How to: create a dazzling basket
No one does a hanging basket of summer flowers quite like the English, and, inspired by a recent trip, we’re determined to give it a good shake this summer.
We’ve included here some favourite basket-happy plants with the right cascading habit - and some options for really hot spots. The thing is to design an arrangement like a posy, with a mix of textures and colours. Have fun, be bold, try something new, and toss it all at the end of the season.
Petunias. Photo - Robin Powell
#1. White and pink petunias are a sweet combination and flower nonstop through summer. Team with licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare) in lime or silver, which will thrive but need trimming. Petunias demand plenty of food and water and regular deadheading and pinch-pruning.
A better bet might be their smaller cousin, Million Bells, Calabrachoa, which need less water and produce little seed so don’t require deadheading to stay in bloom. They want moist soil and a full day of sun to stay vibrant. They are prone to root rot, so water only when the soil begins to dry on top. Million Bells can get leggy so cut back mid-season for a bushier habit. Million Bells come in a fabulous array of colours, from very cool terracotta, golds and reds, to yellows, purples and pinks and pair well with almost anything that spills over the edges of your baskets, and will fill in between other plants.
Begonia 'Bossa Nova'. Photo - Robin Powell
#2 Begonia boliviensis ‘Bossa Nova’, which comes In shades of shell pink, peach, white, lipstick red and orange, is our go-to draping begonia. Easily grown from seed or young plants in spring, they soon develop a smattering of winged petals like a cloud of butterflies. The warmer it gets the more floriferous they become and they’re happy until the frosts set in, when the plants should be discarded. They like morning sun, twice-weekly watering and a sprinkling of slow-release fertiliser.
'Creeping Charlie'. Photo - Robin Powell
# 3 The ribbons of scalloped leaves trailing from this basket of petunias, lobelia and fuchsia are 'Creeping Charlie', Glechoma hederaceae ‘Variegata’. While it’s very popular in the northern hemisphere, it can be weedy here if given free reign, so keep it in baskets and window boxes and thin it for best effects. Other good trailing options include chain of hearts, donkey tails, variegated ivy, Sedum ‘Goldmound’ and Bacopa, also called sutera, which we love for its oversized flowers in blue or white.
Ivy-leafed geraniums are perfect for hanging baskets. Photo - Robin Powell
# 4 Ivy-leafed geraniums are a top option for hanging baskets, not just because they grow so easily from cuttings but also for their tough, dry-loving nature. Wonderfully pendulous they have the perfect trailing habit for hanging pots. Other sturdy favourites include the more cottagey scented geraniums with their aromatic leaves and pretty lilac blossoms or \ ‘Big Red’ Geranium with its super-size-me spherical clusters of blood red blooms - perfect for Christmas Day.
Make sure your hanging basket has enough drainage holes.
In really hot spots choose a ‘waterwell’ style pot that holds a reservoir of water in the base.
For hot and dry spots try portulaca pigface, jelly beans (Sedum rubrotinctum), donkey tails (Sedum morganianum), orchid cactus (Epiphyllum) and kalanchoe.
Choose the best possible potting mix - cheap ones will disappoint!
Give a fortnightly feed with liquid fertiliser for lush foliage and a succession of flowers.
Groom the plants - deadhead and thin crowded stems, discreetly stake overtangled geranium shoots and curtail plants that want to take over your arrangement.