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The merry month of May is just about the perfect month for most garden-lovers in the UK. There's so much to look forward to, including RHS Chelsea and a plethora of planty things to enjoy right now. The lawns, as you will no doubt have noticed, are growing with a vibrant spring energy, but after you have mowed, weeded, pruned back those spring-flowering shrubs after flowers have faded, tended to the vegetable garden and washed down the garden furniture, it's time to create hanging baskets! Think of them as complete gardens displayed in cascading splendour rather than just a few plants bunged into a basket. Your creation needs structure, colour, feed, water and lots of imagination.
Making a tumbling ball of flowers is easy! Follow these simple steps like a cook’s recipe and you can’t go wrong:
Firstly, select your flowers. Remember to include some foliage plants to show off your blooms. Consider Helichrysum, for example, flowers that are part of the sunflower family. Calibrachoa are particularly worthy of note. These are also known as the million bells annual plant and with good reason. They flower from late spring all through the summer, producing hundreds of bell-shaped, colourful blooms. Trailing Surfinia (mini Petunia) is equally gorgeous, as you can see below (the purple blooms). Also consider trailing, ivy geraniums for their long season and vibrant colour. In fact there are dozens of worthy annuals that you can select from.
Orange, red and yellow blooms of Calibrachoa are truly eye-catching
If you need a bit of guidance regarding colours, use the visually simple tones of a colour wheel, pictured below. Colour wheels show at a glance the complimentary and contrasting colours Try to adopt a theme. Think about the colours you would like to see together: pastels perhaps; hot colours; contrasting shades (think opposite sides of the colour wheel such as purple and yellow); pure white or different shades of one colour. Bear in mind that some have an upright form and others adopt a trailing habit you might need both.
Now choose your hanging basket. Go for the biggest you can find as it will provide more space for plants and also hold more nutrients and moisture.
Quirky can be fun! A bit more planting variation would be even better! There are hanging baskets made from rattan, woven willow, cocoa and other natural materials. Also metal and plastic, of course. You can generally buy a liner made from moss, cocoa, coconut matting, coir or felt. This keeps the soil in place and helps to retain the shape and moisture levels.
Just add some trailing plants and the fireman's helmet (above) would look great!
- Next, prepare some multi-purpose compost by mixing in some water-retaining gel and a little controlled-release fertiliser granules.
- Position your basket on a pot to lift it off the ground. You can detach the chains to make access easier.
- Line the basket with something similar to a coconut fibre liner. You will aim to have this covered with flowers eventually so you shouldnt see it for too long. You can include an extra layer of plastic to help retain water but you will need to make cuts through these liners at the points that you wish your plants to emerge.
- Put a little compost in the base of the basket, then select plants that you wish to cascade from the sides of the basket. If you wrap each one in a tube of paper it will protect against damage to the roots and stems during the planting process.
- Push the tube through your planting holes so that the rootball fits snugly against the liner. Then remove the paper. Add your bottom row of trailing plants in this way, then add more compost and plant a higher layer in a similar way.
- Top up your basket with compost to within 3cm of the top. Water well and gently firm it down before adding more upright plants on the top surface.
- Water well and allow to drain.
- You can hang your baskets in their desired position BUT protect from frost at night until the weather is reliable.
- Water daily and feed with a liquid food weekly. Remove faded blooms every few days to encourage repeat flowering.
Want to see how the experts do it? Book yourself a ticket to the Blenheim Palace Flower Show in June and hurry along to the brand new hanging basket competition where you will see the best examples of colourful and creative hanging baskets!
Deliveries to your door, all you need is a spring in your step to make it happen!