It is time to pull the hanging baskets out of the glasshouse and let them take their chances in the outside world. I love cosseting hanging baskets in the greenhouse early in the year, it is one of the real benefits of having a greenhouse: that you get to grow them on for a bit sheltered from the frosts and then send them out pre-prepared, some roots already grown, and ready to take advantage of all that the summer has to offer.
Our hanging basket offering is pretty subtle this year, if not actually quite as subtle as we had planned. My husband had the idea to plant one basket up entirely with white bacopa, the tiny flowered trailing plant which would then trail and froth all summer. Much as I love a mishmash of many plants all shoved in together, I really like this sort of ‘plain’ hanging basket. You would think that you would lose out on impact by not including a classic ‘centre of the basket’ plant like a fuchsia or a pelargonium, but actually they are often even more striking in this simplicity than those that are mixed. The plant is allowed to be fully itself, its form can be appreciated entirely for what it is – in this case delicate, tumbling, white – rather than acting as a foil for flashier plants.
Unfortunately when the plants arrived a few of them were purple, which rather messed with our super pared back minimalist plans. Also unfortunately most weren’t flowering so you couldn’t actually see which were white and which purple at that stage, so in they all went and the effect is far less restrained and classy than we had planned but hey, baskets of tumbling summer flowers are baskets of tumbling summer flowers, and I will appreciate them whatever. Into another hanging basket has gone six strawberry plants: just three in the top because the small amount of soil held by a hanging basket would struggle to keep many hungry and thirsty strawberry plants going all summer.
If you didn’t get to plant your hanging baskets up early, now is the perfect time, not least because the plants we put into hanging baskets are mostly frost tender, and you can be reasonably confident that there will be no more frosts now. The garden centres are also full of them, and so you can pick and choose from a riot of different flowers and forms or a simpler pared-back design, get them planted up, and hang them immediately. They will quickly romp away.
The big problem with hanging baskets is always the watering; they contain a tiny amount of soil for the number of plants they support, and they are hanging freely in the breeze, hence they get dried out really quickly. Choose the largest hanging basket you can find as this will hold more soil. Line it with moss and then cut a circle of plastic bag (compost bag plastic is perfect for this, and usually at hand) and use it to create a ‘well’ at the base of the basket. Then, mix your compost with a scoopful or two of water retaining granules before piling it in. Plant into the top and sides, and water a lot. If your basket gets dried out – and they almost always do – take it down and leave it sitting overnight in a deep bucket or bath of water, and it will gradually rehydrate and be ready for rehanging in the morning. Give it a weekly feed and an occasional trim and you will have a calm and classy or a riotous display of flowers all summer long.