Plant your hang­ing bas­kets now

Whanganui Midweek - - PATH OF LIFE - With Gareth Carter

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.

Wa­ter­ing

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.

Feed­ing

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.

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