Don’t you just love those gorgeous lush, colourful hanging flower baskets that festoon shop frontages up and down the country over summer? I positively drool over them, so much so that, a couple of years back, I had a go at making my own. Alas, the results were devastatingly disappointing – annuals flowered at different times so that there was never a real show of colour, the basket seemed perpetually dry even though I watered it religiously, and the wind buffeted anything that looked like it might trail artfully over the sides. And it took positively ages to put together. So it was something of a relief to learn that the flowering baskets I admire in the streets are the work of professionals – and they are not cheap to construct. By the time you’ve invested in a very good-quality potting mix, slow-release fertilizer, water-retaining crystals, and the annuals themselves, you could probably have bought yourself a hanging basket from the garden centre.
However, there are ways around the situation – as I discovered last year when I was in the UK (home of hanging flower baskets)! At first, I couldn’t work out why they looked so perfect regardless of the appalling weather the country was experiencing. Then, as I was standing on a wall trying to photograph one of them, I noticed the greenery was actually provided by a variety of robust ivies (the sort that would never look poorley even in a howling gale). The colour amongst them came from two (three, at the most) hardy annuals (nasturtiums, geraniums, and alyssum were popular). It’s the sort of combination you can’t go wrong with and not only that, because much of what the baskets contained were perennials, they didn’t need to be replanted each season – all that was required was a top-up of fetilizer and a spot of colour to be popped in amongst the greenery.
So, right now, in preparation for spring, I’m poking into my next flower basket attempt any little ivy seedlings I find in the garden. Being the kitchen gardener I am, I’m also popping in some rooted pieces of trailing herbs such as oregano, thyme, and prostrate rosemary – all annuals that will keep going year after year. I’ll keep everything snug in the glasshouse and, come spring, I’ll sow a seed or two of nasturtium in the basket, and plant a parsley. I might even break the bank and invest in a petunia from the garden centre. But basically, my hanging basket will be super-easy care and almost all of the plants will be perennials. Fetch me a ladder, someone, and bring on the summer!