Plant your hanging baskets now
Now is a good time to plant your hanging baskets for a stunning display this summer. Growing hanging baskets is a wonderful way to garden and continues to gain wider popularity. They are not a recent innovation, but in fact were used as decoration in the famous hanging gardens of ancient Babylon.
Almost any plant that will grow in a container can be grown in a hanging basket, creating new visual perspectives even in a small courtyard, balcony or veranda. A more recent innovation has been the reusing of old pallets, converting these to wall gardens. Gardens can be developed without taking up valuable ground or floor space.
Hanging baskets can be an answer to decorating problems inside the home. For example, a basket containing a large green hanging fern will soften harsh walls or a hen and chicken fern can attractively fill an empty corner or a hanging carnivorous pitcher plant can become an interesting talking point. Another popular and easy care hanging indoor plant is the chain of hearts.
In an outdoor situation the use of flowering plants such as lobelia and petunia enhances a garden, courtyard, veranda or entranceway. If possible locate them away from the prevailing wind and direct harsh early afternoon sun. Fortunately there is an almost limitless variety of plants suitable for hanging baskets. Ferns, small spreading shrubs, perennials, annuals, tropical plants, ivy geraniums, succulents and even strawberries and herbs can be grown throughout the house from the bedroom to the kitchen as well as outdoors, with some imagination and innovation.
The right container or basket can be found for just about every plant. The choice of a suitable container can be just as important to the decorative effect as the choice of plant and position. Containers are made from materials ranging from plastic and terracotta to wood and wire, and some are easy to make. Timber can be used to make wooden hanging boxes to create a rustic effect. Even an old teapot can be put to such use.
One popular method is to simply line a wire basket with sphagnum moss or coconut fibre and fill it with a good quality potting mix such as the Natural Bark Potting Mix brand.
Plant for the Season
Labels on plants in the garden centre can greatly assist in plant choice. Many labels indicate whether the plants tolerate full sun, semi shade or full shade. In Whanganui some of the plants used over the years for summer baskets in Victoria Ave are petunias (especially perennial types), impatiens, begonias both tuberous and fibrous, geranium, verbena, portulaca, dicondra silver falls, succulents, parsley and pyrethrum.
You are only limited by your imagination when selecting plants for hanging baskets. It can be rewarding to achieve coordination of colours, and matching with your house rather than just hoping they will work together somehow. Single plant baskets can look stunning using petunias such as “raspberry blast” or the “begonia waterfall”. The vibrant colours of yellow and red can cheer and inspire whilst blue colours have a calm and cooling effect on hot days. It is important to pinch out the new growth of the plants about three times during the growing season to encourage bushy growth and also to remove the spent blooms (dead heading).
Flowering plants suitable for hanging baskets in Whanganui include; impatiens, marigolds, nasturtium, ageratum, begonias, fuchsias, lobelia, nepeta (catmint), pelargonium, petunias, portulaca, zinnias (dwarf), etc. Note that fuchsias are one of the finest flowering shrubs. They have a magnificent affinity with hanging baskets and their branches can weep down over the side of the basket.
Under watering is the most common cause of failure of hanging baskets. You will find that hanging baskets need more frequent watering than ground plants. This is because they have a continual airflow around them. The frequency of watering depends on the type of plant. As a rule you should wait until the soil surface appears dry and if it is dry for the top 3-4cm then the plants need water. Water gently until water drips from the bottom of the basket.
In hot, windy conditions shift your baskets to a well protected area and out of the hot afternoon sun. A good potting mix will contain a wetting agent and water holding crystals.
It will be beneficial to add extra water holding products.
After about 4-6 weeks the basket can be fed, say once per fortnight with a liquid fertiliser such as newly released Ican Fast Food or Yates Thrive to replace fertiliser that is leached out due to frequent watering. Monitor the appearance of the plants and if they start to turn yellow it is time to supplement with liquid feed at weekly intervals.
Living Wall Troughs
An increasingly popular version of hanging baskets is the growing of living walls. The concept has been developed in large cities on the walls of large buildings, offering significant aesthetic value as well as reducing pollution in densely populated cities.
There are lots of variations now available to enable a home garden living wall developed. The best home garden system I have seen yet is a series of specially designed troughs. Easy to install and maintain, water is saved by flowing from one module to the next. They can be used for veges, herbs, ferns, flowers and all small plants.
Have a great week!
■ Gareth Carter is general manager of Springvale Garden Centre
There are so many ways to enjoy hanging gardens.