A hanging basket, Woking, London

A hanging basket, Woking, London
I love the concept of an English Hanging Basket. A hanging basket is a suspended container used for growing decorative plants and the Brits love them and so do I. Typically they are hung from buildings, where garden space is at a premium, and from street furniture for environmental enhancement. They may also be suspended from free standing frames sometimes called hanging basket trees.The pubs in the UK all have hanging baskets in the summer and have a competition as to whose are the best.

When my older boy bought his first home in the UK and we decided to clean up his massive, run-down garden, the first thing we did was make hanging baskets just to lift our spirits to tackle the rest! We drove into a nursery close by and bought outrageously expensive hanging baskets and then everything which went with the contraption. That meant, the coir lining for each basket, the potting mix for each and then finally the plants that went into each of them.

Then I spent a wonderful morning having the time of my life, making the baskets myself. From scratch. Never having made one before I just used common sense and ingenuity, hoping they did work out. At the time I had never heard of You Tube which is my best DYO today!

Hanging baskets are normally made from artistically formed expanded metal, with an impervious lining to retain the contents. They are filled with peat-free compost usually with a water-retaining gel and controlled release fertiliser granules. Typically they are planted with flowering plants and may include geraniums, fuchsia, and trailing plants around the edges such as lobelia.

The pre-cut coco liners which we bought were quick and easy, even though they were expensive. I asked the guy in the nursery how many plants I required for each basket and he said -- For hanging baskets the general rule is to use one plant per inch of basket diameter – so 12 plants per 12 inch basket. You'll only need 5 plants per 12 inch hanging basket for bigger plants like Geraniums or Pelargoniums, Surfinia Petunias and Fuchsias. I settled for Petunias and I did not put 5 plants, I put double for each basket, cause we wanted a burst of colour.

Then, I half filled the basket with a good quality potting compost which we bought from the nursery. No top soil or garden soil should go in the baskets as it gets compacted and too heavy. Though my son wanted trailing plants through holes made in the side of the liner, I could not bear that and only planted into the basket.I can never destroy those expensive liners by slicing through and sticking plants into it from below.

“Finally anyway the birds destroy the lining Ma for their nests,” said my son, but that’s better than cutting holes into it I thought.

Over the years we have tried different styles of hanging baskets now. Last year we made baskets that contained several types of plants. We did a mix of fuschias and petunias and some lobelia just for green and white. Since my son has six baskets now, I can really go to town on whatever types of flowering plants I would like to put in. I love pansies ‘cause they remind me of my Dad and new Delhi as kids, so I make a couple adding them in with their pretty smiling faces. Dad always showed me the ‘face’ of a Pansy and I always look for them, thinking of him. I also make a basket or two with my favourite begonias as well, which don’t grow well in Bangalore where I come from. I love Begonias as they remind me of Shillong and my childhood, which was a lovely, happy time there.

In general, the rule is water plants in hanging baskets when the soil surface becomes dry to the touch. On hot, sunny days it may be necessary to water once a day. When watering hanging baskets, be sure to let the water run until water begins to flow out the bottom of the container. But since my son puts in jelly microbes which retain water, there is no need really to water in rainy UK.

Then sit back and enjoy them bloom through the spring and summer and if they are scented petunias, your day is made.

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