Garden Designers often harp on about using the vertical spaces in your garden – hands up, guilty as charged; I’m one of the offenders.
But there’s a reason: fences, walls and hanging baskets add a whole new dimension to gardening by using the vertical. They also enable you to grow a wider range of plants, not just the obvious climbers; many plants can be encouraged to grow along and up – and down, which is where hanging baskets (and wall baskets) take a starring role…
With the right choices, plants for hanging baskets can be used to brighten up shady areas, provide fresh herbs by the kitchen door, offer scent by the front door.
They’re also useful for those with only a balcony or tiny garden as they take up no floor space; and good for tenants and students as they can easily be taken with you when you move. Still on a practical note, they can be used for some plants that you might love but your toddler pulls up, your cat eats or your dog pees on.
There are several different types of hanging basket available: the old favourite wire mesh type, which needs a liner, and can be planted through the sides and bottom to give a botanical ball effect; those made of wicker or bamboo may also need a liner. Solid plastic and pottery wall/hanging baskets hold water for longer than the more open materials, some have drip trays or saucers built in.
You could be inventive and recycle or make some less obvious containers: an old kettle or preserving pan; a cleaned olive oil can – the 5 litre size; drill holes for wire to make a loop or handle, and holes in the base for drainage for these. A mesh basket used for bathroom storage; a concoction of wire coat hangers from the dry cleaners (very ‘Blue Peter’-ish); both of which would need a liner. You get the general idea…
Dark corners where nothing seems to grow can often be brought to life by using the vertical aspect offered by wall and hanging baskets. Plants which might struggle in the ground or in a pot, benefit from the extra light and air. What could you grow? A small fern, or an aspidistra; a small leaved ivy would trail nicely – jesters gold is attractive.
Or you may be an ardent cook and have no garden other than a windowsill and a porch: room for some pots yes, but add plants for hanging baskets to your collection and you have a lot more scope. Trailing thymes and marjoram come in spicy and citrus varieties. And of course there are trailing baby tomatoes and strawberries; and even bush cucumbers (pick when they’re small).
Winter baskets are possible too, so you could ring the changes with winter flowering pansies or the sweet scented Christmas box –Sarcoccca hookeriana is a smaller clump forming variety of this genus which I used successfully in a hanging basket for three years before it grew a bit too big. The scent every time we walked in and out of the front door was stunning; make sure the basket isn’t set too high though – the scent is best at ‘nose height’.
If you’d like colour and interest but little maintenance, then other plants for hanging baskets could include some of the alpines; especially if there’s little rain getting to the basket, as it’s the UK’s wet winters that tend to kill these off rather than the cold. Sempervirens, sedums and saxifrage are easy to care for and offer a range of foliage to grow into clumps with offsets (“babies”) trailing over the side. Although some have a greater preference for sun or shade, most are fairly tolerant. A good rule of thumb is that the more fleshy the leaf, the more the plant likes it hot; so you should be able to find a selection to suit your conditions.
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