March 17, 2023

Liven up with hanging baskets

Go for a splash of colour with a range of hanging baskets that will liven up spaces large and small.

Cabaret Good Night Kiss Calibrachoa.

Anyone lucky enough to travel through Europe in summer will have memories of the stunning hanging baskets adorning most of the houses, businesses and hotels. Filled with annual and perennial plants, they brighten up the streetscape, providing a place to congregate and socialise, as well as creating some of my favourite travel memories.

It is not a part of the garden that we do as well here in Australia. But, hanging baskets provide more gardening room in small spaces, liven up blank walls and are fun to produce and maintain.

Jason Scroop replaces his mixed planting in summer and winter to provide a year-long display.

First is to choose your basket. There are many plastic varieties available from your local garden retailer. Coloured plastic hanging baskets are a good way to work with the colour scheme of your home, but be aware they can heat up in sunny areas causing root stress. Choose one with excellent drainage and never use a saucer if possible.

I prefer wire baskets with inserts made from coconut fibre or sphagnum moss. These not only look great, but have an excellent insulation effect for the plant roots and are easy to replace when you want to change your plantings.

Hanging baskets are one type of gardening where I like to “over pot”. Choose a size of basket that suits the area where it will hang, but don’t be scared to buy a basket with plenty of volume. I use a 40cm-wide basket.

The area where you will hang it is also important and will dictate which plants you can add to your basket. Choose a spot with a secure hanging point and take note of how much sun each basket will receive, as this will give you a guide to the species you can choose.

A premium quality potting mix is necessary. The balance of water-holding ability and drainage must be optimum in a basket. I always add extra slow-release fertiliser and a granular wetting agent to the mix at recommended rates for best results, if I am about to plant many varieties in one basket, perhaps I even go a little heavy-handed on occasions.

Never be afraid to fill your hanging baskets to the brim. When in flower, it gives a spectacular effect.

Although we can plant singular species in a basket and some plants may prefer this, I think it is far more fun and spectacular to mix up what I plant.

There are a few basic guidelines to follow with mixed basket planting but really, I would encourage you to experiment, have fun and throw the rules out the window!

We will need some trailing plants first. Plants that will spill over the edge and hang down. Lotus elite redflash, geranium ivy, bacopa, bidens, cuphea and dichondra are all excellent choices. I plant these right in the middle of my pre-prepared basket.

Then we encircle our centre choices creating a circle about halfway between the centre and edge of the basket with more upright growing plants that will give the basket volume. Calibrachoas are a summer staple for me in hanging baskets, they will flower continuously all summer. My other favourites are vinca, begonia, viola, petunias and portulaca, but be brave and try all sorts of things. I cram as much in as possible, which creates continual surprises and flowers continually pop up throughout the growing seasons.

You can have colour themes or, like me, just go with a wave of colours and enjoy each little surprise that pops its head up during
the growing season.

Now we have filled the basket, hang it in your favourite spot and remember that baskets will generally need more water than your normal pots, certainly daily in warmer weather. An extra dose of liquid fertiliser every couple of weeks is a good idea and keeps all those flowers bright and healthy. If you are choosing to liquid feed, pop a couple of drops of household washing up detergent in the watering can, it is an excellent wetting agent.

Your hanging basket should give you many months of colour and create a neighbour- stopping display. Not a day goes by where someone in my street doesn’t stop and comment on the display. I tend to replace the mixed plantings in summer and winter to give me a 12-month display, singular planting such as my tuberous begonias that go dormant in winter, get taken around the side, waiting for the new spring shoots when I will put them back on display for another spectacular summer of flowers.

Hanging baskets adorn a European streetscape.

As always, your local garden centre is the best place to go for advice on what to plant in the area you have and the amount of sun or shade you can provide your basket. Remember this may change throughout the year as the angle of the sun moves with the seasons.

Overall have fun, enjoy the flowers and the comments from neighbours, as you pull up a sun chair and dream of your next European holiday.


This article first appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of SALIFE Gardens and outdoor living magazine.


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