the bas­ket with the moss, bring­ing it about half­way up the sides. Leave a cou­ple of gaps so you can push plants and flow­ers through the metal above the moss, mak­ing your bas­ket look fuller. Trail­ing lo­belias are per­fect for this.

Then line it with news­pa­per. This stops com­post fall­ing through any gaps in the moss, plus it rots down nicely, adding ex­tra nu­tri­ents to the soil.

Go for hang­ing con­tainer com­post for fill­ing bas­kets. It is a bit more ex­pen­sive but you will save money in the long run be­cause plants will thrive for longer.

It con­tains a wet­ting agent, which means you can wa­ter it when it’s very dry with­out do­ing any dam­age, plus there are ex­tra nu­tri­ents to feed your plants as they grow.

Add com­post to your bas­ket un­til it is three-quar­ters full.

Don’t over­fill – leave space for your plants’ root balls.

When the bas­ket is fin­ished, there should be a 2cm gap be­tween the top of the bas­ket and the com­post level. If it is too full, wa­ter will run down the sides, soak­ing you rather than your plants.

To be ex­tra clever, help plants by adding hy­dra­tion crys­tals to com­post.

These are lit­tle jelly- like crys­tals that store mois­ture and re­lease it when soil gets dry. Or put a wa­ter slice in the bot­tom be­fore your com­post goes in.

Now for the re­ally fun part – choos­ing the plants.

You can cre­ate what­ever mood you want, from a ro­man­tic dis­play and a burst of cheery colour to some­thing more sub­tle and el­e­gant.

I like to pick three types of plants – one up­right cen­tral plant, trail­ing plants for the out­side and fillers to make the bas­ket look re­ally busy. Clas­sic cen­tre plants in­clude fuch­sias or gera­ni­ums.

A typ­i­cal trailer is ivy, which adds ev­er­green colour. Try lo­belia, he­lichry­sum or trail­ing gera­ni­ums for colour.

If you’re feel­ing ad­ven­tur­ous, trail­ing straw­berry plants or toma­toes are stunning – with the bonus of fruit.

Be as cre­ative as you like. I once saw a cone-shaped bas­ket planted with all white lo­belias topped off by one or two bright red ones so it looked like a rasp­berry rip­ple ice cream as it grew.

Go o d fillers in­clude busy Lizzies or Be­go­nia sem­per­flo­rens, which will add ex­tra vol­ume. If that’s too many plants, choose one bulky trail­ing plant such as Pe­tu­nia ‘Surfinia’, which will run down the sides and un­der­neath.

Bed the plants in to­gether as one solid group and they will grow out­wards.

Once your bas­ket is planted, wa­ter it well. The com­post may sink down and leave a gap – if so, add a bit more. Then hang in full sun­light.

Wa­ter with liq­uid fer­tiliser through­out their grow­ing sea­son – bas­kets lose more nu­tri­ents through leach­ing. Dead­head to stop plants wast­ing en­ergy and to en­cour­age new blooms.

There are also some clever gad­gets to help make wa­ter­ing easy. I’ve seen pul­ley sys­tems that will lower them but a sim­ple wand or lance on the end of your hose will do the job just as well.

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