At our meeting on 17th October our speaker, Lamorna Thomas, gave a practical demonstration on seasonal hanging baskets. Lamorna runs a garden design and maintenance business and works as a ‘Garden Angel’ giving advice at Scotsdale’s Garden Centre. Lamorna‘s demonstration centred around the creation of a winter hanging basket but she made it clear that her comments and advice could apply equally to baskets for other seasons and containers on the ground.
She began by showing the varieties of baskets which are available; plastic coated wire, woven banana leaf with a wire frame (with a plastic lining which needs holes punched in it). Long-lasting black metal with a lining made to match and coloured plastic buckets. Moss is the most attractive lining for a wire basket but it is expensive and a cheaper alternative is to line the basket with leylandii offcuts backed by a plastic lining with holes. Flower pouches that hang against a wall are also available. Lamorna emphasised that hanging brackets need to be strong enough to carry the considerable weight of a basket, especially after watering. A basket needs to be big enough to provide some variety of planting, probably at least five or six plants.
The basket needs to be filled with compost but not compacted until the plants are put in. Lamorna recommended Westland Gro-sure container compost which provides good porosity and enough feed to last for three or four months. A container for long-term planting is better with a soil-based compost like John Innes No 2 or 3. Before deciding on a colour scheme for the plants it is a good idea to consider the colour of the basket itself and the colour of adjacent walls and door furniture so that everything is harmonious.
When thinking about the plants for the basket you should consider their form, texture and colour and whether they are hardy and long-lasting. Many of the cyclamen available in the latter part of the year are attractive and full of flower but they are bedding plants and will not be hardy (If sheltered by a porch they may survive). Cyclamen coum for spring flowering or hederifolium for autumn are the only hardy varieties. Most garden centres stock plants specifically for baskets and containers and labelled accordingly. You may find them cheapest in packs of six but with variety lacking.
Start your plant selection with the ones which will give you most colour, probably pansy or viola and add spring interest with flowering bulbs that go with this colour. Lamorna warned us to avoid daffodils which “look silly” but crocus, scilla and chionodoxa and small snowdrops are all useful. If pansies are in full flower when bought, nip the flowers out to encourage root growth and they will flower again in three weeks or so. By February a basket will need feeding and suitable feeds are Phostrogen (which Lamorna prefers) or Miracle-gro.
Lamorna then gave us a practical demonstration of planting a basket, using the banana leaf example. She used Sure-gro compost to fill the basket. She had a number of plants on the table for sale and she made her selection from these as she went on. Some of the plants available were euonymous, heather, a red-berried plant, thyme, variegated silene and maiden hair vine. Lamorna chose a small choisya in the centre with three other plants around it. We were told to make sure that there was compost between the lining of the basket and the plants so that the possibility of root freezing was reduced. Lamorna planned to use a pale yellow pansy as the main source of colour so she used crocus ‘Goldilocks’for her spring bulb. Making holes with her fingers she pressed three or four crocuses into each of the spaces where she was going to plant the pansies. Adding the pansies completed the basket apart from watering which would need half a watering can added in two doses.
At each of our meetings we have a raffle with three small prizes of plants or other garden items but on this occasion there was just the one prize, the beautiful winter hanging basket created by Lamorna.
Our next meeting will be on November 21 when Trevor Gunton will talk on “Paxton Pits – a community nature reserve.”