They were popular during the 1970s, and hung over almost every veranda, porch, window or balcony. Part of the “cottage garden” look, hanging baskets were invariably overflowing with a mixture of bright flowering annuals.
Today they’ve taken on a new life. More adventurous planting has resulted in a contemporary look, making baskets suitable for a larger variety of garden styles.
The advantage of using plants such as bromeliads, grasses, succulents, groundcovers and bulbs in a basket is a more permanent display— after all, no matter how much loving care you lavish on annuals they will only last so long. Maintenance also becomes easier — yes, they still need watering, but depending on position and plant choice, it’s not difficult to create hanging baskets that are easy care.
Try to select plants which have similar light and moisture requirements — it’s not a good idea to plant moisture hungry ferns with succulents, and never underestimate the importance of foliage – good foliage plants help avoid a clash of colours as well as adding body to a basket composition.
Pretty much all bromeliads are great in baskets, but especially neoregelias, as they will tolerate more sun. They are dramatic plants with boldly coloured centres and a distinctive rosette form, but they do need protection from heavy frost.
You could use neoregelia as a star plant in the centre of your basket, with a supporting cast of fairy grass ( Scirpus cernuus,), creeping Jenny (Ly simachia nummularia), variegated baby’s tears (Soleirolia soleirolii), dark leaved Bergonia semperflorens, black mondo grass and button fern (try Pellaea rotundifolia — its round dark leaves contrast nicely with the broad shiny leaves of neoregelia and black mondo).
Use hanging basket mix to pot up your basket, or add crystal rain or Saturaid to ordinary potting mix. Put an old saucer in the bottom of the basket to retain moisture. Wire baskets can be planted sides and top – plastic may simply be planted on top. In this case use as many cascading plants as possible to cover the sides.
Cut slits in liner where you want to have plants growing from sides of the basket. Fill with potting mix until level with slits. If using seedlings thread through slits, then continue filling with mix until you reach a level to pot the rest of your plants. Position rest of plants, and fill and firm mix around plants, ensuring final potting mix is at least 1cm below top rim of basket, and give your basket a good watering.
A hanging basket makes a special, living Christmas present. With the recent focus on “growing your own edibles”, you could try lining a wicker or willow basket with plastic, use a free draining mix, and plant tall fennel and sorrel in the centre, to the rear, then sage, mint, parsley, thyme, chives and tarragon round the edges. Or maybe use a mix of herbs and lettuce.
A strawberry basket also makes a cheerful, edible gift. Line basket with moss, bringing it up and over the brim to hide wire, and fill with potting mix until it is level with top. Insert each plant at an angle all around basket so that some will trail. If you can, plant some through sides and base. Top with mix and water well. Try to choose strawberry varieties with smaller leaves than those grown in vegetable plots.