I’m not big on baskets. Scratty airborne containers of flea bitten lobelias mixed with aggressive red salvias and clashing, underperforming begonias do nothing for me. If you’re going to have a hanging garden, it has to be big enough to cause brain damage in any passer by not bright enough to duck. I have only one and it’s huge. I’ve placed it close against a sunny wall, above pots full of plants but even so, sometimes Attila staggers into the kitchen with crossed eyes and a light dusting of pollen around his ears.
Purple hanging basket
The first step is to water the tender annuals that you propose to torture. They should have been carefully hardened off, so as to be ready to face the rigours of English summer. Line the wire with coir, then an inner lining of thick plastic cut from compost bags. Place the black side outermost and trim it to soil level, to minimise the occasional glimpse of actinic tints advertising the virtues of your local garden centre. Punch half a dozen holes in this with scissors, for drainage. I used to cut slits in the waterproof layer and plant in the sides and bottom but found no real improvement in the display and the whole shebang dried out faster than a drunk at an expensive rehab clinic. Mix purchased potting compost with fish, blood and bone fertiliser and water retaining gel, then stir it thoroughly as if it were Xmas pudding and your mother-in-law were watching.
Back garden arch & pond
Now for the plants. I would rather see a few months of splendour than a longer period of eked out dribs and drabs. For this reason I have given up on Fuchsias; for me they make lots of green growth all summer. only to burst into action when everything else has packed up and quit. Also, I am unable to throw them out but keep them in the conservatory over winter, to languish and die in slow motion. I aim for the whole lot to be blooming together and chose flowers in one or two colours. I take a trip to my favourite nurseries and base the theme on that which catches my eye. Last year I fell for black petunias and went for a dark and light scheme. This spring I was uncharacteristically generous and allowed my spouse to chose the colour. This seemed fair at the time, as he will be head butting the arrangement whenever he goes into his shed. I should have guessed that he would go for bright yellow, which I hope to make more mellow with delicate butter and primrose shades, double white petunias and careful use of foliage. I’ve used plenty of plants in the top of the basket; I aim for a mixture of textures, using upright growers in the centre and trailers around the edges. This is finished off with bark mulch and with a little attention and some luck, soon I should have a decent ball of blossom to be smug about.
Allium christophii (Star of Persia)
I give the soil a good finger furtle to check its condition and generally find that I need to water the arrangement every day. Once a week I add tomato fertiliser, Baby Bio or Miracle Grow, whichever comes first to hand. If it’s really successful, large and heavy, perhaps I’ll hand out a few hard hats.