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Diana Guy turns your thoughts to colourful summer pots and hanging baskets

PUBLISHED: 16:09 26 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:58 20 February 2013

Pansies make an ideal plant for containers, their wide range of colours adding to their usefulness

Pansies make an ideal plant for containers, their wide range of colours adding to their usefulness

Turn your thoughts to colourful summer pots and hanging baskets, with these tips from Diana Guy

Turn your thoughts to colourful summer pots and hanging baskets, with these tips from Diana Guy

Turn back the clock a few decades and every gardener would be busy during May 'bedding out' with annuals. It peaked in Victorian days when all grand houses and public parks had colourful displays, thanks to the development of hot houses fired up by coal boilers - all part of the Industrial Revolution.

Fashion in horticulture moved on, and more naturalistic planting of perennials and shrubs came back in. Soon considerations such as low maintenance ruled, permanent ground-covering plants were all the rage, and colourful conifers underplanted with heathers were iconic gardens in the '60s. Then we had the craze for hard landscaping and decking, gravel gardens, tropical borders, grasses... and so it goes on.

Yet visit garden centres this month and you will see that bedding plants are as popular as ever. Gardens, in particular, front gardens, totally bedded out with annuals are rare today, but they do still exist, as I discovered when I was helping to judge Poole in Bloom some years ago. For most of us, however, these jolly, colourful, cheap annual plants have become the mainstay of containers and hanging baskets, a mere remnant of our past practice, perhaps, but invaluable when spring-flowering shrubs have long stopped flowering and perennials have run out of steam.

There are bedding plants to suit all situations. For sunny spots nothing beats geraniums, correctly called pelargoniums, both zonal and trailing. They hail from South Africa so you can see how they will revel in dry conditions. Others are good in shady places; a pot full of busy lizzies, available in a wide range of colours, perhaps with a fuchsia as a central focal point, will brighten up a dull corner. Petunias will cope well with semi-shade, and there are upright and trailing varieties - indeed, new strains come out every year.

Hanging baskets are great fun to create. Choose packs of bedding plants (between 2-3 for a pack of six) and lots of individual plants such as verbena, bacopa, trailing fuchsias and helichrysum (there is a vast selection available from around 50p to 1.50 per plant). My 20-inch moss baskets are planted up with as many as 60 plants and put on a fantastic display until almost Christmas.

Moss is expensive, however. It is mainly imported from New Zealand where it is grown commercially. You can use various other liners including some made from wool waste or coir, but I have to say moss still works best for me. As moss baskets are really luxury items, I only make one or two, concentrating mainly on the wicker-type baskets. These need far less plants, a 14-inch basket would have between 14 and 20 plants.

Do not forget to use water-retaining gel - little gel-filled mats for the base of the basket. Long-life food is essential and regular watering will ensure that the soil is always damp, activating the food pellets.

The great thing about making your own baskets is that you can have your own colour scheme - cool whites and greens with a touch of pale yellow, for example, can look really classy. Hot, vibrant oranges and reds will warm up a pale wall. You also have the satisfaction of creating something really special and saving money, too.


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