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Hanging baskets & why you should avoid them

Hanging Baskets & why you are better off without them.

 

We Brits have always had an obsession for hanging baskets. We spend millions on these displays every year. Beautiful displays sing out the conquest of one’s horticultural ability over the elements. More often than not though, the compost heap quickly fills with thrown away shrivelled and dried out displays. 

Should we really keep on faithfully spending millions of pounds or is it time for a rethink?

Now you’ve probably guessed, we’re not great fans of hanging baskets and there are several good reasons why we’re not.

 

Our mantra is to make gardening easier and hanging baskets most definitely do not.

 

Why? Well how many of you can identify with these issues…

  • The compost dries out so quickly you can’t keep up with the watering requirement.
  • You don’t see most of the flowers as the basket is above your head.
  • The flowers quickly fade and you can never get the same intensity as in the garden centre.
  • It’s a right royal pain to water properly, unless you put in on the floor first. Mostly the water just runs straight through.
  • After a few days of summer sun – it all seems a bit shrivelled.
  • The plants seem to get eaten by bugs really easily.
  • After a few weeks, you’re unsure whether it’s a feature or an eysore, half the plants seem to have died, apart from the ivy, which has grown over everything else.
  • Birds have pecked out the lining for nesting material, so the basket looks a bit tatty

Need we go on?

Hanging baskets are not good value for money.

 

As a society, we are supposed to be trying to reduce, reuse and recycle more – it is better for us and the world at large. The problem though is that hanging baskets are largely disposable. Garden centres actually would prefer you to throw the plants (and the basket) away.

 

Gardening is expensive, so why spend money to just throw it away – it does not make sense.

 

What then, should we be doing?

Well our advice would be to not buy any in the first place and use the money saved to invest in plants that will look good for years, but if you love your baskets – here’s some advice.

 

Firstly – Don’t hang them

 

Most of the problems associated with hanging baskets are created by hanging them up.

Where is the gardening rule book does it state that hanging baskets must be above head height!

 

Why hang so that you look up to the bottom of the basket too?

 

Instead how about placing the baskets on top of pots or in pot stands.

 

Place them on a log or pot and site them in the border. Placing the basket lower down allows you to water and feed more easily. You can even place the basket on the floor, just take off the hanging loops.

 

Plant your own – don’t buy readymade baskets.

 

Plants grow fastest and best if they are not competing for nutrients. Nurseries pack plants in to look good at the point of sale.

 

So by only adding 2-3 plants in a basket yourself, your plants will grow bigger and look better for longer. Because you are not hanging them up, you can also use some soil in the compost which retains moisture more than multipurpose.

 

Try not to use Bedding plants

 

There are lots of plants that will grow in a basket really well, that won’t need throwing away at the end of the year. The flowers on most bedding you buy have been intensively bred to look showy which in itself is not very ‘green’.

The plant produces more flowers than it would normally be able sustain & or larger flowers than would naturally develop – all for our aesthetic delight of course. The result, the plants may look spectactular, but only if you follow a strict pampering and preening regime to keep these demanding plants performing.

They are all High Maintenance Plant Divas, which is fine if you adore pampering and preening your plants but it is a pain in the proverbials if you haven’t time to!

It is far better to choose less demanding plants that thrive on a bit of neglect, there are loads to choose from – native wildflowers being one very obvious example.

Perhaps it is time for the fashions to change and we start to grow natural hanging baskets instead. Some of our woldflowers can be very beautiful and all grow without human intervention normally – which makes it sound perfect for a hanging basket!

Try out seed-balls as an alternative to bedding in your hanging baskets instead, the butterflies and bees will love you for it!

Remember, hanging baskets benefit garden centres more than you.

 

The mark-up on planted hanging baskets is huge, nurseries and garden centres make a lot of money from selling planted baskets.

 

However, more importantly, it is not in their financial interest for the baskets to survive. If they looked great all summer, we the consumer, would not need to buy any more. The garden centres would lose out financially.

 

So here’s what they do:

 

  • Baskets are crammed plants, too many for the size of basket.
  • The plants all compete for water and available food, the most needy die first. Which are always the biggest and showiest flowers.
  • A multipurpose compost is used as it’s lighter, but it also doesn’t retain water very well, so the basket dries out really quickly and the showiest flowers are the first to suffer.
  • They do add a granular plant food to the compost for you – however it can only release enough food if the granules are wet and because the baskets drain really quickly, they won’t get time to dissolve.

 

Now you may think we are simply being overtly cynical and a tad unfair and maybe so. However, ask yourself this – how many times have you had a stunning hanging basket display all summer.

 

People can and do have the most beautiful displays – most of these use automated watering systems though – or they have an utterly dedicated owner!

