No matter how big or small the garden, there is always room for a hanging basket … or two! Imagine beautiful flowing flowers all around your garden. Hanging gardens give you the chance to put color and texture exactly where you want it and at any height.
There are a wide variety of baskets available including wire, woven, wooden and even plastic. Hanging baskets made of stiff wire, referred to as hay wire baskets — my favorite — are the perfect addition to a porch or outdoor garden area. I recommend getting the largest hanging basket that will fit in the space. I prefer lining the basket with a pre-formed cocoa mat, but if that is not available, cocoa mat can be bought by the yard and cut to fit the interior of the basket. Some gardeners use spaghum moss, but I find that it dries out too quickly in our hot Columbia summers. The plants will be much happier with room to grow, and the soil will stay moist longer if there is more soil and more room for the soil.
In small gardens, baskets can be hung from tree limbs or from custom designed posts. The length of the baskets can be adjusted by adding or removing chain. If they are hung in a group, it is more appealing to hang them at different heights. But if a row of baskets is suspended from a porch, it is imperative that they are all at the exact same height.
Tools, Supplies and Equipment
It is advisable to work on a table that is large enough to hold most of the tools, supplies and the basket itself. It is easier to work at table height than to lean over the basket if it is on the ground. Start with soil, moisture retaining crystals to add to the soil, a soil scoop, scissors for cutting the cocoa mat to fit or a ready formed cocoa mat that is designed to fit perfectly in the basket, an extra chair or garden hook, plant material, Spanish moss and, lastly, the hanging basket.
Choose the largest basket that fits proportionally in the desired space. Then choose the plants. Think of this as a mini garden. Is it a sunny spot or a shady garden? Choose plants accordingly. Just as in a landscape, it is best to have a tall focal point in the center of the basket. I usually choose a green plant such as giant liriope or fern. If more blossoms are desired, a Mandevilla or Diplodemia is a good choice for the center plant. The largest baskets are usually 28 to 30 inches in diameter so it is best to choose a center plant that is planted in a 1-gallon pot. A 3-gallon plant would most likely be too big for the basket, and there would not be enough room to add any other plants.
Once the center plant has been chosen, pick the plants for the next layer. These plants will probably be found in 4-inch pots. If the baskets are going to be in a sunny spot, some good choices are: salvia, sun coleus, angelonia or begonias. If the baskets are going to hang in a shadier location, some choices are: impatiens, tuberous begonias or other smaller types of ferns such as autumn fern or painted fern. The third layer should be plants that will drape over the edge of the basket such as a draping lantana, bacopa or scavoela for a sunny basket or, for a shady basket, ivy or torenia.
Planting the Baskets
1. Install the cocoa mat or cut the sheet cocoa mat to fit the basket. Be careful to make sure that the cut will completely cover the inside of the basket so that water and dirt will not spill out.
2. Fill the basket halfway with a premium potting soil that is not too heavy. Add moisture retaining crystals if desired, then mix the soil and crystals.
3. Add a little more soil and add a slow release fertilizer formulated for blooming plants.
4. Now it’s planting time! Install the focal plant in the center of the basket.
5. Add the second layer that might include begonias, angelonia or salvia around the middle plant.
6. Add the important draping layer around the edge of the basket so these plants cascade over the wire edge.
7. Add Spanish moss to any area where the soil is still exposed to make the basket look more finished. You can also pull a little moss over the edge to add a draping effect.
8. Water the basket thoroughly. Be careful to water gently so the soil does not spill over the top.
9. Let the basket drain before hanging. It will be very heavy when soaking wet.
10. Hang the basket in the desired area. Make sure that the hook or post is strong enough to support the basket when it is full and wet.
11. Water again and enjoy.
Fertilize once a month with a light solution of water soluble blossom fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro® to encourage plenty of blooms.
If you notice that the plants are growing unevenly in the basket based on the sun’s exposure, turn the basket a quarter turn every week or so and the plants should even out.
Deadhead any plants just as you would if they were growing in the ground.
What’s Blooming Now in the Midlands
April in the Midlands is so beautiful. It is a wonderful time to take a long walk or drive and enjoy all of the abundant blooms and luscious fragrances. Here are some beautiful blooms to look for: Azaleas, banana shrub, deutzia, dogwood, Lady Banksia roses, early blooming hydrangeas, pomegranates, roses and spirea. Many of our heat loving perennials will begin to bloom also. Look for these: Alyssum, columbine, coreopsis, dianthus, gerbera daisy, lantana, nasturtium, phlox, poppy, snapdragon and stokesia.
Chores for the April Gardener
• Spend more time outdoors and enjoy the abundance of nature.
• April is still a wonderful time to plant large trees and shrubs. Remember preparation is everything.
• Try germinating seeds of your favorite annuals. These are very easy to start from seed: zinnia, marigold, cosmos and cleome.
• If you have a particular hydrangea that is your favorite, try air layering a limb or two to get more plants.
• Scout your house and garden to find the perfect place for a summer flowering basket.
• Dahlias may be planted after the middle of this month.
• Tomatoes, eggplant, squash and cucumbers are easy vegetables to grow. Now is the time to plant those.
• Houseplants will enjoy these first warm days of spring. Bring them out and put them in a shady spot to begin acclimating to the outdoors. Inspect the houseplants to determine if any need to be repotted. Add Spanish moss on top of the soil to make them look neater.
• Fertilize azaleas and camellias with Plant-tone® to replenish the plants after they bloom.
• Pressure wash the hardscapes in your garden. Make sure to rinse plants before and after with fresh water so leaves don’t get damaged by the spray.
• Check outdoor lighting fixtures for burned out bulbs. Re-set lighting timer to adjust to the longer days.
• Enjoy this most magnificent time in the garden!
Editor’s note: A special thank you to Laurel Crest for allowing this photo shoot to be taken in its beautiful gardens.