Hanging baskets are all the rage (Picture: Emma Cattell)
With summer around the corner, we are all aware of the joy that a beautiful garden in full bloom can bring. But what if you don’t have any outdoor space? Well, the good news is that the once-ridiculed ‘granny’ hanging basket is having a moment.
But gone are the single-use plastic containers, garish, multicoloured pansies and half-dead marigolds that drooped over your nan’s front door.
Instead step forward cool, modern-day masterpieces in brass pots, with edible plants and colour-coordinated flowers that will last not only for the whole summer, but also offer an urban haven for bees, butterflies and moths.
‘Things have moved on a notch in the world of the garish hanging basket,’ says Thomas Broom Hughes, director of horticulture at Petersham Nurseries and lifestyle destination in Richmond, Surrey.
‘These days, the discerning gardener prefers muted, tonal colours and containers that complement and reflect their interiors.
‘And as well as looking good, they need to smell divine, too. Hang them at head height so you and your visitors enjoy the fragrance every time you open the
Here, Thomas creates two cool and classy hanging baskets – one for a sunny
spot and one for the shade.
The best hanging basket for a sunny spot
Monochrome blooms in a contemporary Scandi terracotta hanging pot (Picture: Emma Cattell)
Plants to use
Three Nemesia Wisley Vanilla, which have the most amazing fragrance
and will produce masses of white flowers on slender stems right through the summer.
Three Wild Strawberry. These produce the most delicious fruit and are edible six to eight weeks after planting. Great to pick fresh for your summer cocktails or a glass of prosecco. The plant also looks stunning as it rambles down the side of the container.
Three Bacopa, Snowflake. This white trailing plant produces big profusions of cascading, pretty white flowers and dainty green leaves. It’s very ‘Chelsea’ – you will see it in hanging baskets all along King’s Road.
Three Nepeta, variegated. This is a low-growing, evergreen trailer with interesting leaves – the white of the leaves enhances the flowers of the other plants in this basket. This plant also adds texture and hangs beautifully down the pot. Part of the catnip family, it has aromatic leaves.
How to assemble it
It’s all about the assembly (Picture: Emma Cattell)
Sit your container on a bucket or wastepaper basket to keep it upright.Fill three quarters with compost. If you overfill it, the compost will wash away and spill out when you water it.Always use odd numbers of each plant (one, three or five) as visually it creates more interest. And don’t be afraid to cram them in to fill the basket for instant gratification. In this 30cm diameter pot I am using 12 plants in total.Take the three Nemesia out of their pots, gently squeezing the roots to help promote growth. These will go in the centre of the container as the focal point, to add height. Make a well with your hands for each, just a few centimetres apart, and pop the plants in. Cover the roots with compost.Add the three trailing Bacopa around the outside edge of the container, angling them outwards, not upright, to help them trail.Plant in the three Nepeta, alternating each plant in the gaps between the Bacopas, backfilling the compost as you go to cover the roots. Again angle slightly outwards.Now add the three wild strawberry plants in the remaining gaps around the edge. Within six weeks these should be laden with beautiful red berries.When the plants are all in, top up with compost, leaving a centimetre below the top of the container.Hang the basket on a secure hook by your front door or your pergola. Fluff up the plants, making sure no stems or leaves are caught on the hanging wires.Using a small watering can, then thoroughly soak the soil, leave to drain and watch your hanging basket bloom!
What you need for any hanging basket
A bucket to sit your hanging basket on, for balance.
A stylish container of your choice with holes at the bottom. Be inventive with metal buckets, vintage colanders or a decorative metal bowl. An empty olive oil tin drum looks great filled with tumbling tomatoes. Simply drill five holes in the bottom for drainage so the roots don’t sit in water, and three holes around the top of the container to fix the wires for hanging.
A watering can
The best hanging basket for a shady spot
A splash of colour in a modern brass metal container, this is best for cooler areas, such as a porch, as the sun heats metal and will dry out the soil (Picture: Emma Cattell)
Plants to use
Three Coleus, Spacecake. A stunning, tropical compact foliage plant with extraordinary colour variation of red and green soft, velvety leaves.
Three Pelargonium, geranium. These beautiful blooms evoke the feel of a holiday in the sun with rounded clusters of vivid red or orange flowers and bushy leaves.
Three Pelargonium, trailing geranium. Green, ivy-shaped leaves with wavy, scalloped edges and the flowers – which come
in reds, pinks, mauves and whites, are often scented.
How to assemble it
You can’t go wrong with this charming rustic look (Picture: Emma Cattell)
Follow the first three steps for the sunny basket.Tease the roots of one of the large scarlet Pelargoniums, dig a well just off-centre and plant.Intersperse with a Coleus next to it and repeat – so you end up with a tight circle of six alternating plants as your central feature. This will give the container its height.Add the three trailing pelargoniums around the edge of the container, again facing outwards. They will soon fill out and cover
the space.Backfill so all the roots are covered with compost, leaving one centimetre from the top of the container, and water thoroughly.
How to maintain your hanging baskets
Your hanging baskets will flower through to September if you water every other day (every day in the height of summer) so the compost retains moisture.
Water at night or in the morning – not in full sun – so that the moisture doesn’t evaporate, and pour water on the roots of the plants, not the leaves.
Give the soil a good soaking as any excess drains through the holes at
Use a seaweed feed every one to two weeks. If the plants stop flowering, deadhead them and trim them back to promote more floral growth.
Thomas is running a gardening and house plant summer school at Petersham Nurseries.
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