 

So there you have it, hanging baskets are great – if you like that sort of thing. But if you would like a lower maintenance garden – avoid using hanging baskets.

 

For lot’s more tips and advice:

Read more from the Plotting Shed.

Garden Design For Beginners

Get some garden inspitation – & not a hanging basket in sight!

Advice on Good Garden Plants

 

Garden Makeovers – part 2

Garden Makeovers – it’s easier than you think!

before-and-after-3-cropped

We thought we would do a few mini-makeovers with our border designs, so you can see how you can adapt them to any space.

 

This week’s little makeover is for a really sunny garden however, the house is a new build and although the house developers have created some ‘features’ by adding a path, patio, lawns and a large purple stoned area, there’s not much else.

In addition, the worst possible fence colour has been used… ‘fence red’, all this does is make a dominant feature of something that really is rather unattractive.

 

amoeba-lawn-blank-drawing

 

Once again, this is actually a drawing of someone’s garden, so what do we have…well lots of red, green, purple, yellowish coloured patio slabs and not a lot else!

 

In addition, the lawn has been split by the path, neither lawn is now  big enough to do anything on and both have ended up a rather amorphous blob shape.

 

But it is what you have been left with, and you can’t spend loads of money redoing the hard landscaping, so how would you makeover this garden?

fountains and fluff amoeba lawn

 

OK, the first part involves painting, we’ve used a soft sage green colour to paint the fence, this tones the fence down and reduces its visual impact.

 

We can’t really do anything about the blob shaped lawn, but the lawn by the fence is really redundant, so we’ve planted it with our Fountains & Fluff plants. The tall grasses hide the fence lines and the height of the fluffy bits lifts your eyeline, so you notice the red edging a little less.

 

All the plants are fairly easy to grow and will thrive on poorish soils (and can be grown from seed), so you won’t need to dig down through all that hidden builders rubble when you  plant!

 

We’ve also used the same plants all round the area, now you may think that will be a little boring, but you’ve got a lot going on with paths, the purple stones and the patio, it’s the same principle as patterned carpet; plain walls, plain carpet; patterned walls.

 

Now it feels like you have a route past your main garden border. The patio at this end has similar planting in pots on the stones and the whole area feels a lot more like a garden!

And don’t forget to make  hedgehog hole too!

Next Week – part 3, as if you can wait!

Why do we need blue roses?

I don’t know about you, but why is there such an obsession amongst growers to make flowers bloom in every possible colour, it is almost the holy grail of plant breeding to develop the most perfect blue rose – why?

 

There are hundreds of beautiful roses out there, hundreds, which cover the whole of the spectrum of colour except blue, over thousands of years the rose has ignored blue so why do we think we are right and roses wrong?

 

Whenever I have seen at a show an attempt at a ‘blueish’ rose the whole flower looks awful, it’s almost as though the red or yellow primary colours are really required to capture the summer sunshine and reflect it back, but blue seems to absorb all the warmth of the flower.

 

So my beef I suppose is, that we should learn when to and when not to meddle.  I recently saw blue tinted orchids in my local supermarket – they were hideous and so fake looking. Orchid flowers are incredible pretty and evocative, adding a blue rinse to them is just in my opinion tasteless.

 

So let’s concentrate on developing new blooms because they are beautiful or more insect friendly and not because we can!

 

V3 real gardeners and spray

Lack of real advice when choosing plants

 

Small Garden Design: There’s lot’s of advice but not much help!

 

not a good colour combo'Not the best plant combination!

 

Whenever I used to go round garden centres or places, many people, including at time me, tendend to exhibit similar buying patterns – We all wander round, with a loose thought that ‘they would like to get something for the garden’. 

 

Then as we wander, phrases such as ‘ooh isn’t this pretty, let’s get one’  followed by ‘ooh this is lovely, lets get one of these too’ are heard. Then it’s off to the tills. 

 

Once home, you wander into the garden and try to find a place to put it – sometimes it works but sometimes it doesn’t too!

 

Achillea walter Frankel

How nice it would be if the ‘expert’s helped you combine plants as well

Furniture stores, department stores, stores like Ikea, all have areas that set up little rooms and put things together that look good there, that way customers walk in and say let’s get that and this, as they will look good in the dining room for example.

 

So where have you seen in Garden Centres plant combinations together to show you what can really compliment each other, (I am sure there are some and I stand to be corrected), but on the whole, it’s more of a plant supermarket with everything set out alphabetically.

 

Group plants by what grows well together, by aspect, i.e drought lovers, and sun lovers or by size, colour or smell for example.  You may find the same plant in lots of different areas, but wouldn’t it be easier to wander up thinking, I really need something to go in that shady corner by the dustbins and voila! There is a section in the Garden Centre for shady corners – great, it would make your task of choosing the right plants so much easier!